Pop, also known as popular, is a music genre that originally emerged in mid-50s in the USA and the UK. Up until 60s the meaning also included rock 'n roll, but afterwards came a proper definition and musical consolidation. It derived from folk, rock and traditional Western popular music, which followed the canons of "The Great American Songbook". Pop is generally quite fluid and its' main focus is the appeal to the major audience. Nowadays, it often interlocks with other genres, such as R&B, urban, dance, Latin, country and electro.
Please note that this is a continuing work in progress
Visuals associated with the Pop genre are often reflective of the time period that they exist in. For an example of this paradigm in action, one only needs to look at our Y2K and McBling pages to see this in action, as they are very indicative of the times of pop culture they are designed to emulate. These visuals will also vary between the different subgenres of Pop (for example, the visuals associated with Bubblegum Pop won't necessarily be the same as the visuals associated with Synth Pop).
Pop fashion is, much like the visuals, very reflective of the time period where they come from and what themes they are trying to convey with their music. As a large part of Pop music throughout the years has always been in the presentation, the fashion and image of a particular Pop artist is just as important as the music itself to present a true audio-visual experience for the listener.
Art pop (also typeset as art-pop or artpop) is a loosely defined style of pop music influenced by pop art's integration of high and low culture, and which emphasizes the manipulation of signs, style, and gesture personal expression. Art pop artists may be inspired by postmodern approaches or art theories as well as other forms of art, such as fashion, fine art, cinema, and avant-garde literature. They may deviate from traditional pop audiences and rock music conventions, instead exploring ideas such as pop's status as commercial art, notions of artifice and the self, and questions of historical authenticity.
The boundaries between art and pop music became increasingly blurred throughout the second half of the 20th century. In the 1960s, pop musicians such as John Lennon, Syd Barrett, Pete Townshend, Brian Eno, and Bryan Ferry began to take inspiration from their previous art school studies. In North America, art pop was influenced by Bob Dylan and the Beat Generation, and became more literary through folk music's singer-songwriter movement. Before progressive/art rock became the most commercially successful British sound of the early 1970s, the 1960s psychedelic movement brought together art and commercialism, broaching the question of what it meant to be an "artist" in a mass medium.
Holden traces art pop's origins to the mid 1960s, when producers such as Phil Spector and musicians such as Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys began incorporating pseudo-symphonic textures to their pop recordings, as well as the Beatles' first recordings with a string quartet.
In a move that was indicated by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Phil Spector, and Frank Zappa, the dominant format of pop music transitioned from singles to albums, and many rock bands created works that aspired to make grand artistic statements, where art rock would flourish. Musicologist Ian Inglis writes that the cover art for the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was "perceived as largely responsible for the connections between art and pop to be made explicit". Although Sgt. Pepper's was preceded by several albums that had begun to bridge the line between "disposable" pop and "serious" rock, it successfully gave an established "commercial" voice to an alternative youth culture. Author Michael Johnson wrote that art pop music would continue to exist subsequent to the Beatles, but without ever achieving their level of popular success.
- Florence + the Machine
- Τalk Talk
- Sufjan Stevens
- Xiu Xiu
- The Who
- The Beatles
- The Small Faces
- The Beach Boys
Brill Building (also known as Brill Building pop or the Brill Building sound) is a subgenre of pop music that took its name from the Brill Building in New York City, where numerous teams of professional songwriters penned material for girl groups and teen idols during the early 1960s. The term has also become a catchall for the period in which those songwriting teams flourished. In actuality, most hits of the mid 1950s and early 1960s were written elsewhere.
For more information on this subgenre, please check out our Britpop page.
Bubblegum (also called bubblegum pop) is pop music with an upbeat sound that is considered to be disposable, contrived, or marketed for children and adolescents. The term also refers to a pop subgenre, originating in the United States in the late 1960s, that evolved from garage rock, novelty songs, and the Brill Building sound, and which was also defined by its target demographic of preteens and young teenagers. The Archies' 1969 hit "Sugar, Sugar" was a representative example that led to cartoon rock, a short-lived trend of Saturday-morning cartoon series that heavily featured pop rock songs in the bubblegum vein.
Producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffry Katz claimed credit for coining "bubblegum", saying that when they discussed their target audience, they decided it was "teenagers, the young kids. And at the time we used to be chewing bubblegum, and my partner and I used to look at it and laugh and say, 'Ah, this is like bubblegum music'." The term was then popularized by their boss, Buddah Records label executive Neil Bogart.
Most bubblegum acts were one hit wonders (notable exceptions included the Partridge Family and Tommy Roe) and the sound remained a significant commercial force until the early 1970s. Commentators often debate the scope of the genre and have variously argued for the exclusion or inclusion of dance-pop, disco, teen pop, boy bands, and especially the Monkees. During the 1970s, the original bubblegum sound was a formative influence on punk rock, new wave, and melodic metal.
Occasionally invoked as a pejorative, the "bubblegum" descriptor has several different applications. The 2001 book Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth rules out teen pop or boy bands as inherently bubblegum and defines the term as:
- "the classic bubblegum era from 1967-1972"
- "disposable pop music"
- "pop music contrived and marketed to appeal to pre-teens"
- "pop music produced in an assembly-line process, driven by producers and using faceless singers"
- "pop music with that intangible, upbeat 'bubblegum' sound."
The artists were typically singles acts, with songs commonly featuring singalong choruses, seemingly childlike themes and a contrived innocence, occasionally combined with an undercurrent of sexual double entendre. Comparing bubblegum to power pop, Mojo writer Dawn Eden said: "Power pop aims for your heart and your feet. Bubblegum aims for any part of your body it can get, as long as you buy the damn record." Music critic Lester Bangs described the style as "the basic sound of rock 'n' roll - minus the rage, fear, violence and anomie".
For more information on this genre, please check out our City Pop page.
Dance-pop is a popular music subgenre that originated in the early 1980s. It is generally uptempo music intended for nightclubs with the intention of being danceable but also suitable for contemporary hit radio. Developing from a combination of dance and pop with influences of disco, post-disco and synth-pop, it is generally characterised by strong beats with easy, uncomplicated song structures which are generally more similar to pop music than the more free-form dance genre, with an emphasis on melody as well as catchy tunes. The genre, on the whole, tends to be producer-driven, despite some notable exceptions. It's very mainstream and is very easy to mix with other genres
- Britney Spears
- Christina Aguilera
- Spice Girls
- Paula Abdul
- Backstreet Boys
- Jennifer Lopez
- Taylor Swift
- Selena Gomez
- Katy Perry
- Lady Gaga
- Ariana Grande
Experimental pop is pop music that cannot be categorized within traditional musical boundaries or which attempts to push elements of existing popular forms into new areas. It may incorporate experimental techniques such as musique concrète, aleatoric music, or eclecticism into pop contexts. Often, the compositional process involves the use of electronic production effects to manipulate sounds and arrangements, and the composer may draw the listener's attention specifically with both timbre and tonality, though not always simultaneously.
Experimental pop music developed concurrently with experimental jazz as a new kind of avant-garde, with many younger musicians embracing the practice of making studio recordings along the fringes of popular music. In the early 1960s, it was common for producers, songwriters, and engineers to freely experiment with musical form, orchestration, unnatural reverb, and other sound effects, and by the late 1960s, highly experimental pop music, or sounds that expanded the idea of the typical popular song, was positively received by young audiences.
Hyperpop is music characterized by an absurd and maximalist take on pop music. Associated artists are inspired by such themes as cyberculture, hyperreality, and gender. According to Pitchfork critic Chai Ravens, hyperpop is primarily influenced by the PC Music label and includes "neon-brushed characters like Dorian Electra, Rina Sawayama, and 100 gecs". Writing for American Songwriter, Joe Vitagliano described "hyperpop" as a movement that flourished throughout 2020. He added that he was uncertain whether it should be considered a genre.
For more information, see our page on Hyperpop.
Hypnagogic pop (abbreviated as h-pop) is pop or psychedelic music that evokes cultural memory and nostalgia for the popular entertainment of the past (principally the 1980s). It emerged in the mid to late 2000s as American lo-fi and noise musicians began adopting retro aesthetics remembered from their childhood, such as radio rock, new wave pop, lite rock, video game music, synth-pop, and R&B. Recordings circulated on cassette or Internet blogs and were typically marked by the use of outmoded analog equipment and DIY experimentation.
The genre's name was coined by journalist David Keenan in an August 2009 issue of The Wire to label the developing trend, which he characterized as "pop music refracted through the memory of a memory." It was used interchangeably with "chillwave" or "glo-fi" and gained critical attention through artists such as Ariel Pink and James Ferraro. The music has been variously described as a 21st century update of psychedelia, a reappropriation of media-saturated capitalist culture, and an "American cousin" to British hauntology.
In response to Keenan's article, The Wire received a slew of hate mail that derided hypnagogic pop as the "worst genre created by a journalist". Some of the tagged artists rejected the label or denied that such a unified style exists. During the 2010s, critical attention for the genre waned, although the style's "revisionist nostalgia" sublimated into various youth-oriented cultural zeitgeists. Hypnagogic pop evolved into vaporwave, with which it is sometimes conflated.
For more information on Hypnagogic Pop, please feel free to check out the section for it on our Vaporwave page.
Jangle or jingle-jangle is a sound characterized by undistorted, treble-heavy electric guitars (particularly 12-strings) played in a droning chordal style (by strumming or arpeggiating). The sound has featured mainly in pop music and is often associated with 1960s guitar bands, folk rock, and 1980s indie music. It is sometimes classed as its own subgenre, jangle pop. Music critics usually deploy the term to suggest brightly-evocative guitar pop.
Despite forerunners such as the Searchers and the Everly Brothers, the Beatles and the Byrds are commonly credited with launching the popularity of jangle. The name derives from the lyric "in the jingle-jangle morning, I'll come following you" from the Byrds' 1965 rendition of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man". Although many subsequent jangle bands drew significantly from the Byrds, they were not necessarily folk rock as the Byrds were.
Since the 1960s, jangle has crossed numerous genres, including power pop, psychedelia, new wave, post-punk, and lo-fi. In the 1980s, the most prominent bands of early indie rock were jangle pop groups such as R.E.M. and the Smiths. Around this time, the term "jangle pop" was sometimes conflated with "college rock".
New Wave is a broad music genre that encompasses numerous pop-oriented styles from the late 1970s and the 1980s. The term derived from the unrelated "French New Wave" and was originally used as a catch-all for the music that emerged after punk rock, including punk itself, but may be viewed retrospectively as a less challenging counterpart of post-punk.
Although new wave shared punk's DIY philosophy, the artists were more influenced by the lighter strains of 1960s pop while opposed to mainstream "corporate" rock, which they considered creatively stagnant, and the generally abrasive and political bents of punk rock. Common characteristics of new wave music include the use of synthesizers and electronic productions, and a distinctive visual style featured in music videos and fashion.
Operatic pop (or popera) is a subgenre of pop music that is performed in an operatic singing style or a song, theme or motif from classical music stylized as pop. According to music historians, operatic pop songs became most prevalent with the rise of Tin Pan Alley musicians during the early 1900s. One influence was the large influx of Italian immigrants to the United States who popularized singers such as Enrico Caruso and inspired the creation of "novelty songs" using Italian dialect. The songs often used operatic repertory "to make a satirical or topical point". Popularized by American Vaudeville, musical comedies, jazz and operettas, examples include Irving Berlin's That Opera Rag, Billy Murray's My Cousin Caruso and Louis Armstrong's riffs on Rigoletto and Pagliacci. The subgenre subsequently dwindled after the 1920s but revived during the rock music era with albums such as The Who's Tommy and Queen's A Night at The Opera.
In 1986, operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti had a hit with the Lucio Dalla song "Caruso", which helped to spark a recent flourishing of operatic pop. Other singers, including Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, and Katherine Jenkins, also recorded the number. Bocelli, in particular, soon became a leading representative of the subgenre. In the 2000s, singers and singing groups devoted primarily to operatic pop built on this renewed success. Groups like Il Divo and Amici Forever have achieved popularity with the mix of "contemporary pop with operatic style" characteristic of operatic pop. The subgenre is often performed by classical crossover singers and acts, although that field is much broader in the types of music it encompasses. "Popera" performances, such as those by the Three Tenors, have reached larger audiences and brought in greater profits than typical for operatic music.
Orchestral pop is pop music that has been arranged and performed by a symphonic orchestra.
During the 1960s, pop music on radio and in both American and British film moved away from refined Tin Pan Alley to more eccentric songwriting and incorporated reverb-drenched rock guitar, symphonic strings, and horns played by groups of properly arranged and rehearsed studio musicians. Many pop arrangers and producers worked orchestral pop into their artists' releases, including George Martin and his strings arrangements with the Beatles, and John Barry for his scores to the James Bond films. Also in the 1960s, a number of orchestral settings were made for songs written by the Beatles, including symphonic performances of "Yesterday" by orchestras. Some symphonies were specifically founded for playing predominantly popular music, such as the Boston Pops Orchestra. Nick Perito was one of orchestral pop's most accomplished arrangers, composers, and conductors.
According to Chris Nickson, the "vital orchestral pop of 1966" was "challenging, rather than vapid, easy listening". Spin magazine refers to Burt Bacharach and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson as "gods" of orchestral pop. In Nickson's opinion, the "apex" of orchestral pop lay in singer Scott Walker, explaining that "in his most fertile period, 1967–70, he created a body of work that was, in its own way, as revolutionary as the Beatles'. He took the ideas of [Henry] Mancini and Bacharach to their logical conclusion, essentially redefining the concept of orchestral pop."
Space Age Pop
Sunshine pop (originally called soft pop) is a subgenre of pop music that originated in Southern California in the mid-1960s. Rooted in easy listening and advertising jingles, sunshine pop acts combined nostalgic or anxious moods with "an appreciation for the beauty of the world". Sunshine pop enjoyed mainstream success in the latter half of the decade, with many of its top 40 hits peaking in the spring and summer of 1967, especially just before the Summer of Love.
Sunshine pop originated in California in the mid to late-1960s, beginning as an outgrowth of the California Sound and folk rock movements. Rooted in easy-listening, advertising jingles, and the growing drug culture, the music was characterized by lush vocals and light arrangements similar to samba music. Most of the acts were lesser-known bands named after fruits, colors, or cosmic concepts who imitated more popular groups.It shares some similares with baroque pop, folk-pop and Brill Building styles. It may be seen as a form of escapism during rough times. The lyrics are often nostalgic with a feeling of happiness and content, which can remind someone of samba
- The Turtles
- Yellow Balloon
- The 5th Dimension
- The Mamas and the Papas, John Phillips
- Curt Boettche
- Beach Boys' Brian Wilson
Synth-pop (short for synthesizer pop; also called techno-pop) is a subgenre of new wave music that first became prominent in the late 1970s and features the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument. It was prefigured in the 1960s and early 1970s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock, electronic, art rock, disco, and particularly the "Krautrock" of bands like Kraftwerk. It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk era as part of the new wave movement of the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.
Electronic musical synthesizers that could be used practically in a recording studio became available in the mid-1960s, while the mid-1970s saw the rise of electronic art musicians. After the breakthrough of Gary Numan in the UK Singles Chart in 1979, large numbers of artists began to enjoy success with a synthesizer-based sound in the early 1980s. In Japan, Yellow Magic Orchestra introduced the TR-808 rhythm machine to popular music, and the band would be a major influence on early British synth-pop acts. The development of inexpensive polyphonic synthesizers, the definition of MIDI and the use of dance beats, led to a more commercial and accessible sound for synth-pop. This, its adoption by the style-conscious acts from the New Romantic movement, together with the rise of MTV, led to success for large numbers of British synth-pop acts in the US during the Second British Invasion.
"Synth-pop" is sometimes used interchangeably with "electropop", but "electropop" may also denote a variant of synth-pop that places more emphasis on a harder, more electronic sound. In the mid to late 1980s, duos such as Erasure and Pet Shop Boys adopted a style that was highly successful on the US dance charts, but by the end of the decade, the 'new wave' synth-pop of bands such as A-ha and Alphaville was giving way to house music and techno. Interest in new wave synth-pop began to revive in the indietronica and electroclash movements in the late 1990s, and in the 2000s synth-pop enjoyed a widespread revival and commercial success.
- Yellow Magic Orchestra
- The Human League
- Soft Cell
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
- Depeche Mode
- Duran Duran
- Spandau Ballet
- Pet Shop Boys
- Tears for Fears
Teen pop is a subgenre of pop music that is created, marketed and oriented towards preteens and teenagers. Teen pop incorporates different genres such as pop, R&B, dance, electronic, hip hop, country, latin and rock. Typical characteristics of teen pop music include autotuned vocals, choreographed dancing, emphasis on visual appeal (photogenic faces, unique body physiques, immaculate hair styles and fashion clothes), lyrics focused on teenage issues such as love/relationships, finding oneself, friendships, teenage angst, teen rebellion, coming of age, fitting in and growing up (regardless of the artists' age) and repeated chorus lines. Teen pop singers often cultivate an image of a girl next door/boy next door.
According to AllMusic, teen pop "is essentially dance-pop, pop, and urban ballads" that are marketed to teens, and was conceived in its contemporary form during the late 1980s and 1990s, pointing out the late 1990s as "arguably the style's golden era." About.com's Bill Lamb described teen pop sound as "a simple, straightforward, ultra-catchy melody line [...] The songs may incorporate elements of other pop music genres, but usually they will never be mistaken for anything but mainstream pop. The music is designed for maximum focus on the performer and a direct appeal to listeners." Some authors deemed teen pop music as "more disposable, less intellectually challenging, more feminine, simpler and more commercially focused than other musical forms." In Music Scenes: Local, Translocal and Virtual, author Melanie Lowe wrote that teen pop "is marked by a clash of presumed innocence and overt sexuality, a conflict that mirrors the physical and emotional turmoil of its primary target audience and vital fan base: early-adolescent middle-and upper middle-class suburban girls."
Pop around the globe
C-Pop (Chinese Pop)
For more information on this topic, please check out our C-Pop page.
I-Pop (Indian Pop)
Indo-Pop (Indonesian Pop)
J-Pop (Japanese Pop)
K-Pop (Korean Pop)
For more information on Korean Pop music, please take a look at our Koreawave page.
M-Pop (Malaysian Pop)
P-Pop (Filipino Pop)
V-Pop (Vietnamese Pop)
Scandipop (Scandinavian Pop)