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What is Pop music?

What is Pop music?

Pop music is the most dominant genre of music within our Western society. It is the style that makes up the majority of the music charts and achieves the number one single. We use the term so frequently, but what actually is ‘pop music’?  

      The term ‘pop music’ derives from the phrase ‘popular music’ simply meaning any genre of music that is popular at the time. However, nowadays we use both terms fairly interchangeably. Pop music originated from rock and roll around the 1950’s/1960’s, and it often borrows many elements from other styles of music. It will often borrow from rock, urban, latin, jazz, country; any genre really. Typically, songs of the pop genre last around 3-4 minutes, focusing on being short and memorable, in order to boost sales.  

      The usual structure of a pop song relies on two main parts; part A, and part B. Part A is known as the verse, and part B the chorus. A typical pattern would be AABA, or ABABB, or a similar variation on that structure. Some pop songs will also include a third section, a bridge, which effectively joins the verse and the chorus, usually with a build in tension or excitement which prepares for the chorus.  

     The job of the chorus is perhaps the most important and integral part of the song. It's purpose Is to hook the listener with an infectious melody so they will remember it and therefore want to buy it. In fact, the catchiest phrase/melody of a song is generally referred to as the 'hook,' because it does literally that. For example, the famous rock song by Deep Purple, 'Smoke on the water,' has the hook of the same line, and also an incredibly catchy guitar riff to accompany it. 

     A riff is a short phrase of music that is repeated throughout a song. They can be played on any instrument, though the most common instruments for riffs are guitar and piano. Songs from the pop genre typically stick with one central riff that provides cohesion to the entire song, much like rock. However, in other genres such as Jazz or samba, there may be multiple riffs going on at any one time, however they will follow the same or similar scaleic patterns so as to avoid inharmonious clashes of notes.  

     Pop music is most commonly in a major key; the key that sounds 'happy' when you play it, rather than creating a sadder feeling with a minor key. A majority of pop music focuses on being 'feel-good music,' and as such, the major key works well with upbeat lyrics and a catchy riff. The focus is not about 'craftsmanship' with pop as it is with classical music or jazz for example, but appealing to the majority of the population.  

  A large part of the success of pop music is down to media and internet downloads. On television or the radio, you will rarely see or hear old soul tunes or Mozart being played, but a select number of 'current' popular music that is either generically upbeat, or music with a heavy beat that is frequently played in night clubs, and as such, has gained popularity. Equally, with the era of digital downloads and youtube, music is now more accessible than ever. We can all download our favourite songs with just the click of a button. Because a lot of recommended music on these streaming services such as iTunes are pop music, many of us may well miss broadening our horizons to a broader spectrum of music from other genres; if we don't actively search for it, we won't find it, which I think is a problem with such a technologically led world. Is it right that other genres of music are snubbed simply because the current music industry has decided that we should listen to pop music?  

      However, on the flip side, there is often a lot of snobbery towards pop music, with people believing it is not 'proper' music, or that there is no real skill in creating a pop song. In some ways, I am inclined to agree, in that the composition of a classical piece of music is a very lengthy and difficult process. Although, that said, what is so wrong with simply listening to music because you enjoy it? Does music have to be 'complicated' for it to be of merit? As humans we all have days where we need a little boost, or a little extra confidence, and pop music is perfect for that due to its generally positive tone. Overall, I firmly believe that there is a place for all music within our society, especially such a broad genre as pop, which can incorporate any style of music.  




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