Music serves a greater purpose in all our lives. We listen to it while commuting to and from work, while we work out, while we lounge by the pool, while we clean, while we work, etc. Needless to say, music has carved out a place in our lives and in society. It sets the tone for film and TV shows, serves as the theme songs for our favorite characters, and plays as background music throughout most of our lives.
If you grow up playing instruments or singing, your relationship with music is so much deeper. That’s where I stand. I’ve always had a general appreciation and fondness for music. It started from a very young age.
But before I tell you my history with music, we have to take a look back at music in general.
Don’t worry, I’m not here to teach Music Appreciation 101 because you should have already taken that in college. If you haven’t, now you have something to look forward to. The term “music” is pretty broad. Let’s narrow that down.
Why don’t we take a closer look at, let’s say, the history of pop, urban, and Latin music? That just so happens to be the three styles that Chelo likes to blend and combine to create the unique sounds that inspired me to pursue music. But more on that later. For now, on to history!
The New World Encyclopedia definition of pop music is “contemporary music and a common type of popular music (distinguished from classical or art music and from folk music).” Pop is a culmination of rock, hip hop, reggae, dance, R&B, jazz, electronic, and folk music. Depending on the time and place, pop music can mean different things and there are various subgenres within the term “popular music.”
Starting in the 1890s and through the 1920s, the first form of “pop music” was Ragtime, which was popular in the African-American community and featured elements of dance. Ragtime then turned into Swing, which was an early form of jazz.
Several styles were introduced in this era that would influence pop music later on. Blues and Country could blend to become Rockabilly. Jump Blues/R&B proved to be an essential ingredient in both Rock ‘n’ Roll and pop music. Elements such as gospel handclaps, boogie woogie, and a greater emphasis on backbeat created Rock ‘n’ Roll which would pop music was heavily influenced by.
With the 1940s came the rise of crying and emotional singers which is a common characteristic of modern pop music.
The best examples of early Western Pop music artists is a lengthy list, including: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Fats Domino, and Elvis Presley. All across the globe artists are lending their voices to the pop music genre. There was Johnny O’Keefe, Col Joy, and Bobby Darin in Australia, and Mario Lanza represented Italy. Iran had the “Sultan of Pop,” otherwise known as Vigen Derderian, who has been compared to Elvis Presley. Greece had Laïkó, which was a form of music similar to Turkish fantasy music.
Elvis Presley continued his legacy into the 60s, along with new artists like the Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Who, Neil Diamond, the Bee Gees, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel and Aretha Franklin.
It was also in the 60s that the world received the first appearances of the early version of the boy band, the most famous being The Monkees.
Also known as the “disco era,” the 70s gave way to The Carpenters, ABBA, Donna Summer, Billy Joel, Elton John, the Eagles, Rod Stewart, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Carole King, Carly Simon, and Cher. The list just goes on and on from there.
This era belongs to Michael Jackson, the King of Pop himself. His second release under the Epic label, Thriller, went on to become the best-selling album of all time, and he was the most successful artist of the decade. Madonna also ruled the charts in the 80s, which led to her well-earned title: Queen of Pop.
Pop in this decade was influenced by an electric sound, and this included using synthesizers, drum machines, and dance-type music. Artists of the decade that reflect this shift in style include: The Go-Gos, Huey Lewis & the News, Kylie Minogue, Tina Turner, Paula Abdul, Whitney Houston, a-Ha, Kenny Loggins, Rick Springfield, and U2.
The most successful acts of this decade are artists that relied on an R&B influence. These include: Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, Salt N Pepa, MC Hammer, Boyz II Men, and Janet Jackson. Most artists that were successful in the 80s continued to be, still relying heavily on dance-pop elements.
This decade also saw a surge in boy bands and girl groups, like New Kids on the Block (starting in the late 1980s), The Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, and the Spice Girls. The term “pop princesses” was coined as a result of the massive success of artists like Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera, and Willa Ford.
Pop stars who reigned in the 90s experienced a drop in sales and were forced to incorporate R&B styles, creating the genre known as Pop/R&B. Several artists came about as a result, such as: Justin Timberlake, Akon, Ciara, Rihanna, and Nelly Furtado.
“Pure” pop continued to become a thing of the past, as even more styles blended to become new ones. Pop/punk introduced artists such as Simple Plan and Fall Out Boy. Pop/rock also became its own genre; Hilary Duff, Avril Lavigne, and Hawthorne Heights are just a few artists who sang to the tune of this genre.
American Idol began to churn out multi-platinum artists, the best example being Kelly Clarkson. This decade also saw a further division in the pop genre. This trend starting with Disney Channel hiring actors who could sing as well as act. This led to one tier dedicated completely to preteens and teenagers.
So there you have it, a pocket-size history of pop music. Stay tuned for the next article, where I’ll cover the history of urban and Latin music.