POP MUSIC DEFINED
Depending on context, pop music is either an abbreviation of popular music or, more recently, a term for a sub-genre of it.
The subgenre of pop is perhaps the most widely crowd-pleasing form of all popular music. The defining musical characteristics of the sub-genre we call pop are, firstly, the presence of what is called the "hook", and secondly, production techniques entirely reliant on the musical fashions of the time.
The "hook" can be any part of the song, musical, rhythmic, vocal, or as is most often the case, a mixture of all of them. The principles of good music production (in its broadest sense), are universal, and therefore when the person behind the music is a talented writer/arranger/producer the end result is almost guaranteed to be based around several musical ideas repeated to "hook" a listener's interest.
The production techniques of pop music follow closely the prevailing musical fashions. It is perhaps slightly ironic that it is generally underground, non-mainstream music sub-genres that have the biggest influence on mainstream pop. The most sought-after producers of today are quite often those at the forefront of very leftfield "scenes". Listen to Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera--in fact any pop from the last few years, and hear very strong hip hop and r & b influences. (Whilst hip-hop is now the dominant form, only ten years ago things were very different. It is the accessible pop face of hip-hop that has brought it to so much mainstream attention.) The slightly more underground influence at the present time is the re-emergence of synthesisers.
It is instantly accessible to anyone who is culturally inclined to take part, even often the musical novice. Successful pop music--which is usually measured in terms of its commercial success, without any regard for broader artistic merit--is usually performed by charismatic performers who may or may not be musically talented but who look attractive, are fashionable, and usually are able to dance well. Songwriting and arranging may be performed by anonymous, but well-paid, producers.
Producer Frank Farian briefly experimented with the notion of having one party sing a song, and another, more photogenic group, lip-sync to it. The result was called Milli Vanilli and was hugely successful, until people discovered what was going on. Though this was scandalous in the late '80's, today many of the most popular pop singers employ lip-synching to pre-recorded tracks during their presumably "live" performances. Though it is still widely criticized, the performers often argue that it is not an issue of them lacking singing talent. Rather, they claim, it is difficult to dance, peform, and get all the words out at the same time, so they play recorded music in the background in order to ensure that the performance sounds good. However, critics maintain that in a live musical performance, the live music creation (be it sung, instrumental, or both) should be the issue that receives precedence over other less important things, such as dancing or theatrics.
Due to its increasing commercialization and the lip-synching issue, pop music is often criticized for being entertaining while lacking serious musical value and artistic significance. This is believed to be primarily due to record companies' financial considerations being placed above any artistic considerations, whereby the record companies hand-pick the artists and songs that they think will make them the most money. In a sense, young and fashionable teens who might have no prior knowledge of the music industry are marketed into something that can sell fun and danceable music to a preteen audience. Companies often figure that their profits will be maximized by selling music that has the broadest possible appeal. This is often the case, as some works of popular music have sold tens of millions of copies. Such music is often unsatisfying to more discerning listeners. This is also at least partially why genres that manage to attain a certain level of credibility as styles in their own right are often no longer considered "pop"; as several of the more legitimate and serious musicians, as well as their fans, strive to separate themselves from the commercialiasm-over-creativity aspect of the record-company-manufacted pop of the day.
In most of pop music, the record producer is a major contributor--sometimes more important than the artist--who chooses the songs and shapes the sound of the music.
The image of pop performers is often regarded as being as important as their actual music. Consequently, pop performers and their managers make elaborate efforts to project the desired image through their clothing, music video clips, manipulation of the popular press, and similar tactics. Indeed, many pop acts are formulated around achieving the desired image, with music considered later. Boy bands and girl bands are particularly carefully organised in this manner, with members often chosen and groomed to fulfill certain roles and to appeal to different fan personalities.
A particular style of song particularly associated with the pop genre is the love ballad, a slow song in which the performers sing usually highly sentimental songs about various aspects of romantic love.
Well-known pop musicians include Janet Jackson, Madonna and Michael Jackson (the self-styled "King of Pop") and from earlier days Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand, Paul Whiteman, and Rudy Vallee. Though most of today's manufactured pop stars have been shaped to fit the image and style of these more famous and successful stars, these older stars were all from a period before Milli Vanilli and all have legitimate musical talent of their own, as writers, producers, and/or instrument-players. However, because of their commercial appeal, modern pop stars are often crafted after them, which is why many consider them to be "pop" singers in the subgenre of popular music.
Though much of this article has described "pop" as used in its more recent sense, as a subgenre of popular music, what follows is a list of all popular music performers. Pop music, in its more general and older, but also now rarer, sense is a very broad umbrella term. It was created as a synonym of "rock-n-roll", during the birth of the rock era in the 1950's, in order to separate the then-new, then-controversial and extremely progressive and innovative form of music from the more typical styles of jazz, gospel, big band, and classical music that had come before it. Eventually "pop" or "rock-n-roll" music would branch out into many subgenres, subcultures, and submovements, including progressive rock, punk, disco, hip-hop, funk, metal, alternative, new wave, techno, new age, and soul, to name a few; and it has become so popular to the point that the pre-1950's music styles are now the overwhelming minority of all new music available in record stores.
Most recently, popular music has even merged with older, pre-pop forms of music such as jazz (for example Norah Jones), swing (Brian Setzer Orchestra, Cherry Poppin' Daddies), gospel (Whitney Houston, CeCe Winans), and has even incorporate elements of classical music, for example in rap samples, metal, and progressive rock. As a general rule of thumb, in the original and broad sense of the word, any song which might potentially be heard on a top 40 radio station is a pop song and any musician, band, or group which might potentially produce music videos creates music in some sub-genre of pop music.
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