View Poll Results: Is "Pop" a style of music, or is it just what's popular?
Style of Music 69 75.00%
Just what's Popular 23 25.00%
Voters: 92. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 05-10-2019, 07:46 PM
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Is "Pop" a style of music, or is it just what's popular?


The title is pretty much the thread.

Public poll, as always. No BS "it's both" answers - I don't roll like that. YOU MUST CHOOSE ONE!

Oh, and feel free to discuss.
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Old 05-10-2019, 08:46 PM
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I think it was supposed to be a dismissive term coming from music snobs, so it kind of was both back then. Now I think you can say it's a style, in that it's deliberately aimed at Top 40 radio play.
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Old 05-10-2019, 09:24 PM
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Pop is the mainstream, derivative pap drawn from the popular genres. So you can have country pop, rock pop, hip hop pop etc. etc. It doesn't stand alone as a musical form.
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Old 05-10-2019, 09:40 PM
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Forced to choose one, it's any music that is popular. To me, the definition encompasses a number of things, but I wouldn't pin it down to a particular genre, or "style of music" as you put it.
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Old 05-10-2019, 09:40 PM
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I don't know jack about music, but to me it means whatever music is currently most popular with teenagers and 20-somethings, which varies in style over time. In the late 60s, the Monterey Pop Festival included Hendrix, The Who, and Joplin. In the 1955 movie Blackboard Jungle, one of the teenage characters says (paraphrasing from memory) "Put on some pop. Put on Frank Sinatra."

Either that, or it's music liked by dads.
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Old 05-10-2019, 10:26 PM
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Consider the fights that have broken out right here over whether the Beatles were pop, rock, or defied categorization.
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Old 05-10-2019, 10:42 PM
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Maybe more a broad category than a single style.

But there can be a pop song that only a few people have ever heard; and there can be a popular song or piece of music that would not be classified as "pop."
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Old 05-11-2019, 12:15 AM
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Popular music, no particular style. There was even a time when jazz was popular, believe it or not.
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Old 05-11-2019, 01:24 AM
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I think pop isn't so much a style as an approach. It's normally vocal-centric to the point that that the instrumentation barely gets noticed, although the actual musicians themselves are highly competent. They're not there to play flashy solos, but rather only to support the vocals. There's a reason American Idol is about singing...singers are what's popular.

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Old 05-11-2019, 01:55 AM
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Old 05-11-2019, 02:18 AM
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Claiming that pop equals whatever is / was popular is preposterous. Mozart was wildly popular in his day, so his music is pop music? Music schools don't place 1920's Jazz into Pop studies, either, although the relativity tangent will surely get a mention.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus makes a good point.
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Old 05-11-2019, 02:33 AM
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Bubblegum rock from the 60s and 70s is rightly called "pop" even though it isn't popular any more. "Pop" implies a certain lowest common denominator for when it was made and released. It isn't necessarily devoid of merit, it just isn't very ambitious or groundbreaking.
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Old 05-11-2019, 06:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Horatio Hellpop View Post
"Pop" implies a certain lowest common denominator for when it was made and released. It isn't necessarily devoid of merit, it just isn't very ambitious or groundbreaking.
If "Good Vibrations" and "A Day in the Life" aren't pop, what are they?
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Old 05-11-2019, 09:12 AM
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If "Good Vibrations" and "A Day in the Life" aren't pop, what are they?
Well, they're really only ambitious or groundbreaking if you consider them in the world of pop. Music Concrete was already a couple of decades old.
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Old 05-11-2019, 09:26 AM
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Rap music may be popular now, but it is not pop. Folk music and show tunes are popular with the people I hang out with, but it is not always pop.

Pop is a style of light music in my mind.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:40 AM
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The answer isn't both, it's neither. Or maybe it's both, but the OP says that's BS. I would say it's more what's popular than it is a specific style because what Pop is has changed dramatically over the years. But maybe there is something that connects it all. Right now, most Pop is either hip hop or hip hop influenced. But not all hip hop is pop. Even popular hip hop. Migos is super popular, but not pop. Cardi B is super legit hip hop, but absolutely pop. Why? Mainstream success. Then there are people who are mixing what was pop 5 years ago with hip hop. See Ariana Grande. But there are also people doing it who are not pop. See Lizzo, Good as Hell. Why not Lizzo? Not popular enough. But clearly in the pop style. But hip hop not pop. Or maybe it is pop? My thesis isn't super clear, I know. This is why you have the poll right?

At the start of the decade, though, that's not what pop sounded like. It sounded like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, or Maroon 5, until Lorde came along and pointed out that the lifestyle of that pop music was BS and so pop started to sound like her (sad and slow but catchy with hip hop production) and Halsey and others for a while before sliding back to being Hip Hop.

The again in the early 2000s pop was Justin Timberlake, the Black Eyed Peas, and Matchbox 20...but it was also 50 Cent and Eminem who were indisputably releasing pop hits with In Da Club and Lose Yourself even though, again, hip hop. And they weren't, for the most part, pop artists. This was a blip for them. Go back the the late 90s and you have Third Eye Blind, NSync, Usher and Shania Twain. Early 90s Whitney Houston, Maria Carey, BoyzIIMen, and Janet Jackson were pop. (no links I expect everyone knows what they sound like)

We can keep going backwards to when Swing was pop. When Verdi was pop. Yes, to when Hayden and Mozart were pop. If you go in 5 year jumps like that the connecting line is pretty clear. But take a look at say, Whitney Houston and Cardi B (or even the new Taylor Swift song) and you might have a harder time making the connection if you played them back to back. Clearly they are not the same stlye of music, but they come from the same musical movement and there is a very logical progression from one to the next because, what the public likes doesn't change all that dramatically at least not for long. They want songs with catchy hooks that they can hum or sing along to. They want the songs to be short and easy to digest. They want them to be accessible and sound like other songs they already know and like. They need them to be everywhere so that they get stuck in the back of your mind. True for Motzart eine kleine nachtmusik, for Verdi arias, for Benny Goodman and Count Bassie, for the early Beatles songs (I Want to Hold Your Hand), all the way up to Memememe or whatever the heck that new Taylor Swift song is called.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:57 AM
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Too late for the edit, the Lizzo song I linked is probably more Neo Soul than hip hop, but it's not the most representative song of hers necessarily. She's like Anderson Paak and Frank Ocean this way, blending hip hop and neo soul in a way that, if it was slightly more mainstream, would absolutely be pop... But isn't.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:08 AM
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It's BOTH! And I'm ready to die on that hill.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:41 AM
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Old 05-11-2019, 12:29 PM
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Btw, just because the poll is limited to two choices doesn't mean the discussion forces one to take a binary position.
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Old 05-11-2019, 09:14 PM
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Horatio Hellpop (excellent name for posting in this thread btw) used the term "bubblegum" which also applied to some music produced in the 80s (we were using the term round these parts during the 80s anyway) it seems to me that pop is a classification of music aimed at teens primarily with some overlap into pre and post teen demographics. Style of presentation of the music and performers factors heavily into this as well.
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Old 05-11-2019, 09:47 PM
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It's whatever's popular at the time. Beethoven & Mozart wrote pop music.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:13 PM
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In and of itself, the label of pop doesn't say much, it just likely rules out some possibilities of complex and less accessible song structural elements and nonsecular music. The subgenre of synth-pop is widely acknowledged. Many acts would accept this as a primary label, many others could be said to feature elements of synth-pop even if they aren't considered overall within a pop music niche. There's often not a clear either/or. A newer and more controversial in definition subgenre is hypnagogic pop, and maybe there is a better example somewhere out there, I don't envision a subgenre like that ever drawing a mass audience.

I have watched some videos from those who study music theory extensively treating pop music with identifiable characteristics, so I put a certain amount of stock in that.
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Old 05-12-2019, 12:12 AM
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Old 05-12-2019, 10:13 AM
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For what it's worth, Wikipedia votes for the first option.
Quote:
Pop music is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the United States and United Kingdom during the mid-1950s.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethilrist View Post
It's whatever's popular at the time. Beethoven & Mozart wrote pop music.
To me, that second sentence is so obviously wrong that it disproves the first sentence.
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Old 05-12-2019, 11:38 AM
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For what it's worth, Wikipedia votes for the first option.

To me, that second sentence is so obviously wrong that it disproves the first sentence.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the Moonlighting Sonata were unquestionably pop music. I'm surprised anyone would argue this.
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:56 PM
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À propos of not much, remember that newspaper thing packaged with Thick as a Brick? It contained an article about the record itself, headlined "Major Beat Group Records Gerald's Poem." (Why "beat group" instead of "rock band"? Poking fun at the provincial newspaper as out of touch with current terminology, I guess.) The pretense is that the lyrics were a poem by some kid named Gerald Bostock. The paper says "One-legged pop flautist Ian Anderson was so enthused by it he wrote forty-five minutes of pop music to go with it." This pseudo-article (written by Anderson himself, of course) uses "pop music" in an abnormally broad sense. The irony is that Thick as a Brick is dense, challenging progressive rock—which is cast in opposition to pop music as generally understood.
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Old 05-12-2019, 08:38 PM
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À propos of not much, remember that newspaper thing packaged with Thick as a Brick? It contained an article about the record itself, headlined "Major Beat Group Records Gerald's Poem." (Why "beat group" instead of "rock band"? Poking fun at the provincial newspaper as out of touch with current terminology, I guess.) The pretense is that the lyrics were a poem by some kid named Gerald Bostock. The paper says "One-legged pop flautist Ian Anderson was so enthused by it he wrote forty-five minutes of pop music to go with it." This pseudo-article (written by Anderson himself, of course) uses "pop music" in an abnormally broad sense. The irony is that Thick as a Brick is dense, challenging progressive rock—which is cast in opposition to pop music as generally understood.
It's not that unusual a definition. There is one dichotomy in which there's "serious classical music" and then the rest is just "popular music." So even though Tull may be on the more experimental side of a non-classical music genre, it's still seen by some musical elitists as being just popular fluff, as it's rock music played with distorted guitars and drums, and not a string quartet or an orchestral piece, etc.

Note that I do not agree with this definition, but this also fits why musicians like Beethoven and Mozart are not seen as "pop" by very many people, as the "pop" music of the day would be something more like traditional folk music.

"Pop" is just such an overly broad term that can be used in so many different ways that you really need to know the context in which it is being used. For me, a lot of it has to do with the song structure, the melody, the emphasis on "hooks" and catchiness, such that I would consider bands like Nirvana and the Pixies great examples of pop, even though they're not particularly light and fluffy. But they wrote great pop songs in their respective genres.
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Old 05-12-2019, 08:56 PM
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It's whatever's popular at the time. Beethoven & Mozart wrote pop music.
Why would a 18th Century definition be the same as a 21st?
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:06 PM
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It's whatever's popular at the time. Beethoven & Mozart wrote pop music.
Right. It’s whatever’s popular at the time.

Except Mozart and Haydn didn’t write pop music, because they were employed by royalty, the aristocracy, or the high clergy to make music specifically for those audiences.

The guy shoveling horseshit in the street and the woman boiling her arms in hot wash water didn’t get to hear any of that music.

Pop music in those days was provided by local or itinerant fiddlers, flute players, drum bangers, etc., who played music for all the poor bastards to dance and fuck to.

Jazz was exciting and new in the 1920s, so popular singers incorporated jazz players into their recordings and performances. Swing music was the dancers’ pop in the 1930s. Bop killed jazz popularity in the 40s, because you were supposed to sit down, shut up, and listen to it. It wasn’t until the 1950s that musicologists decided that 20s jazz, 30s swing, and 40s bop were all part of the jazz timeline...before that, everybody considered them three different kinds of music.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:12 PM
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Pop is definitely a style. Other genres are actually more popular now (e.g. hip hop), but they still are not called pop.

Yes, the term originated as a shortening of "popular music," but, as various other popular types came out, it become increasingly restricted. It still moved around a bit, but it can't really move much more, since anything it would move to has another name.

Defining pop to be synonymous with hip hop would make the term redundant, so it hasn't changed. Pop means that which descended from what was called pop in the 1990s.

On the other hand, widening it to include more would leave us without a name for a certain style of music.

Last edited by BigT; 05-12-2019 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:34 PM
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.

Defining pop to be synonymous with hip hop would make the term redundant, so it hasn't changed. Pop means that which descended from what was called pop in the 1990s.
.
Well this is clearly silly because pop music charts existed and the term pop music was widely used well before 1990. You can make an argument that pop didn't exist before recording technology but it's existed for at least as long as recorded music has been popular. The term has been around since the 50s at least.

Last edited by NAF1138; 05-12-2019 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:35 PM
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Pop is a real style, and we know this because when pop goes through a shitty period, hip hop, country, and R&B dominate the charts until the industry figures out that what they are doing isn't working. You also tend to see more foreign groups having hits when pop sucks. We saw this with ABBA before the New Wave hit in the early 80s, we saw it during the grunge years(grunge didn't just kill hair metal, it killed pop for awhile too), and we're seeing it now. If Americans won't make good pop, American pop fans will look overseas for good pop.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:37 PM
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Whatever it is, Michael Jackson has been declared the king of it.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:58 PM
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Old 05-13-2019, 05:26 AM
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To me, that second sentence is so obviously wrong that it disproves the first sentence.
Tell that to the Boston Pops ...
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Old 05-13-2019, 06:20 AM
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Here’s the way I look at it. IMHO Western music has two broad genres, those being “classical” and “pop.” I put those both in quotes because I’m using them broadly. Classical includes not just composers from the classical era such as Mozart and Hayden, but also baroque composers such as Vivaldi and Bach as well as romantic era composers like Chopin and Liszt. Pop has a similar issue with the way I define it. It’s not just the pop genre and the artists from the genre such as Michael Jackson. I also include most vocal music written in chorus and verse form. By this definition George Strait and Tupac qualify pop artists just as much Michael Jackson. I also include musicians such as Frank Sinatra whose music predates the term pop music.

That being said, there are a few types of music that are challenging to categorize using just those two large umbrella terms. Jazz in particular doesn’t fall nearly into either category, and I think some types of metal probably also don’t fit in under pop music. Most music from the Weatern musical tradition, however, fits into one or the other of these two categories.

Last edited by FlikTheBlue; 05-13-2019 at 06:20 AM.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:40 AM
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Well this is clearly silly because pop music charts existed and the term pop music was widely used well before 1990. You can make an argument that pop didn't exist before recording technology but it's existed for at least as long as recorded music has been popular. The term has been around since the 50s at least.
I assume BigT is describing what pop means today, which encompasses stuff that would probably not have been classified as pop by someone in the 60s, if we could play it to them, while some 60s pop will today be stuffed into some "classic X" genre rather than pop.

Your argument is clearly silly because it assumes terms never change in meaning.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:57 AM
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It has elements of both, but it's definitely a style of music. Katy Perry is pop music. U2 has had several number 1 hits but they are not pop music.

Nirvana sold more records than Carly Rae Jepsen, and so are more "popular," but Carly Rae Jepsen is pop music and Nirvana is not.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:57 AM
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Here’s the way I look at it. IMHO Western music has two broad genres, those being “classical” and “pop.” I put those both in quotes because I’m using them broadly. Classical includes not just composers from the classical era such as Mozart and Hayden, but also baroque composers such as Vivaldi and Bach as well as romantic era composers like Chopin and Liszt. Pop has a similar issue with the way I define it. It’s not just the pop genre and the artists from the genre such as Michael Jackson. I also include most vocal music written in chorus and verse form. By this definition George Strait and Tupac qualify pop artists just as much Michael Jackson. I also include musicians such as Frank Sinatra whose music predates the term pop music.

That being said, there are a few types of music that are challenging to categorize using just those two large umbrella terms. Jazz in particular doesn’t fall nearly into either category, and I think some types of metal probably also don’t fit in under pop music. Most music from the Weatern musical tradition, however, fits into one or the other of these two categories.


We have both kinds of music; country and western.
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Old 05-13-2019, 10:25 AM
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I assume BigT is describing what pop means today, which encompasses stuff that would probably not have been classified as pop by someone in the 60s, if we could play it to them, while some 60s pop will today be stuffed into some "classic X" genre rather than pop.

Your argument is clearly silly because it assumes terms never change in meaning.
It didn't change meaning that much. Michael Jackson, as noted in the thread, was making what is clearly pop music in the 70s and 80s.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:03 AM
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Pop is a real style, and we know this because when pop goes through a shitty period, hip hop, country, and R&B dominate the charts until the industry figures out that what they are doing isn't working.
To me, what you're saying is "pop can't possibly be a real style because the music industry keeps redefining what it is."

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Here’s the way I look at it. IMHO Western music has two broad genres, those being “classical” and “pop.” I put those both in quotes because I’m using them broadly. Classical includes not just composers from the classical era such as Mozart and Hayden, but also baroque composers such as Vivaldi and Bach as well as romantic era composers like Chopin and Liszt.
I'll go along with the two genres idea, but I'd point out that composers are still writing "classical music." A couple of 20th Century examples are Aaron Copland (who described his own work as being a "vernacular" style) and Edward Elgar, whose works might have been "pop" at the time but are now "classical" with no * behind the word.

I'd also wager just about everyone ever who makes a living writing film scores has a "classical" composition sitting in their file cabinet.

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Old 05-13-2019, 11:47 AM
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U2 has had several number 1 hits but they are not pop music.
No? Tell them that .
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:52 PM
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It's the most popular subgenres repackaged for mass appeal. As the most popular subgenres change so does pop. Popular rap, country or metal artists might sell 10-15 millions albums, but if they can repackage it for the masses they can sell 30-40 million albums. You have to sand off the rough edges, guarantee it can be played on the radio, and sell it to suburban white people.
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Old 05-13-2019, 01:48 PM
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Pop is definitely a style. Other genres are actually more popular now (e.g. hip hop), but they still are not called pop.
But as NAF1138 has pointed out there some hip-hop artists that are considered 'pop', even though they do similar as those considered 'hip-hop'.

An example, on Apple Music Beyoncé is listed at Pop. While Solange is listed as R&B/Soul. How does one determine that difference simply based on music styles?
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Old 05-13-2019, 02:07 PM
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Popular music, or "Pop" is a broad category of music designed and written for consumption by the masses for the purposes of fun and leisure. Distinct from "classical" music written for worship, or to glorify the state, or to make the nobility feel superior to everyone else. Originally pop music was synonymous with folk music, but jazz and then recording technology put folk music into a particular lo-fi category of its own, while introducing many other non-folk genres of pop music throughout the 20th Century.

Nowadays, we tend to mean "Top 40" when we say "pop", but in reality almost all music is pop music today, with very little being written or performed for non-popular reasons. The Army Band, most movie scores, symphony orchestras (more a historical reenactment than popular entertainment), the list of non-pop music still written and played today is very short.
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Old 05-13-2019, 02:30 PM
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It seems to me that pop is kind of a twofold concept.

First, there's the pop style, which is basically a sort of upbeat, relatively bland sort of music. There's a kind of hard-to-describe common thread between the pop acts through the decades.

Then there are the more defined genre acts that either release songs, or entire albums that straddle their own genre and that "you know it when you hear it" pop aesthetic.

For example, Katy Perry has always been straight up pop, as has Taylor Swift. Same for pre-crazy Britney Spears, most 80s Madonna, Maroon 5, etc...

Will Smith has always been poppy rap, just like Bon Jovi has typically been poppy rock. Other acts like Def Leppard have released poppy albums, but aren't strictly pop-rock acts.

But pop isn't simply "what's popular" Nobody would call Guns 'n Roses "pop", nor would they call Metallica pop, but they're both bands who had multiple top 40 hits.
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Old 05-13-2019, 02:34 PM
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I would most definitely call "Sweet Child o' Mine" pop. It's guitar-based pop, but still pop. Hell, the genesis of this thread idea was me thinking that SCoM was the greatest pop-rock tune of all time, then wondering "well, it's pop... but what makes it pop? What is pop, anyway?"
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Old 05-13-2019, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
Popular music, or "Pop" is
But that's the whole issue: Is "pop" just short for "popular," and "pop music" therefore synonymous with "popular music"; or does it have its own separate meaning? That's how I understand the issue.

I think—and this thread seems to back me up—that some people use the terms more or less interchangeably while others do not. (And maybe the same people use the word in different senses at different times. WOrds can have multiple meanings and connotations.) As far as I know, there isn't an authoritative definitive answer. But some people, including the Wikipedia page I quoted upthread, and this article, do take them to be two separate things.
Quote:
It is tempting to confuse pop music with popular music. The New Grove Dictionary Of Music and Musicians, the musicologist's ultimate reference resource, identifies popular music as the music since industrialization in the 1800's that is most in line with the tastes and interests of the urban middle class. This would include a vast range of music from vaudeville and minstrel shows to heavy metal. Pop music, as a phrase with the shortened first word, has primarily come into usage to describe the music that evolved out of the rock and roll revolution of the mid-1950s and continues on a definable path today.
Certainly the word "pop" derives from a shortening of the word "popular" (much as "fan" derives from "fanatic"); but that does not necessarily mean the words are interchangeable as they have come to be used now.
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Old 05-13-2019, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
It has elements of both, but it's definitely a style of music. Katy Perry is pop music. U2 has had several number 1 hits but they are not pop music.

Nirvana sold more records than Carly Rae Jepsen, and so are more "popular," but Carly Rae Jepsen is pop music and Nirvana is not.
Carly had a #1 hit. Nirvana did not. Album sales aren't really as good a representation of what is popular as the singles charts.
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