Depending on context, pop music is either an abbreviation of popular music or, more recently, a term for a sub-genre of it.
In general, pop music features simple, memorable melodies with catchy, sing-along choruses. Pop songs often have a hook, one or more musical ideas repeated to "hook" a listener's interest. A hook can be any part of the song, musical, rhythmic, vocal, or as is most often the case, a mixture of all of them. Pop music is usually instantly accessible to anyone who is culturally inclined to take part, even the musical novice.
Successful pop music, which is often measured in terms of its commercial success, is usually performed by charismatic performers who look attractive, are fashionable, and usually are able to dance well. Songwriting and arranging may be done by professional songwriters rather than the performers and the record producer often chooses the songs and shapes the sound of the music.
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 that they had no role in the production of their album. Though this was scandalous in the late 1980s, today many of the most popular pop singers employ lip-synching to pre-recorded tracks during their live performances. 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. 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 serious musicians, as well as their fans, strive to separate themselves from the commercialism-over-creativity aspect of current pop 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. Boy bands and girl groups are particularly carefully organised in this manner, with members often chosen and groomed to fulfill certain roles and to appeal to different fan personalities.
The single most popular subject for pop music is love. Most common themes are, apparently, "I love him/her" and "I don't love him/her". In some cases, sex is substituted for love and the theme of the song becomes "I want to have sex with him/her". Other variations, such as "I love him/her, he/she doesn't love me", "they don't want us to love each other" or "I used to love him/her" exist. Sometimes the lyrics do not make enough sense to decipher a specific meaning, but the general theme remains. There is even a particular style of song particularly associated with the pop genre — the love ballad, a slow song in which the performers sing highly sentimental lyrics about romantic love. These love songs are accused of being generally content-free.
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. Many of today's pop stars have been shaped to fit the image and style of these more famous and successful stars. 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.
The production techniques of pop music follow closely the prevailing musical fashions. Generally, underground, non-mainstream music sub-genres have the biggest influence on mainstream pop production. The most sought-after producers of today are quite often those at the forefront of very leftfield "scenes". Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and other pop artists from the last few years have strong hip hop and R & B influences. The slightly more underground influence at the present time is the re-emergence of synthesisers.
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 form of music from the 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.
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, heavy metal, and progressive rock.
See List of popular music performers.
Launch.com - a variety of pop videos especially those popular in the United States.
Popjustice.com - coverage of Pop music in the United Kingdom
Last updated: 10-08-2005 11:10:53