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Pop Music
Setting the Tone Over and Again

Pop Music
  • A Continuous Fluorescence Assay for the ... (by )
  • The Green Odyssey (by )
  • Variable Man, The (by )
  • H. L. Mencken on Music (by )
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Try to distinguish popular music from almost every other genre. We bet you can’t. Bruno Mars’ song “Uptown Funk” fuses elements of rhythm and blues (R&B), funk, and rock and roll to create a timeless sound. Michael Jackson drew from R&B and dance music to become the “king of pop.” It is no coincidence that performers and fans find familiar melodies in their favorite songs.

In the early 1960s, popular music was split in two main categories: singers were either backed by a traditional orchestra or by bass, guitar, and drum bands. As the decade continued, record labels afforded their artists greater liberties, allowing them to experiment and create new sounds. Pop music purposefully incorporates wider audiences as it borrows from other sub-genres of music. Bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys combined elements of rock and roll with sentimental ballads to immense success. 

In subsequent decades, the sound of pop music continued to shift, becoming a worldwide phenomenon. In the 1970s, the success of acts like Cher, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John continued to combine classical music with soul music, folk music with rock and roll, and gospel music with rhythm and blues. 
In the past three decades, pop music has dominated radio, television, advertising, and film. It has become an integral part of society, as virtually every nation has its own version of pop music. K-pop (or Korean pop music) grew from the convergence of electronic, dance, hip-hop, and ballads. Since the late 2000s, the “Korean Wave” has spread to parts of Latin America, North Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. 

The turning trends similarly influenced literature. Popular fiction, sometimes referred to as “pulp” or genre fiction, expanded quickly. Writers like Philip Jose Farmer, a science fiction author known for his novel The Green Odyssey, Philip K. Dick, the author of dozens of novels, essays, and short stories, including “The Variable Man” (audio version), and Margaret St. Claire, an American writer who produced mystery, science fiction, and fantasy works, all created genre-spanning works when pop music shifted into its newer, multifaceted approach. 

The changing nature of popular music, culture, and literature continuously redefines them. Artists, writers, and critics now have even greater access, combining sub-genres to create a broader, more inclusive one.

By Logan Williams

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