Pop music originated from the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1950’s. It is derived from some of the most popular genres at the time, mainly rock & roll, blues, and jazz. The term “pop music” was first used in the mid-1920’s, referring to any music with mainstream success. “Pop music” and “popular music” were used interchangeably for decades, before “pop” started to be used to denote a specific genre. Technological advances in audio recording, radios, and then television greatly helped spread the music of this new genre in the 1950’s. The first pop stars were Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Bobby Darin.
Pop songs are made up of verses, choruses, and usually a bridge. The most emphasis tends to be on the chorus with a catchy hook, which hopefully stays in the listener’s ears for a long time.
It’s the most formulaic of the popular genres of today. The melodies strictly follow the classic European tonality, with the pitches arranged either on a minor or major scale, with a central tone. C and G major are the most commonly used scales in pop music. Pop songs feature repetitive chords and rhythmic elements.
The vocals are always more influential on a track than the instrumental. There is usually one vocalist singing at the time, and there's only short periods in the song where no vocals can be heard. Male vocals tend to be tenor, while female ones tend to be mezzo soprano. These days, the instrumentals are electronically produced in most pop songs. Previously, synths were popular, but you can also hear guitars, drums, and keyboards in some pop songs to this day.
Pop music has the most uniformity in lyrical themes among all the popular genres. Any pop song’s lyrics are about love, sex, and relationships.
British Ed Sheeran is one of the most successful pop artists of today, with such hits as “Shape of You”, and “Perfect” (both 2017). Dua Lipa is also from the UK, her biggest hits are “Don’t Start Now” (2019), and “Levitating” (2020) featuring American rapper DaBaby. Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, is having a wonderfully successful solo career since he left the band.
Over in the US, Billie Eilish is very popular, with such hits as “Bad Guy” (2019) and “Lovely” (2018) featuring Khalid. Taylor Swift started out as a country singer before transitioning to pop and being massively successful there as well. Madonna and Mariah Carey had the peak of their careers in the 1980's and 1990’s, respectively, with staggering album sales, but they are still around and popular to this day. Canadian Justin Bieber is one of the most successful male pop singers of this millennium. His greatest hits are “What Do You Mean?” (2015), “Love Yourself” (2015), and “Sorry” (2019).
Since the early 2010’s, K-pop music from South Korea tends to do very well internationally as well. The most famous K-pop artists are the boyband BTS and the girl band Twice. The first K-pop singer to achieve major international success is Psy with his hit single “Gangnam Style” from 2012, although that track is a mix of pop and hip hop.
There have also been a number of widely popular bands who mainly produced pop music, such as Maroon 5, Backstreet Boys, and 5 Seconds of Summer.