Originally Posted by DrBenway /img/forum/go_quote.gif This is the essence of the question I posed in starting this thread. It's perfectly legitimate to describe music as "pop" on the basis of how it is consumed, rather than what it sounds like. But if you look at 20 music reviews that use the word pop, 19 of them will clearly use the term as a way of describing the sound of the music under consideration, with the clear implication that "pop" is a style or genre, rather than a condition of its consumption. ...
Yes, I know, but that's my point. Thinking of pop music as a style or genre of music is generally meaningless because the term then becomes so broad. The styles of music that constitute pop change often, and even if you single out a time and a place, you're probably still not going to be able to define pop as a single style in the way people think of styles of music. Right now in the America, you have music like Kelly Clarkson's, Justin Timberlake's and T.I.'s, say, all of which most people would probably classify as fairly distinct styles, but all of which many people, including me, would call pop.
Why insist that pop is a style of music? That's like saying that long songs or short songs are a style of music and then agonizing about what it is, other than the obvious trait -- duration -- that makes all long or short songs similar. Yes, I know a lot of people do in fact use "pop" to mean a style, but you're not going to find a meaningful definition of the term in that sense, outside of very specific, limited contexts.
But, okay, let's insist that pop is a genre, just for kicks, to see where it gets us. People who think of pop as a style seem to have foremost in mind those characteristics that make any style of music more appealing to a wide audience -- as you said, straight-forward melodies, rythm, etc. The things that make a song "catchy." Yes, classical lieder, Irish jigs, and the music of ancient Mayan initiating rites have these characteristics and yet we don't call these "pop music." So clearly the term does not mean just these things.
What else is there to "pop music" then? I think it clearly goes back to the use of the term to separate the music of an exclusive group from everyone else's music. So "pop-rock" is rock music that appeals to a wider audience than ordinary rock music. "Synth-pop" is synth-driven music that people who don't own all of Kraftwerk's albums actually listen to. A lot of hip-hop is considered pop now because white kids in the 'burbs know the lyrics; hip-hop was just as rythmic and its lyrics just as witty (or more so) back when nobody outside of big cities on the coast was listening to it.
So we're back to "pop music" meaning, basically "music I don't take too seriously because even my loser neighbor likes it." Pop music is music with wide appeal, probably wider appeal than you're comfortable with. 4/4 music with rhyming lyrics has wider appeal than twelve-tone symphonies. Understandably, the term "pop music" is often conflated with the characteristics that give a style of music wide appeal, but I prefer to keep these things separate to the extent that we can, which is why I like to think of pop music along the lines of what I previously described.
Nowadays I look at "pop" music as anything that as ramrodded down our throats by radio execs and ends up on the Top 40 charts (no matter what genre or artist).
This pop music is most listened to by:
1) The very first music that kids/teens listen to.
2) Music that adults listen to that have no musical tastes beyond classic rock (they don't really think for themselves or expand their musical tastes). It's the sheeple syndrome.
...and this is why pop music tends to get little respect/credibility.
Some of the earliest music I listened to as a teen was T. Rex. And I still listen to it on occasion. Marc Bolan and T. Rex still has a large following as his music transcended pop even if it was pop at the time.
Originally Posted by Coltrane /img/forum/go_quote.gif I think it depends on the reviewer. Some jazz reviewers clearly have no idea what they are talking about, while some pop reviewers are very erudite and knowledgeable. Besides, knowing about tonal vs atonal or meter doesnt help much when pop music is generally 4/4 and very tonal anyways. Pop music is usually created for much different reasons than classical, so of course the writers are gonna focus on different aspects.
Point well made. But pop music, while often simpler than classical or jazz, still has technical aspects. What key is it in? What chord progression is used -- a blues progression, chords borrowed from a standard?
I agree that aspects of consumption and other social considerations are more prevalent in the minds of pop reviewers. But have you noticed how many pop reviewers focus heavily-- often solely -- on lyrics? I think that's basically because that's often the only component of the music about which they are able to meaningfully comment.
Originally Posted by kerelybonto /img/forum/go_quote.gif Yes, I know, but that's my point. Thinking of pop music as a style or genre of music is generally meaningless because the term then becomes so broad. The styles of music that constitute pop change often, and even if you single out a time and a place, you're probably still not going to be able to define pop as a single style in the way people think of styles of music[...]Why insist that pop is a style of music? Eric
I guess that I'm insisting to a degree that it is a genre because there are certain artists who, I think, can be meaningfully described as "pop."
Sinatra is the obvious example. He mastered certain aspects of jazz technique, and later absorbed techniques and songs from rock, but to me he was the quinntessential pop singer. So it follows, or seems so to me, that there should be some way of articulating why he was pop as opposed to rock or jazz. And from that it follows that there should be some way to concretely describe pop as, yes, a distinct genre, unrelated to the simply "popular."