What is pop music? There are many definitions of what pop music is, depending on who you ask.
You are likely familiar with some of the most famous examples of pop music. With so many musicians working to produce hits, there are thousands upon thousands of songs that qualify for the title. Critics and listeners alike have deemed various songs as examples of popular music over the years.
Here are seven examples of pop songs that have stood out above all others.
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Pop music began as a genre of popular music in the United States and the United Kingdom in the mid-1950s. Often, “popular music” and “pop music” are used interchangeably, although the former refers to all popular music, while the latter identifies a specific genre of popular music.
The pop music genre is eclectic in style and often borrows from other styles and genres, including urban, dance, rock, Latin, and country.
There isn't one all-encompassing definition, as pop music is constantly evolving. But there are hundreds of examples from every era. In general, pop music is made to appeal to a broad audience, rather than more niche music genres such as metal or hip-hop.
The seven songs mentioned in this article may not suit everyone's opinions about what pop should sound like. Still, they represent some talented musicians with catchy tunes worth listening to again and again.
Pop music is understood to be a genre of music that is enjoyed by a broad audience. The songs are often rhythmic and straightforward, with a strong focus on melody and harmony. Pop music is also more commercialized than other genres, with artists typically working with record labels to promote their music.
In recent decades, it has become increasingly common for artists to use auto-tuned vocals in their music.
Auto-tune is an audio engineering program for vocal recordings that alters the pitch and tone of the voice. Using this software has led to comments by many people questioning whether the singers have natural singing ability or are lip-synching.
This debate over auto-tune has fueled a discussion in modern pop music. Some claim it is an artificial way of producing music, while others state that it is only a tool to create a more appealing sound.
Pop music is usually written in common time 4/4 or 12/8 meter. The songs are usually in a major or minor key, with lyrics dealing with love, relationships, and feelings.
A typical pop song is about three minutes long so they can be played on the radio, though notable exceptions include Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody or Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Pop music has grown into a massive industry, with millions of listeners around the world. Many types of pop music exist, with diverse styles and characteristics.
Some common types of pop music include:
In the 1970s, country-pop mixed traditional country elements such as acoustic guitar and drums with modern sounds like synthesizers and electric guitars. Singer-songwriters such as Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, and Willie Nelson popularized the genre.
Pop music with a calmer sound than most other pop genres often incorporates acoustic instruments into their recordings to give them an intimate feel. Soft pop is characterized by slower tempos and lower pitches than many other types of pop music.
Some examples of soft pop artists include Sting, Norah Jones, and Dave Matthews Band.
A subgenre of rock music draws on punk-style elements like loud, distorted guitars with simple rhythms and short song structures. It began in the 1970s as an offshoot of the British pub rock scene.
Early punk bands included The Ramones and modern day artists like Simple Plan.
A subgenre of rock music that draws on psychedelic pop and progressive rock, garage rock, and electronic influences, space pop is typically more experimental than most other types of pop music, with a distinctive “spacy” sound that resembles that of its psychedelic forebears.
Notable space pop artists include The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, and Electric Light Orchestra.
Indie pop originated in the 1980s as an indie rock offshoot of new wave music, a subgenre of alternative rock characterized by simple music with catchy melodies.
Some notable examples of indie-pop bands include Vampire Weekend, The Vaccines, and Passion Pit.
A subgenre of pop music that draws on elements of industrial music like mechanical rhythms, repetitive beats, and distorted guitars.
Notable industrial pop artists include Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode.
The term “pop” refers to any form of a popular song that has mass appeal and can describe both the style and contents of this type of music. It's typically catchy, with simple lyrics, short songs, and easy-to-remember melodies.
The following seven pop music examples are some popular songs that people enjoy.
In 1998, “Baby One More Time” was released as Britney's debut single. It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks and is one of the best-selling singles of all time.
In 1999, it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best Pop Video and Song of the Year, and Rolling Stone ranked it #205 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.
“Baby One More Time” is about a teenage girl in love with a boy. She wants him to love her back and is asking him to give her one more chance.
“Billie Jean” is a song by Michael Jackson, a well know American recording artist. Released in 1982, it was the second single from his sixth solo album, Thriller, written and composed by Jackson. It was also produced by Quincy Jones.
The song became one of the best-selling singles of all time, peaked at number one on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 7 straight weeks, and topped the charts in over 20 countries worldwide.
The first time Jackson performed his famous Moonwalk was during a performance of this song on the television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.
The lyrics to “Billie Jean” are about a girl, Billie Jean, who claims that Michael Jackson has fathered her child, but he denies being the father and tells her that there is no truth to her story.
“Like a Virgin” was released as the first single in October 1984 and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Madonna's first number-one song. It was her explosive breakthrough, with sales of over 5 million copies worldwide.
The song debuted during the MTV Video Music Awards, where Madonna performed wearing a white wedding dress and a veil. Some later controversy surrounded the song because of the then-risque performance on the 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour.
The title is an innuendo – “Like A Virgin” refers to how something new and unknown can feel innocent, naïve, or untouched in the way a virgin would be.
“I Want To Hold Your Hand” is one of the most iconic songs in pop music history. The song was released in 1963 and is still popular today and has been covered by many artists, including soul singer Al Green, rock band the Melvins, and the cast of the television show, Glee.
It was the second single to be issued by the Beatles in Britain, but it became one of their biggest worldwide hits, selling over 12 million copies and charting at number one for seven weeks in America.
In the song's lyrics, a young man loves a girl and wants to feel close to her by holding her hand.
“Uptown Funk” was released in November 2014 and became an international hit, reaching number one in several countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, and Spain.
In the United States, it reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks and won awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. They also picked up Best Music Video at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.
Rolling Stone ranked it as a song that Defined the Decade of the 2010s.
The lyrics of the song are about having a good time and letting loose. It's been called “the perfect pop-funk anthem,” “disco-funk,” and a throwback to the sounds of early Michael Jackson. The composition is based around electronic drums, old-school funk horns, slap bass, and vintage backup vocals.
“Don't Stop Believin'” was written by Neal Schon, Steve Perry, and Jonathan Cain and is from the album “Escape.” Released in 1981, it became a top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number nine, then regained popularity in 2009 and reached the number four position.
A 2009 pilot episode of the television show Glee featured the song, and from 2009 to 2015, it was featured on the Broadway show, Rock of Ages. “Don't Stop Believin'” became synonymous with American culture, telling a story about never giving up on your dreams, no matter what happens. The power ballad is considered one of the most iconic rock songs of all time.
The lyrics of “Don't Stop Believin'” tell the story of a man and a woman who are down on their luck but never give up hope things will improve. They have faith that there's something better waiting for him just around the bend.
“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)” was released in 2008 as the lead single from her second solo album, I Am… Sasha Fierce, and became an international hit.
The song has been covered and parodied many times over the years, with notable covers from other artists, including Liza Minnelli in Sex and the City 2, and Postmodern Jukebox.
One of Beyonce's most iconic songs to date, the music video won several awards and garnered the number 12 spot on the Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Music Videos list. Bob Fosse's choreography titled “Mexican Breakfast” performed on The Ed Sullivan show in 1969 inspired the video dance routine.
The song is an uptempo dance-pop song influenced by R&B and soul music about a woman jilted by her boyfriend who doesn't commit to her. Now that she is single and looking for love, her ex is upset at seeing her out with other suitors.
This list will explore the top five pop musicians and their contributions to music.
Some may be more well-known than others, but each has made a significant impact on the industry. It's also important to note that the list is based on a combination of chart performance, record sales, and awards.
Pop music varies in each sub-genre, but a common thread that ties all pop music together is that it's usually commercially driven. So you can count on a formula that includes a catchy chorus, good dance beats, and good-looking artists.
With that being said, here is a list of five top pop musicians:
Michael Jackson is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of all time. Dubbed the “King of Pop,” his raw talent and creativity are said to have changed the music industry, and he is internationally known for his albums Bad, Thriller, and Off The Wall, becoming a global icon.
As a result of his contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, Jackson remained an icon in popular culture for over four decades.
His records broke records, his concerts sold out in minutes, and he is considered one of the greatest entertainers to have ever lived.
A renowned pop icon, Katy Perry has had nine chart-topping hits since the late 2000s.
She got her start singing Christian music but became well known as a mainstream performer after working with Glen Ballard, the producer behind Alanis Morrisette's album, Jagged Little Pill.
Perry has been nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, has won five American Music Awards, and was featured in Guinness World Records for being the first female to have five number-one singles from one album, amongst other accolades.
She released her first single, “I Kissed a Girl,” in 2008, debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Her second record, Teenage Dream (2010), was the only album by a female artist to produce five number-one Billboard Hot 100 singles. Its singles “California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” and “E.T.”. Each reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Bruno Mars has been hailed as one of the most creative and talented musicians in recent years. The music of Mars has been mainly influenced by Michael Jackson and Elvis, whom Mars was compared to and who he impersonated as a child.
Mars is an excellent singer and songwriter, but his true talent lies in creating a mood through his music that pulls the listener in. He uses assorted instruments, including drums, electric guitar, piano, saxophone, and bass.
Bruno Mars has released four albums: Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010), Unorthodox Jukebox (2012), 24K Magic (2016) and an Evening with Silk Sonic (2021).
His most famous songs include Uptown Funk and Just The Way You Are, both of which were number one hits in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Bruno's music style varies from pop, R&B, funk, and soul.
He has been nominated for 16 Grammy Awards, winning 11, and has sold over 130 million records worldwide.
Mariah Carey is a singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress who made her recording debut in 1990. She is the first artist to have a number-one single in each year of the 1990s decade and has released over 18 albums (including two Christmas albums) to date, with worldwide sales of over 200 million copies.
Her album Music Box (1993) was certified 10x Platinum for shipping 10 million copies in the United States alone. The second single from that album, “Hero,” reached number one on U.S. charts, while “Without You” has been hailed as her signature song by many critics and fans alike.
Her fifth studio album Daydream (1995) was also critically and commercially successful, with it spawning the hit singles “One Sweet Day” and “Always Be My Baby.”
Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Lady Gaga is known for blending pop with electronic, dance, and hip-hop music to make a unique and innovative sound. She is also recognized for her flamboyant, eclectic fashion sense when performing or participating in publicity events.
Gaga rose to stardom with her debut album, The Fame (2008), which produced successful singles such as “Just Dance” and “Poker Face.” She explored different music genres in her next album, The Fame Monster (2009), which featured the dance-pop song “Bad Romance” and the electro-pop song “Telephone” with Beyonce.
In 2011, she released Born This Way, one of 2011's best-selling albums worldwide.
Pop music first started as a rock and roll genre, but it has become more popular with mainstream audiences. In the early days of pop music, it was regarded as a derivative of rock and roll because it started off with simple vocals accompanied by relatively simplistic instruments.
As time has gone on, pop music has become its own entity that is very different from rock and roll.
In the fifties, the genre gained popularity due to Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. People started seeing the potential of making money from it. This was when artists began looking for better ways to make their songs stand out, and one way they did this was by introducing orchestral instruments into their recordings.
This led to a new form of pop music known as doo-wop in the mid-fifties, characterized by rich vocals accompanied by string instruments. The genre became extremely popular amongst mainstream audiences because of its catchy melodies and harmonic sound.
This led to another form of pop music known as girl groups in the late fifties. This came about because artists wanted to showcase their vocal abilities, which led them to record songs that had more vocals than instruments.
Since the girl groups were singing about heartbreak, love, and relationships with men, these pop songs became known as pop ballads. It was immensely popular amongst women and received a lot of airtime on mainstream radio stations because of the catchy melodies.
By the 1960s, pop music had branched out and become its own genre. Chubby Checker had popularized A new dance style called The Twist, and other artists were using backing groups and orchestras in their recordings rather than just a guitar.
After this, groups such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys saw massive success during the sixties. Then, in 1964, The British Invasion helped spread pop music further afield, with groups like The Rolling Stones and The Kinks becoming world-famous.
Throughout this period, artists experimented with the genre, adding elements of other styles to it. During the sixties, soul music was becoming popular, and this helped pop become more diverse.
Later on in the seventies, punk rock became hugely influential on the genre along with British bubblegum pop music, such as that by The Archies. This led artists to further experiment with sounds that are heard in modern-day pop music.
The 80s saw the creation of many new types of pop music. Madonna pioneered a style that has become hugely popular today called dance-pop, then Prince brought R&B to the mainstream with his kind of pop music.
Music from both genres continued to influence pop in the 1990s, with bands like The Spice Girls combining elements from both genres. It was increasingly difficult to define “pop” as a genre at this point because its definition had become so broad.
The nineties also saw the rise of teen pop, which included artists such as Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. They were often criticized for being too glossy and commercialized, but they were still popular among younger audiences.
As the genre grew in popularity, it became more varied. This experimentation has continued into modern-day pop music.
Pop music is one of the most popular music genres, has a universal appeal, and is enjoyed by people of all ages. Some of the biggest stars in the pop genre include Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift. Although the three are fairly different in style, they are all defined as pop music because of their catchy beats and easy to sing along tunes.
For one, the lyrics in pop music are usually easy to understand and relate to. Pop songs also have memorable beats that can easily get stuck in people's heads. In addition, pop music appeals because it is upbeat and fun.
However, it can also express other emotions like heartache and anger, like with songs like “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson and “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye.
Pop music has been consistently topping the charts for years and shows no signs of slowing down. The category is often criticized for being shallow and unoriginal, but that doesn't seem to bother its fans. Instead, they continue to support their favorite artists and buy their albums and tickets to their concerts.
The pop music scene is currently in a state of flux. Pop music has always been about incorporating different styles and sounds, and this trend is continuing in the current era.
Some artists are sticking to the traditional pop sound, such as Adele and Taylor Swift, while others are experimenting with mixing different genres into something entirely unique. Imagine Dragons combines rock, pop, and electronic elements to create a sound that is entirely theirs.
Artists are constantly searching for new ways to reinvent themselves, which has led to an influx of pop artists branching out into other genres. For example, Justin Timberlake's first post-boyband album was considered a significant risk, as it combined his voice with elements of hip Hop and soul, but the gamble paid off handsomely.
Then there are the likes of Miley Cyrus, Kesha, and Lady Gaga, who are incorporating more rock and roll elements into their music. The list goes on with artists such as Bruno Mars using funk to enhance his sound, while Rihanna has experimented with Country sounds, and artist Lil Nas X had a debut hit single with his country-pop hit, Old Town Road.
Pop music has always reflected the zeitgeist, so it's no surprise that this genre is prevalent in today's society. With the rise of social media, pop music is becoming more accessible than ever. Platforms like YouTube and TikTok allow users to create, share, and post their own songs, making this form of entertainment limitless.
Since pop culture always reflects our present world, there are no limitations to this genre – it has endless potential.
Pop music is not as easily defined as other genres. Rock, R&B, and Hip-Hop can be easily differentiated upon listening. However, in Pop it does not matter a lot what the music does in isolation, but how it connects with audiences, billboards, and music charts.
Pop has some characteristics, but its main factor is more about what the song does after its release than upon creation. Allowing the genre to live forever, as it will constantly evolve into something else.