A Brief History of Pop Music

Pop music has roots that go back at least 60,000 years, and it continues to evolve. Each new generation introduces new musical talents and pushes the boundaries of what’s possible.

Pop lyrics touch on universal themes such as love, sorrow, and life and primarily target a young female audience. These lyrics are combined with a simple repeating melody and a catchy hook.

Pop music has evolved from being a collection of whatever songs were popular at the time to be its distinct genre in and of itself. Music of many kinds has found a home in the genre.

Here is a short history of pop music over the past 40 years.

The 1980s

Techno emerged from the widespread adoption of digital recording in the 1980s and the ongoing improvement of electronic instruments.

A lot of 1980’s themes can be seen in Thriller, Michael Jackson’s best-selling album. Its ballads are dominated by synth melodies and a powerful rhythm. It was strongly influenced by 60s and 70s pop, rock, funk but had a distinctly bright 80s sound.

Michael Jackson was the most famous pop star of the decade, closely followed by Prince. Female singers were also incredibly popular, with Madona and Whitney Houston producing hits that are still popular decades later.

The 1990s

In the early ’90s, grunge rock got a lot of attention. Nirvana exploded on the scene and dramatically changed rock away from the metal and glam of the ’70s and ’80s. Grunge was more willing to explore emotions and rebelled against earlier spectacles and showmanship.

Grunge was popular, but pop still appealed to younger audiences. The sound slowly moved from a synthetic sound back to acoustics, and bubblegum pop was as popular as ever.

TLCs hip-hop sound made a lasting impression, but some of the most influential hits came from a wave of Disney artists in the late ’90s, led by Britney Spears and NSYNC.

Other trends included country, hip-hop, and rap going mainstream, contributing to an environment with many different competing sounds. Like generations before, the various social groups had frequent crossover acts that opened the sub-cultures to new audiences.

Teenage dancers switched naturally between Boys2Men and Shania Twain. Embracing widespread cultural influences became a theme that continued to develop over the next 20 years.

The 2000s

The culture of the 2000s shifted dramatically because of the internet and the War on Terror. Young people focused outward and had a lot more information available to them. The iPod and Napster opened vast libraries of songs and reduced the impact of albums.

Many of the sounds were similar to 90s pop, but there was less social angst and more partying. A lot of pop took harder edges from rock and gangster rap and made them appealing to younger middle-class audiences.

The 2010s 

With the internet maturing and the birth of social media, everyone had access to all genres, but subcultures became even more diverse and accepted.

Like the ’90s, there was an explosion of diversity, with synthetic and acoustic sounds competing in numerous genres. Genres themselves began to break down as the power of radio stations was completely eclipsed by YouTube subscriptions and social media feeds.Pop music is a rich and endlessly evolving genre, and it’ll continue to do so as time passes. The best way to be a part of this history is to go see your favorite pop artists perform live in concerts. You can look for concert tickets from online websites like Gametime, StubHub, or SeatGeek.