What is Pop Music?

What is Pop Music?
“JEFF! BellaOnline sent me an email. I GET TO WRITE ABOUT POP MUSIC!”

I almost fell down the stairs trying to get to the living room. One of my hand-knitted socks snagged on a nail that had worked its way out of our hardwood floor.

Jeff untangled my sock and gave me a hug. “That’s great, Chel. Hey, you can write about the Blue Man Group show we went to.”

I shook my head. “That’s not pop music. That’s alternative.”

“Well, you just bought that new Patty Griffin CD.”

Another head shake from me. “No, that’s more folk.”

“Oh.” Jeff pried at the nail in the floor with his pocket knife. “I guess I don’t know what pop music is. Explain it to me.”

“Um . . . it’s kind of hard to explain,” I said.

“But, you can write about it, can’t you?” Jeff gave me a half-smile and wandered away to find his tool belt and hammer.


Good question. Did I really know what pop music was? I loved it, I listened to it, I bought it, but never did I think of defining it. And now I needed to start my new site and forum with a concrete definition. The readers had to get it. They had to know the very essence of this music category. I could leave no room for debate.

There was a time when pop music was referred to as teeny-bop tunes, bubble-gum rap and puppy-love songs. But that is really no longer the case. Now, pop music is best defined as . . . um . . . , oh dear, guess what? I can’t do it. I cannot give you a fail-safe definition. Pop music is a genre that changes constantly because the music and the artists are constantly changing.

You can’t take one artist and put them in the pop music category and make them stay. Keith Urban, The Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood have juggled songs on both the pop and country charts. Napster labels all three as country. Chris Daughtry has fans from the rock and pop genres – he is played on both types of stations in my town.

While I can’t give you an absolute on how to decide if a song is in the pop music category, I can give you some loose guidelines.

"American Pie" by Don McLean was not considered for play on pop stations at its original play time of almost nine minutes. FM album oriented rock stations were pretty much the only keepers of turn tables that would put needle down to vinyl on this song. But, after knocking off a few verses and getting it down to five minutes, some pop stations added the song.

So, we can surmise that pop songs are usually between about 2 ½ to 5 minutes of play. And in pop music, most of the time, lyrics don’t have to tell a story. In fact, artistic vision isn’t really an issue when it comes to the words. Artists can repeat a chorus over and over. Have you ever heard Finger Eleven’s “One Thing”? There is a strong hook and a catchy chorus that you can memorize in less than a minute into the song. Pop music often makes you feel like singing along. By the way, Finger Eleven is considered to be an alternative band. “One Thing” is played on alternative, pop, and rock stations.

Let’s get back to pop music and lyrics. There might be love, more than likely a lost love, but there is no real political message or protest and angst like you might find in some alternative or folk lyrics.

I apologize if this is confusing, but fitting pop music neatly into a box is not going to work. There might be room for debate.

I propose that together we use this site to tackle the task of putting pop music in our unique perspective. We can agree and disagree. We can discover new pop music and predict what the next single might be off an artist’s debut CD. We can just have fun being pop music experts.

Although we may never all settle on one definition of pop music, we can turn up our CD and MP3 players and listen. Then we can come here and talk about what we’ve heard. I’m ready!


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