Not long ago, Walkmans were the ‘it’ device in every teenager’s life, giving them the power to become ‘cooler’; pumped up music beamed into their ears as they would stride away in their campus hallway. Mixtapes, better known as cassettes, of various artists and bands would often cause a stir as teens would talk about the newly launched songs and exchange cassettes to listen to. Music was the talk of the town posing as the cool quotient for the younger generation.
Tucking their Walkmans recklessly to their Levi’s, flaunting customized tees with an image of a faddish new boy-band, wearing wristbands boasting the group’s logo and plugging earphones constantly into their ears, these teenagers bore witness to the birth of a completely new musical genre, Pop, which brought the generation together with thumping beats, funky rhythm, catchy hooks and addicting lyrics.
Unlike other genres of music that have known or traceable origins, Pop is a blend of elements from various musical styles. Due to this unique characteristic, pop defines a form of music that is enjoyed by majority of the contemporary generation. While other genres of music demand the artist to be aware of musical concepts, notes and formations, restricting creativity, Pop defies all boundaries of theoretical concepts and has driven its way to become the dictator of modern music.
Pop music garnered huge audiences predominately in the 80s with its origin tracing back to the 50s. Country music was popular, with Rock n’ Roll and Disco emerging as a sideline. Popular music drew influences from these genres, delivering an influential musical style for the audiences to savor. Elvis Presley was the first to bring out the best of Pop through Disco. His brewing style of combining the two to create rockabilly, a dance-oriented style served as a breakthrough for Pop.
More recently, the defining style of Michael Jackson aka. the King of Pop, with his flashy fashion and charming dance moves seized the public into a magical moment that would last forever. Pop had transcended into a new dimension with his entry into the music industry. Jackson drove the fever to showcase a story in his music videos for each one of his songs. Thriller, the single from his sixth studio album, extended the creativity of typical music videos. We had the chance to see Jackson’s dark side in the 14- minute music video, with a surreal devilish theme where Jackson spooked his girlfriend as a werewolf and managed to pull off an amazing dance number with the zombies. The video was a cultural breakthrough that introduced the concept of the long-form music video. It was added to the National Film registry and became the first music video to get selected.
The music videos of Remember the Time, Billie Jean and Black or White are other personal favorites that find no match in today’s music world. However, the Pop King did leave behind a part of soul in the current pop generation in the likes of Justin Timberlake, Usher, Bruno Mars and Chris Brown who draw influences from the King himself, from his wardrobe to his dance moves.
Over the years, the ascendancy of the Black culture swayed pop to transition to Rap and Hip-hop. This brought in feature versions of songs consisting of an additional verse with a rapper mumbling a few words to create a musical conversation and chance to connect with the audience. Kanye West and Eminem are two most appreciated and supported artists trending in the Rap industry.
With the coming of age of pop music, the industry grew to become a massive commercial market. Several record labels were launched that garnered huge fame bringing the best manufactured artists and pop bands into the market. Members of the band are now handpicked on the basis of appealing looks, fashion sense and dancing ability. They are groomed for the audience, guided in every aspect of their career; from album launches, music videos, public performances and appearances.
Pop was transitioning from mere Rock, Disco and Country to another universe that demanded pop adulteration in all kinds and forms of music and its industry. Bands like Maroon 5 that set foot into the industry as Rock artists took over the main stage by converting into pop bands and delivering Billboard hits from rock tunes like Misery and Makes Me Wonder to pure pop tracks such as Maps and Sugar, the band has come a long way. Pop is set to create its very own culture and universe. Every move of the pop stars are highlighted and hyped in media. People now idolize pop artists and yearn to lead the pop life with the celebrity perks. Suddenly, pop is no longer about music; it is pure business.
With the birth of the MTV generation, iPods have taken over Walkmans and live music streaming (Youtube anyone?) has replaced mixtapes.
The evolution of music has brought about a change in the mindset of the people. Earlier, music was a source of escape and to relieve the mind; now, there is whole new dimension that transcends people to act according to the pop stars whom they see as role models. It’s not just about the cool quotient anymore. It is pure submission to pop culture.