Pop music or chart music began in the early 50s but by the latter half of the decade the genre and meaning had shifted. Thanks to bands with an increasingly excitable fan base like Liverpool outfit The Beatles, the type of music recognised as pop opened up to a much broader spectrum. Now undefined by the staple genre of the musician and more defined by which particular tracks are popular enough to reach and remain in public ranking. Over the last 30 years pop music has made some incredible shifts.
From 80s electro pop and new wave, to rap, to 90s dance in a short space of time. Here the tone and lyrical content changed dramatically as musicians from all corners tried to convey new messages. New wave electro often had an emotional sound and lyrics that were equally as sombre. Take Mad World by Tears for Fears, one of the most lyrically depressive pieces that has entered the charts (And re-entered thanks to the cover by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules), the track speaks of a bleak existence as thought upon by many coming down from the highs of the 70s.
Then comes hip-hop and rappers begin crafting cleverly executed sentences to talk over the backing of party tracks. Its not long until this device becomes a tool for an uprising as hip-hop begins to flood the United States. Changing the aesthetics and empowering the youth with new and divergent ideals, it eventually forms gangster rap. Here lyricism is key, the poetry that forms the structure of these tracks is expertly written as young black men literally Fight The Power (as performed by Public Enemy).
As we enter the mid-90s more commercialised Pop comes to light as western society begins to further idolize anyone of rank in the music industry. Boy-bands and girl-bands begin to form on mass as teen audiences are suckered in by the aesthetically pleasing clusters, the majority of which were dancers and far from lyricists. Here the content of music begins to dip, as mass appeal becomes the aim, simplistic romance seems to cater to many audiences and thus is the subject of the majority of songs (The other big seller being partying).
In 2009 the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson died. But did this also mark an end of an era for the genre as we knew it. Of course, Michael was known for wooing females, but his activism was also ever present, showcased in songs like Heal The World and Earthsong. Left out in the cold and left to a generation who barely touched the musical poetry that preceded it.
Today pop music sounds a lot like the dance music of a decade ago, interlaced with hip-hop that was until recently only underground.
The connectivity of the world has afforded lesser-known genres a place in the spotlight, but collectively where have we landed lyrically?
As mumble rap rises (which as the namesake hints, is a far less coherent form of the genre) and manufactured pop icons become ever more interlaced with dubstep, supported by ghost writers, and more intent on partying than ever before, what are the statements modern musicians are making, if any? It seems that anyone who desires quality written content, engaging narratives, created by the performers themselves will no longer be able to simply rely on the radio.