Music is an essential part of everyone’s lives. You find yourself listening to your favorite tunes in the morning while you make your coffee, during your workout routine to keep you motivated and every movie has a soundtrack to get you settled into the mood. According to a survey, globally every person listens to 17,8 hours of music a week! Let’s have a look at 10 of the most popular music genres today!
Popular Music Genres: Classical & Opera
You wouldn’t necessarily think of classical music as one of the most popular genres, but you’d be wrong. Although maybe it’s not as prominent on your daily playlist, it is certainly a big part of your life. Whether you hear it on television or at the cinema, classical music is one of the most used genres to establish an atmosphere in cinema.
You might think of Beethoven, Mozart or Vivaldi when you think about classical music, but we have amazing composers and musicians today too! John Williams produced the iconic soundtrack for the Star Wars franchise, Jaws and Jurassic Park.
Also, Hans Zimmer came up with iconic music for blockbuster movies such as Inception, Interstellar, and The Lion King! Iconic concert halls such as the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall in London sell-out shows every day so people can view the music made by an entire orchestra live.
Popular Music Genres: Blues
Blues music is a genre that originated from the Deep South; traced back as far as the 1870s. The purpose of Blues was to express the sadness and hopelessness of African American people who were kept as slaves, then later segregated from the white population. Since their lives were monitored by their white slave owners and they barely had any possibility to have fun, most of the early Blues songs included bits of work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, timed at a rhythmic pace.
Later, these simple songs blossomed into narrative ballads about life, love lost and the “Black” experience in the United States, which was rough and often seemed hopeless. Modern Blues music incorporates many guitars, a strong bassline and a strong voice that carries strong emotions. The most well-known artists include Howling Wolf, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Etta James and Eric Clapton, most of which are considered masters of the guitar.
Popular Music Genres: Heavy Metal
Although you might not bump into metal in your day-to-day life, many guitar centers sell their pieces to metal players who love to make electric guitars howl lowly with their lyrics. Heavy Metal is a subgenre of Rock music, developed in the 1960s and 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. It came up almost like a response to the pop music of the age, contradicting the happy dance songs which were promising love and sunshine.
Since then, the genre sprouted hundreds of subgenres. However, most of them have a distorted guitar sound and long electric guitar solos which can go on for minutes on end. The first famous bands were Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple in the ‘60s and ‘70s. This was followed by iconic bands such as Kiss and Alice Cooper in the ‘80s. Heavy Metal is still incredibly popular with bands such as Metallica, Korn, Slipknot, and System of a Down selling out concert halls and arenas on every tour!
Popular Music Genres: EDM
With the spread of technology, music has gone through many changes too over the years. Starting from the simple techniques of recording it to the way music is produced, currently, you see more DJs in the top charts than singers or musicians. These music producers are essential to current music – their musical instruments are the computer and the turntable! The popularity of EDM or Electronic Dance Music has been on the rise since as early as the late 1980s.
However, currently, you can see its renaissance; festivals such as Tomorrowland, Untold and Electric Daisy Festival focus only on EDM acts. They are more popular than regular festivals with more varied lineups. Currently, EDM is a huge force in the American music industry, with nearly all famous pop musicians collaborating with a DJ.
The genre’s current representatives include David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix and Calvin Harris.
Popular Music Genres: Country
What we currently know as Country used to be known as Country and Western or Hillbilly music. Its roots can be traced back to the 1920s when it first began. It developed from American folk music and it is currently breaking into the Billboard Top 100 once again, having regained its mainstream popularity since the 1990s. Of course, old Country music is not like today’s type of country music. However, some aspects of it haven’t changed in decades. As early as the 1940s, Country music spoke to the working-class Americans. It addressed their hardships and depicting their lifestyle in an idyllic manner.
Also, interestingly, its main instrument is the guitar. Some bands feature a steel guitar, a rhythm guitar, and a bass guitar! Although it used to be typical to America, currently it is popular all over the world. Artists like Keith Urban from Australia are dominating the Country music charts.
Famous current Country artists include Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, and Alan Jackson. There are also newcomers such a Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line whose songs broke into the popular music charts. These charts are not only in the United States but worldwide!
Popular Music Genres: Hip-Hop
Hip-Hop music originates from the 1970s and rose from the African American communities in the United States. More specifically, it can be traced back to the Bronx, New York City. Here, the children and teens of the ghettos entertained themselves and each other by coming up with rhymes and raps. The lyrics were later paired with beats created by the first DJs. Thus, the duo of an MC and a DJ was born.
From the ghettos of New York City, the genre blossomed into a form of music art! In 2017, Kendrick Lamar received a Pulitzer Prize for his incredible lyricism and his depiction of the African American male experience in society. The instruments of hip-hop music are vast. However, the melody is mainly generated by DJs and producers who use strings, brass, and pipes. This is to create a flow that matches the rapper’s message.
The genre is also dominated by African American men. However, in recent years, it has become so popular that currently, most countries have their own Hip-Hop artists. Also, women are breaking into the industry more and more. Current successful acts include the pictured J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and Drake; all considered household names not only in the United States but across the globe.
Popular Music Genres: Singers & Songwriters
While it is not necessarily a genre that we can easily pinpoint, it is an important distinction; singer-songwriters are people who write their own songs and produce the music to it as well. You might have heard of them being referred to as crooners as well! These artists can usually play an instrument, mostly the guitar or the piano. They also compose their own melodies to go with their own lyrics.
However, this is rarer now that commercially produced music is so easy to develop. Most famous pop stars today don’t write their own songs anymore. Unlike in the past years, singer-songwriters are considered more established music artists.
Also, one of the most famous musicians, Bob Dylan even received a Nobel Prize in Literature for his incredible lyrics! Other musicians include Paul Simon, Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, and David Crosby.
Popular Music Genres: Jazz
Jazz music can be traced back to African-American musicians in New Orleans, in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its popularity grew steadily over the years, the 1920s were even referred to as the Jazz Age. This genre is considered music art and it’s taught at music conservatories all over the world!
You can be a jazz musician in a small band or in what’s called a jazz band; similar to an orchestra. Jazz bands include a rhythm section and a horn section. But they can be expanded depending on the style of Jazz. The rhythm section usually includes at least one bass and percussion, while the horn section features the saxophone. Many people today think of the saxophone as the ultimate jazz instrument. They also utilize clarinets, trumpets, French horns, tubas, and many other instruments to mesmerize you with the full sound.
One of the key elements of jazz is improvisation where musicians can display their incredible talent. Today, a subgenre called smooth jazz is quite popular with artists like Norah Jones, Chaka Khan and Sade pioneering it around the world.
Popular Music Genres: Rock
Rock music’s earliest version was rock and roll; a style of music developed in the 1950s in the United States. It was created to counter the clean pop songs which were popular at the time. Artists like Elvis Presley were considered rock and roll musicians. This is because of the jerky dance moves and loud guitars they added to their songs. If you think about Rock today, you don’t really think of Elvis Presley.
However, today’s Rock music is dominated by bands who have a guitar, a bass, a drum set, and a singer. Of course, there are more variations and more members, depending on what band and time period we look at; but generally this setup rings true. Just like pop music, Rock also deals with love and loss, but it’s definitely edgier. If you think of Rock giants like The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith, you definitely have some love songs in mind!
Sadly, current Rock music is not as mainstream anymore since Hip-Hop and Pop took over. However, well-known and celebrated bands such as Green Day, The Killers, Muse, and Oasis are incredibly successful today!
Popular Music Genres: Pop
All over the world, pop music is the most popular genre to listen to. “Pop” is the shortened form of popular, so that makes sense. You most likely know all about this genre’s most iconic singers, such as Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Ariana Grande, and Madonna. However, there’s a lot more to what we listen to than that! The term “popular music” only started gaining traction in the mid-1950s. This is due to the rise of radio across the United States.
The first true pop star is the King of Pop, Elvis Presley, who became a regular fixture on radios across the country. Pop music is not easy to describe: whatever is the most popular at any given moment is pop! So, today you see Korean pop stars break into the worldwide mainstream. Latin pop songs have taken over the charts and entire genres like Hip-Hop, and EDM becoming synonymous with pop.
Pop songs are simple and fun. They follow a verse-chorus structure and act like earworms. This is to make sure you never forget the simplistic lyrics about love and heartbreak. And don’t we all love it?