Talk about… pop musik

Given that I spend much of my life listening to music, spent six years in music retail management, I’m surprised I haven’t written anything about music yet. So here goes.

I’ve lost the reference, but I read something about a ‘rock comeback’ which was calculated by sales (Found the original stats at http://www.bpi.co.uk/pdf/sales_by_type_tables_2005.pdf). The ‘rock’ share of the market has grown, largely taking that of ‘pop’ and ‘dance’. Pop’s great era appeared to be the 1980s, which made me ask: what do they mean by ‘pop’ and ‘rock’?

One definition of pop I’ve found is ‘music of general appeal to teenagers; a bland watered-down version of rock’n’roll with more rhythm and harmony and an emphasis on romantic love’ (thefreedictionary.com). Now it could just be where I’m listening, but I don’t think there is any less of this around than before.

However, there does seem to be more rock, if that means songs with guitars. But my question is… would their equivalents have been called pop before, just because they didn’t use guitars?

2005’s top 10 albums (UK sales) were James Blunt, Coldplay, Robbie, Kaiser Chiefs, Gorrilaz, Westlife, KT Tunstall, Kelly Clarkson, Eminem and Faithless. Hardly the most rock driven list I’ve ever seen. The BPI says that Coldplay and Kaiser Chiefs help rock claim the lion’s share of sales, but how ‘rock’ are they and how ‘pop’ are they?

Obviously they are more rock than Robbie or Kylie, but are Coldplay more ‘rock’ than Eurythmics, Phil Collins or Paul Simon (top 10 albums in 85/86). I think not, but my theory is that in the 80s and 90s (after Pop Musik) a lot of mainstream artists experimented with computers as they were new, the music wasn’t rock as it doesn’t have guitars and got counted as pop by default. Now we’re so used to the new technoology, and guitars are back, then mainstream music can be described as rock once again.

Similarly, the teenybop pop in the 80s was Kylie and Jason, but is now Busted and McFly. If you count the former as pop and the latter as rock then, yes the figures have changed but the music (in terms of attitude not instruments) has not.

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