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What Makes Pop Music “Pop”

Or: Why Taylor Swift Says “Shake It Off” 44 Times

“Too busy dancing to get knocked off our feet.” -Taylor Swift

Food For Thought

Let’s Get Poppin’

Throughout time, music has been used as a way to connect people, express feelings, and tell stories. This week’s newsletters will highlight some of the most well-known and little-known musicians, music facts, and genres. Today’s theme: Pop.

Pop music grew into its own genre in the 50s with the emergence of rock ’n’ roll. “Pop” music suddenly wasn’t just what was “popular” at the time. It became more about the type of crowd the music or artist attracted. The rise of pop music is typically attributed to Elvis Presley, whose music helped create a notion of youth that previously didn’t exist.

Today, pop is some of the most universally appreciated music that reaches across countries, gender, and age. It’s something that everyone can get down to — even those of us that “hate” pop will find our feet tapping or mumbling along to the lyrics.

Pop is easily identified by its repetitive verses and instrumentals. Our brains really like patterns and pop music follows simple patterns that are easy for us to quickly pick up.

Take T-Swift’s “Shake It Off” song where she says “shake it off” a whopping 44 times.

This technique is called ABA where the music always circles back to something familiar. It has been used to produce popular music for decades, you can even find it in 20s jazz music.

Speaking of way back when, let’s take a fond look back at the music that was…

Here are some of the most popular pop songs throughout the 2000s:

2000 — Bye Bye Bye by NSYNC
2001 — How You Remind Me by Nickelback
2002 — Hot in Herre by Nelle
2003 — Hey Ya! by OutKast
2004 — Since You Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
2005 — Run it! by Chris Brown
2006 — Big Girls Don’t Cry by Fergie
2007 — Apologize by Timbaland
2008 — Low by Flo Rida
2009 — TiK ToK by Kesha
2010 — Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars
2011 — Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
2012 — I Knew You Were Trouble by Taylor Swift
2013 — Counting Stars by One Republic
2014 — Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
2015 — Love Yourself by Justin Bieber
2016 — Closer by The Chainsmokers
2017 — Shape of You by Ed Sheeran

But there are so many more. To continue your trek through time, check out Billboard’s list of greatest of all time pop songs or Thoughtco’s top pop songs of the 2000s.

Deep Dive

The Role of Music in Human Culture

Given our understanding that most (if not all) of our physical and social faculties are adaptations for success in our environment, the origins of music remain an enigma. Prof Oliver Sacks (in his book Musicophilia) notes that even “Darwin himself was evidently puzzled [about the origin of music in culture], writing in The Descent of Man: ‘…as neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least use to man… they must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed….’”

Read: The Role of Music in Human Culture

Further Reading

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

In Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé, author and musician Bob Stanley provides an encyclopedia-style account of the evolution of pop music. He explains how cultural influences and technological advancements have caused pop music to evolve in such distinctive ways.

“The story of pop music is largely the story of the intertwining pop culture of the United States and the United Kingdom in the postwar era…”

Check it out.


If You Need A Laugh

From silly cat videos, to compilations of people laughing, to hours of footage of goats screaming, YouTube really has everything. And today, we bring you the latter.

Enjoy! 😂 😂

Sign Off ✌️

Happy Wednesday!

It’s hump day! You’ve made it halfway through the week. 🤗

What type of music powers you through work? Tweet it at us @TheMissionHQ!

See you tomorrow!

This was originally published on March 20, 2019 as The Mission’s daily newsletter. To subscribe, go here.

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