There are all sorts of different music genres out there, and it can be tough to decide which one is the best. Rock, pop, country, hip-hop – they’re all great in their own way and feature on many popular music genre lists.
But if you had to choose just one, which would it be? Let’s learn more about some of the most popular music genres of all time.
Pop music is a genre of music that originated in the 1950s. Throughout history, pop has been well received by the public and has dominated the radio and streaming charts.
There are a few identifying factors of a pop song. Firstly, a good pop song is typically very catchy and easy to listen to. Secondly, the lyrics are usually very simple and repetitive. Lastly, the song is often about love or relationships.
These characteristics make it easy to listen to and sing along with, which makes it an ideal choice for background music or as entertainment on radio stations or at parties. The typical instrumentation includes vocals (usually female), keyboards, bass guitar, drums, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar. Other instruments are also used sometimes such as saxophone or accordion.
Some of the most successful pop artists of all time are listed below:
- The Beatles
- Elvis Presley
- Michael Jackson
- Whitney Houston
- Mariah Carey
- Celine Dion
- Barbra Streisand
- Elton John
- Bon Jovi
Rock music is a genre of popular music that started in the 1950s. It has roots in country and rhythm and blues but took on more electric instrumentation in the 1960s. Rock’s subgenres include hard rock, heavy metal, punk rock, indie rock, soft rock/lite pop (or power-pop), glam rock, and grunge.
Rock music is often characterized by aggressive vocals, electric guitars, drums, and bass. It can be identified as having a four on the floor time signature, an emphasis on off-beat rhythms, and a bold and brash sound.
Rock music is often seen as a rebellious genre of music, and many of its themes reflect that. Many rock songs deal with topics such as independence, freedom, and defiance against authority. Rock music also often celebrates the power of the human spirit.
Some of the most successful rock artists of all time are listed below:
- Led Zeppelin
- The Rolling Stones
- Guns N’ Roses
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Pearl Jam
- Foo Fighters
Country music is a genre of music that originated in the Southern United States. It can be considered the musical expression of the working-class culture and is deeply rooted in contemporary American history.
Country songs are rooted in traditional folk and Western musical styles, but also incorporate influences from blues, gospel, and rock and roll. Country musicians typically perform with string instruments such as guitar, mandolin, banjo, or fiddle.
Country music is distinctive for its storytelling lyrics, often about the lives of working-class people. Country artists also make songs about aspects of rural life such as farming culture that are not usually written about in other genres.
Some of the most successful country artists of all time are listed below:
- Johnny Cash
- Garth Brooks
- George Strait
- Dolly Parton
- Willie Nelson
- Reba McEntire
- Patsy Cline
- Hank Williams
- Loretta Lynn
- Conway Twitty
Hip-hop music is a genre of music that developed in the United States in the 1970s. It consists of stylized rhythmic music that often employs rapping, which is the vocalization of rhymes and wordplay.
Hip-hop music has been a popular form of expression for African Americans and other marginalized groups since it was first created. Today, the culture is widely enjoyed by many people throughout the world and continues to evolve through new styles of music and expression.
Hip-hop has four major elements that combine to create its unique style: rapping, DJing/scratching, sampling, and beatboxing. One of the most significant sources of influence for early hip hop was the Jamaican music scene where DJs would play popular reggae and ska records and talk over the music to keep the party going.
Some of the most successful hip-hop artists of all time are listed below:
- Kanye West
- Dr. Dre
- Lil Wayne
- Kendrick Lamar
- 50 Cent
- The Notorious B.I.G.
Rhythm and blues (commonly abbreviated to R&B) is a term used to describe the blues-influenced music that has predominantly been performed by African-Americans since the late 1930s. The term was first recorded in the American lexicon in the late 1940s and was originally used as a marketing term by Billboard magazine.
Some of the original defining characteristics of the genre were a dependence on four-beat measures or bars and the liberal use of a backbeat, in which the second and fourth beats are accented. The lyrics and melodies of the songs were often sad, or blue to reflect the turbulent times when the genre first emerged.
Contemporary R&B music is still true to its origins but incorporates rhythmic elements of pop and hip-hop, as well as dance beats. Smooth melismatic vocals also feature heavily in modern R&B tracks and songs often tend to focus on the themes of love and intimacy.
Some of the most successful R&B artists of all time are listed below:
- Stevie Wonder
- Smokey Robinson
- Ray Charles
- Aretha Franklin
- James Brown
- Marvin Gaye
- Al Green
- Bill Withers
- Lionel Richie
Contemporary classical music first emerged as a defined genre at the beginning of the 20th century. Following World War II, European and American tastes in music started to split with different influences creating two very different styles of what is now referred to as classical music.
The contemporary classic genre encompasses a wide range of sounds, compositional scenes, and styles. Moreover, common musical instruments that can be heard in classical tracks are the piano, flute, and violin. Accordingly, one of the biggest influences on classical music has been the concept of serialism (also known as 12 tone music).
Serialism involves taking a tone row comprising of 12 notes from a chromatic scale that is then repeated and manipulated in structured ways. Classical composers apply this concept to other musical elements such as rhythm and dynamics to create a modern and experimental sound.
Some of the most successful contemporary classical artists of all time are listed below:
- Philip Glass
- Steve Reich
- John Adams
- Ludovico Einaudi
- Unsuk Chin
- John Corigliano
- Max Richter
- Arvo Pärt
- Michael Nyman
- Terry Riley
What are your favorite types of music?
Ultimately, in recent years, music genres have blurred in new and exciting ways. Artists no longer need to conform to a specific genre or form of music and collaboration is celebrated. Accordingly, some of the most successful songs on the charts nowadays contain influences from different genres.
The popularity of genres in the music industry also changes over time with hip-hop artists and tracks currently dominating the charts. Above all, streaming has made it easier for music fans to discover different genres and enjoy their favorite artists, albums, and playlists.