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Have you had a song stuck in your head all day? Chances are, you have pop music to thank for that. The basic pop blueprint, a form that is typical but not mandatory, calls for songs to be three to four minutes in length, rely on basic verse-chorus structure, and possess catchy, easy to remember hooks. And while pop is commonly viewed, and often derided, as being a largely commercial enterprise marketed toward teens and the singles charts, in truth pop is a genre that encompasses a wide range of creative and varied styles.

Before the emergence of rock & roll in the 1950s, the period that set the framework for pop music as we currently know it, the genre had a much different sound than what we've come to expect from it today. During the first half of the 20th century, pop drew inspiration from jazz and opera, and encorporated brass ensembles and string sections to accompany the vocalist. By the 1960s, improvements in recording technology and a fresh, forward way of thinking about the possibilities of a recorded album helped to launch a multitude of boundary-breaking sub-genres. As a result, the mid-1960s became pop music's most creative period. Further development continued in the 1970s, and technological advances found the electronic and pop genres merging in new and exciting ways.



Brill Building & Girl Group Playlists

Appearing in the late 1950s were Brill Building, named after the New York City publishing houses where professional writers came up with songs, and girl group. Both genres are closely tied together due to a sharing of songwriters and producers, and similarly finding influence in rhythm & blues, rock & roll, Latin and gospel music.

Brill Building & Girl Group playlist

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Ben E. King Beginner's Guide playlist

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Intro to The Shangri-Las playlist

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The Ronettes Beginner's Guide playlist

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Baroque Pop Playlists

Originating in the mid-1960s, string and brass instruments were incorporated into pop songs to create a new classical-inspired sub-genre dubbed baroque pop.

Baroque Pop playlist

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Rufus Wainwright Beginner's Guide playlist

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Intro to Antony and the Johnsons playlist

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Kishi Bashi Beginner's Guide playlist

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The Beach Boys Beginner's Guide playlist

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Art Pop Playlists

Unexpected elements like unusual time signatures and abrupt tempo changes, both previously nontraditional components for pop music, were combined with pop's melodic focus to form art pop in the mid-1960s.

Art Pop playlist

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Björk Beginner's Guide playlist

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Lana Del Rey Beginner's Guide playlist

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Florence + the Machine Beginner's Guide playlist

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Intro to Imogen Heap playlist

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St. Vincent Beginner's Guide playlist

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Intro to Lykke Li playlist

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Bat for Lashes Beginner's Guide playlist

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Psychedelic Pop Playlists

Tape effects, reverb and surreal lyricism intended to replicate the experience of hallucinogenic drugs gave birth to psychedelic pop in the mid-1960s.

Psychedelic Pop playlist

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Glass Animals Beginner's Guide playlist

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Electropop Playlists

Arriving in the early 1970s, electropop pairs pop song structure with electronic instruments for a driving, dance-ready genre.

Electropop playlist

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Intro to Goldfrapp playlist

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Ladytron Beginner's Guide playlist

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Intro to Sia playlist

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Intro to St. Lucia playlist

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Synthpop Playlists

Originating in the early 1970s, synthpop relies on the electronic instrument the synthesizer to create a mellow, minimalistic sound.

Synthpop playlist

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Intro to Lorde playlist

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Adult Contemporary Playlists

Established in the early 1970s, adult contemporary is a highly polished, ballad-heavy genre that aims to create a relaxed, low-key atmosphere.

Adult Contemporary playlist

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Intro to Annie Lennox playlist

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A Fine Frenzy Beginner's Guide playlist

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New Romantic Playlists

Growing out of a fusion of synthpop and rock's new wave in the late 1970s, new romantic's embracing of glam rock made the genre identifiable by the eccentric fashion style of the artists who played it.

New Romantic playlist

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Intro to Culture Club playlist

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Dance Pop Playlists

Developed in the early 1980s, dance pop combines pop's uptempo, structured nature with dance music's strong, beat-heavy sound for songs that can be played in nightclubs.

Dance Pop playlist

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Janet Jackson Beginner's Guide playlist

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Intro to Grace Jones playlist

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Michael Jackson Beginner's Guide playlist

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Intro to Madonna playlist

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