Welcome to the next lesson in our free English class series about Music in America! Today, we’re going to explore the origins of pop music in America.
Difficulty Level: Advanced
Time: Approximately 15 minutes
Talking about Pop Music!
Click below to listen to a recording of this passage.
What is Pop Music? The term is short for popular music, and American popular music in particular has had a lasting effect on music styles from all over the world. The most simplistic definition of popular music is whatever style of music is most popular at the time.
However, this definition has developed over time. Since America is a melting pot, the genre is quite diverse and melds together a variety of styles, including some from specific regions of the country.
Since the late 19th century and the evolution of mass communication, many musical styles have emerged. However, the basis for most popular music in America came from a mixture of blues and other forms of folk music played regionally. The spread of many popular tunes resulted from traveling theater troupes of the time.
By the early 20th century, Broadway Musicals became wildly popular which forced songwriters to create tunes that appealed to wider audiences.
Through this, The Great American Songbook was created. Though not an actual book, it’s a specific list of tunes and musical standards used on Broadway and in early Hollywood films from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. With the help of broadcast radio, these standards grew in popularity, and many musical styles were created as a result.
During the mid-1950s, even more regional styles blended together. At the time, “pop” music and “rock” music were the same. But by the late 1960s, pop music distinguished itself as its own genre.
The separation came when musicians and music producers started using an incredibly wide range of styles like urban, dance, rock, Latino, country, blues, jazz, and more to create short to medium length tunes that were simple but catchy, often with repeated choruses. This created the transition from popular music to the essence of modern pop music.
Today, pop music dominates the music charts and is heard all over the world. And though the U.S. and British music industries still command the genre, many other regions around the world (Korea, Japan, and Latin nations) have created their own chart-topping forms of pop music and are making waves in the international music scene.
Let’s revisit the sentence with a vocabulary phrase from the passage:
...many other regions around the world (Korea, Japan, and Latin nations) have created their own chart-topping forms of pop music and are making waves in the international music scene.
Making waves is a classic example of an idiom. As an advanced speaker, you’ve probably come across (another idiom!) a few and have a basic understanding of most of the common ones.
To review: Idioms are phrases with meanings that differ from the literal translation of what is actually said. They’re similar to metaphors, except that idioms are common sayings whereas a metaphor may not be so common.
Idioms are an absolute necessity for fluency in English, and as you grow in your language learning, you must expand your knowledge of these common sayings if you want to understand many conversations. Some of them are quite humorous, but if you don’t want to be left in the dark be sure to check out our English idioms post.
For now, here are five advanced idioms with examples:
Fight tooth and nail - To fight for anything with all of your efforts. The idea is that wild animals fight for food with ferocity with their teeth and nails. The idiom doesn’t have to mean something physical, it’s a reflection of the effort.
Head over heels - To fall completely in love with someone. Totally enamored with another person.
A dime a dozen - To be so abundant or common that it has no value.
Pound the pavement - To walk in search of employment.
Steal someone’s thunder - To take the attention or praise that someone else was supposed to receive. Usually during an announcement or an accomplishment.
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