Pop music first emerged in the United States in the 1950s. It was rooted in the
disparate folk traditions of several cultures, drawing inspiration from Irish ballads,
gospel and country.
Iconic American composers George Gershwin and Cole Porter
helped to develop the popular style, opening the door to a shorter form where all
is said and done in less than three minutes. Combine a catchy, often romantic melody
with a succession of refrains or couplets, and hold it together with a piano, guitar
or brass riff, and you've got a winning recipe for pop music.
In the 1950s, groups like the Platters and the Drifters
brought this short recording format to bear on their brand of R&B, thus giving
pop music the form it still has today, more than a half-century later.
The early 1960s saw a number of recording artists achieve popular success working
alongside songwriters such as Leiber & Stoller (The Coasters,
Ben E. King,
Elvis) and famed New York producer Phil Spector
(The Ronettes). Also in the early 1960s, the newly minted Motown
label brought the likes of The Supremes, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye
and Stevie Wonder into the pop mainstream.
The Liverpool-based Beatles burst onto the pop music scene in 1963.
The group gave expression to its full potential on Rubber Soul (1965),
Revolver (1966) and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
– albums that served to bridge the gap between pop and rock.
The pop genre was thus allowed to come into its own with arrangements and sonorities
that embodied a newfound elegance and sophistication. One would be hard-pressed
not to mention the contribution of the Beach Boys with Pet Sounds
(1966), an album inspired by the genius of Brian Wilson. Other
groups in both England (The Hollies or The Zombies)
and the United States (The Mamas & the Papas and The Byrds)
also reflected this move toward greater vocal complexity.
By the late 1960s, pop music, increasingly, was viewed in a negative light as a
facile formulaic genre – a consumer product that contrasted sharply with rock
music in all of its forms. In the 1970s, the pop genre hit an all-time low, with
even its greatest names – including ex-Beatle Paul McCartney
– at pains to renew its flagging fortunes. The Swedish group ABBA
was a notable exception: from 1974 onward, the mixed foursome were nothing less
than a worldwide success story.
In the early 1980s, pop music underwent a renewal of sorts with the advent of British
techno-pop, made popular by groups such as Duran Duran, Depeche
Mode and the Eurythmics.
The 1980s and 1990s were marked by a trend toward the massive promotion of pop music
artists and the emergence of the music video culture, with Michael Jackson
– the "King of Pop" – and Madonna leading
the charge. By the turn of the century, the emergence of TV reality shows such as
American Idol further influenced the pop music culture.
Pop Music at the Festival
Among the jazz, blues, folk, rock and world artists who've marked the Festival,
many have tried their hand at pop to appeal to a broader spectrum of audiences.
Examples include Sting,
who performed at the Festival in 2000,
Prince, who brought down the house in 2001, and Paul Simon, who appeared at the
FIJM in 2006 and was honoured with a tribute concert in the same year.
British pianist and singer
Jamie Cullum, a favourite among Festival fans, gave memorable
concerts in 2006 and 2009, as did cellist and singer Jorane, who first appeared at the Festival
in 2002, and singer
Corneille, who made his Festival debut in 2007.
Other grand dames of the blues and jazz to mark the Festival include Coral Egan, Norah Jones and Diana Krall: Each has brought
her slick and elegant pop sound to the Festival stage.
Finally, in 2009, living legend
Stevie Wonder gave an unforgettable concert at the Festival,
during which he paid a moving tribute to Michael Jackson, who passed
away shortly before the start of the Festival's 30th edition.