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The Evolution of Pop Music

By Justin Gray (Songwriter/Producer/Founder www.wearemdiio.com)

It’s pretty hard to deny that like everything else, music and songwriting evolves. What used to be as simple as a verse, pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge has now expanded, or contracted depending on how you look at it.

Anything that you’re about to read in this blog is purely subjective, objective, and of my own opinion. Here are five different ways that pop music has morphed, moved, and grooved over the years.


Structure - Somethings that never change. Back in the 50s and 60s, popular chord changes were very common amongst the biggest pop songs, 1-6-4-5 as an example. There is a period of time when several songs on the "Hit Parade" (what they used to call it) followed this tried and true format. Similarly now (although less common), there are chord changes and structures that allow a songwriter to create something that is both familiar and fresh. Sometimes staying within comfortable chord structures will allow you to be able to create something that ultimately your listener will connect to more instantly. Production - The dawn of pop music presented very limited options when it came to musical tools. You had your drums, upright bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, organ, and a horn section. And before multitrack recording, songs were recorded live off of the floor in one take, live to acetate. Bands were well-rehearsed and musicians functioned at expert caliber levels. As production techniques evolved and the recording mediums changed, the ability to create deeper and broader productions became easier for producers and creatives. Now anything we can conceive, we can achieve. Careful how you use this power. Topic - One thing that is consistent throughout the history of pop music, is that the lyrics in songs topically reflect society in relative real-time. Think about early songs like "Blue Moon," or "Rock Around the Clock…" The language was consistent with the social verbiage at the time. Think now about music made in 2022. It should be topically relevant social commentary and presented in a language that a listener will connect to. Imagine if there was a song in the 1950s that had a lyric like WAP? Staying relevant is just about having your ear to the heartbeat of society. Listeners - Listener habits evolve as well. Again, think about the famous songs of yesteryear. Definable motifs. They set a musical stage that prepared a listener to settle in and get ready for what they were about to hear. We now live in a time where everybody can have access to every song whenever they want, wherever they want, and for as long as they want. The competition to earn a listener or a fan is stiffer than ever. As an artist, you also have the ability to connect directly with your fan base in a way never before possible. Creating a motif is different now than it used to be. And there’s an unusually high skip rate on Spotify for songs that don’t have a vocal within the first seven seconds. Songwriting and Music have evolved, but so have the listeners and the fans. Opportunity – Opportunity has never been easier to access for creators. Back in the day, artists needed record labels, managers, promoters, agents, touring, radio, and just about every other tool to have their music heard. If you didn’t have a record deal, there was no opportunity for you. Just like creativity, promotion and marketing have evolved as well. Focused and driven creators with a passion to tell their story can connect to audiences more easily than ever. Back in the 50s, there was no social media. Or the 60s or the 70s or the 80s. In fact, social media did not even become a relevant and necessary tool until probably early 2010. Now it’s a nonstarter if you can’t leverage IG, FB, YT, or TT for your own benefit. As we’ve discussed, WEB3 is an incredible opportunity for new artists to connect with new fans. If you have 1000 fans each willing to invest $100 a year to support you, you have now turned your passion into a six-figure salary. Connecting to 1000 fans doesn’t sound that hard right? The Coda: Fear change, and get left behind. If there is anything that I’ve learned in my 20+ years of doing that, is that evolution is here to stay. Adapt or die. Metaphorically speaking. That train is leaving the station with or without you. So my question is… Did you get your ticket? See you next week, and keep writing them hits! justin@mdiio.com