Some of these trends have had a significant impact on the development of the genre. S John Matson reported that this “seems to support the anecdotal observation that pop music of yore was “better”, or at least more varied, than today’s top-40 stuff”. However, he also noted that the study may not have been entirely representative of pop in each generation.

The chorus is often where the music builds towards and is often preceded by “the drop” where the bass and drum parts “drop out”. Common variants include the verse-chorus form and the thirty-two-bar form, with a focus on melodies and catchy hooks, and a chorus that contrasts melodically, rhythmically and harmonically with the verse. The beat and the melodies tend to be simple, with limited harmonic accompaniment.

The word “progressive” was frequently used, and it was thought that every song and single was to be a “progression” from the last. Music critic Simon Reynolds writes that beginning with 1967, a divide would exist between “progressive” pop and “mass/chart” pop, a separation which was “also, broadly, one between boys and girls, middle-class and working-class.” According to Grove Music Online, “Western-derived pop styles, whether coexisting with or marginalizing distinctively local genres, have spread throughout the world and have come to constitute stylistic common denominators in global commercial music cultures”.

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Frith adds that it is “not driven by any significant ambition except profit and commercial reward […] and, in musical terms, it is essentially conservative”. It is, “provided from on high rather than being made from below … Pop is not a do-it-yourself music but is professionally produced and packaged”. Although much of the music that appears on record charts is seen as pop music, the genre is distinguished from chart music. Identifying factors usually include repeated choruses and hooks, short to medium-length songs written in a basic format (often the verse-chorus structure), and rhythms or tempos that can be easily danced to. Much pop music also borrows elements from other styles such as rock, urban, dance, Latin, and country. Before the progressive pop of the late 1960s, performers were typically unable to decide on the artistic content of their music.

Some non-Western countries, such as Japan, have developed a thriving pop music industry, most of which is devoted to Western-style pop. Japan has for several years produced a greater quantity of music than everywhere except the US. The spread of Western-style pop music has been interpreted variously as representing processes of Americanization, homogenization, modernization, creative appropriation, cultural imperialism, or a more general process of globalization. Another technological change was the widespread availability of television in the 1950s with televised performances, forcing “pop stars had to have a visual presence”. In the 1960s, the introduction of inexpensive, portable transistor radios meant that teenagers in the developed world could listen to music outside of the home. By the early 1980s, the promotion of pop music had been greatly affected by the rise of music television channels like MTV, which “favoured those artists such as Michael Jackson and Madonna who had a strong visual appeal”.

The lyrics of modern songs typically focus on simple themes – often love and romantic relationships – although there are notable exceptions. According to music writer Bill Lamb, popular music is defined as “the music since industrialization in the 1800s that is most in line with the tastes and interests of the urban middle class.” The term “pop song” was first used in 1926, in the sense of a piece of music “having popular appeal”. Hatch and Millward indicate that many events in the history of recording in the 1920s can be seen as the birth of the modern pop music industry, including in country, blues, and hillbilly music. According to the website of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the term “pop music” “originated in Britain in the mid-1950s as a description for rock and roll and the new youth music styles that it influenced”. Most individuals think that pop music is just the singles charts and not the sum of all chart music. The music charts contain songs from a variety of sources, including classical, jazz, rock, and novelty songs.