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American popular music is by its very nature a mixture of genres and styles. By examining the artists producing the...
American popular music is by its very nature a mixture of genres and styles. By examining the artists producing the biggest hits and albums over the past few years, we can see that not only is the music often difficult to categorise, but many songs are collaborations between artists from different genres. In addition to being hard to define, genres are also constantly changing. Yesterday’s R&B may influence today’s pop, or tomorrow’s rock could be today’s alternative.
The Billboard Music Awards, which are based on chart performance, cover the following genres: Pop, R&B, Rock, Country, Rap, Latin, Dance, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and Christian.
According to statistics from the Nielsen Company & Billboard’s 2012 Music Industry Report, if the genres were to be measured by total album sales, the popularity ranking would be:
Yet the report’s digital track sales tell a separate story and (confusingly) define the genres differently*:
To confuse matters more, of the 10 most popular songs from the 2013 Billboard Hot 100, five are Pop, two are Hip Hop (Rap), one is Country, one is EDM and one is Alternative. The Billboard Hot 100 chart is based on radio airplay rather than sales. Yet if we examine each song, they are almost all mixtures of different genres. Who decides if a song is Alternative, Metal or plain old Rock? And if most R&B songs feature rapping, should they then be categorised as R&B or Hip Hop? What criteria should be used to define a musical genre?
*In the digital track sales chart Alternative and Metal are omitted and R&B and Rap are combined into one category — R&B/Hip Hop.