In music, it’s very hard to just decide which sounds better than other things, mostly because there are so many possibilities and genres that it’s hard to say anything more than “I prefer this”, getting out of the subjective opinion sometimes seems like a personal statement rather than being logical, even though sometimes there are some aspects of music that can be analyzed that way.
Production, technique, experience, sound quality, all these aspects of music can be very close to a quantifiable opinion and even something that could be rated from better to worse.
Still, beyond those aspects, it would be hard to say that one genre is better than the other, but what we can say is which genres are more successful than others, and a lot of the things that we mentioned earlier have an important role, the production process, the sound quality and experience (even though it might not be on the artist’s side but the producer’s side of things).
So without taking a stand on which genre is better because this is hardly an amicable subject, we will be taking a look at which genres have had the most impact and have gotten themselves into the spotlight as the most popular in the music industry.
There is no doubt that today the most popular music in the music industry is pop music, as its name suggests. The thing about pop is that it is basically that, popular music and trends change over time so pop music is the genre that changes the most over time, while still holding the throne as the most popular in the industry.
In order to understand pop, it’s important to understand the context of the times, for example back in the 60s The Beatles were at the top of pop music, having hit after hit and conquering the world with their music and full live shows.
If you were to put The Beatles in a genre today, it would not be pop, it would probably be Rock because they were a Rock band, they just happened to be what was popular at the time, even more so with soft rock hits like “Hey Jude”, “Help”, and many more.
After that, the 70s gave pop a more funk and disco sound, in the 80s it was all about synths, electronic music, and glam, and then towards the 90s and 2000s, it started to shift towards hip hop, EDM, and even influenced by some Latin sounds from artists like Ricky Martin, and Shakira.
Today it’s hard to say where pop stands, even more so with how every genre is getting influenced by everything, but there is always one aspect of pop that will never change, if it’s very much alive in the mainstream and at the top of the “most played” songs in the world, it’s pop.
2. Hip hop
While hip hop used to be the underdog in the 80s, it very quickly rose in popularity around the 90s and 2000s making it probably the second most popular genre in the world today.
It’s very interesting how it came to be, and how real it always is to rely so strongly on the beat and make spoken words have the same amount of feeling as Blues with a bit more aggressiveness, which was just what some people needed to represent hardships and struggles.
Hip Hop became so influential that almost every genre of music was affected as it became more popular, you have bands like Korn and Slipknot under the Nu Metal category, you have stars like Kendrick Lamar and Ye at the top hanging with the pop stars, you have Trap, and more.
3. EDM & Electronic Music
The digital era of music opened up a lot of possibilities, one of them was the endless sounds of electronic music which started to really find its way into the mainstream in the 90s and 2000s.
Electronic music has had a lot of different subgenres, most of them enjoying a bit of mainstream fame including EDM which was one of the most popular and still is to this day, House Music, Dubstep in the 2010s, and more, including those relaxing playlists of low fi which work closely with hip hop.
The world of music changed with electronic music and just as hip hop did, you can hear its influence in so many genres and industries, changing videogames, movies, and more because of the freedom that a composer has when “thinking electronic.”
Over the past few years, there has been a sort of international revolution with music, making genres from all over the world join the biggest most popular artists in their success worldwide, in the case of reggaeton, its simple but effective formula, has been able to shake people and make them dance with hits over and over again.
This genre started around the 90s in Puerto Rico as a perfect mix of hip hop with reggae, electronic and Latin roots that paved the way for what was to come in the mainstream.
Artists such as Don Omar, Daddy Yankee, and Wisin & Yandel, made the genre explode with big hits that first moved South America and later started making noise in the US, eventually taking them to an international spotlight.
The recipe for the perfect reggaeton track is not complicated, but the magic is in the details, the perfect kick sound, the hi-hats layering, and the rhythm of the voice.
And while you could say people love to sing the lyrics, there has been some controversy from time to time for being very explicit and sexual but, maybe there is some spark of success there as well.
However, artists such as Bad Bunny that create in between trap and reggaeton have taken the lyrics to a whole new place, sometimes turning the story upside down and changing the way reggaeton storytelling works.
While it’s quite specific, the international success of K-Pop cannot be understated, with the obvious bannermen being BTS, it has shaken young people with its familiar yet new sound from Asia to America.
In terms of popularity Rock has had its up and downs but today there is no doubt that it’s mostly out of the mainstream, however, this does not take away at all the popularity of the genre and its effect on the music industry.
Yes during the 60s Elvis Presley and The Beatles made rock n roll the best thing in the world but after that, there was never a success as big as those two, even though some bands and artists did make it into the mainstream.
The interesting thing about Rock as a genre is that it’s about being loud, rowdy, and just like hip hop very honest and real, which makes Rock a bit of an underdog in the music industry, with the potential of making a lot of noise, like for example Nirvana.
After the 80s came around Rock fell from grace as a popular genre, the digital era took over and it was not about guitars and strong drums anymore but from time to time Rock works in a way that gives the tools to an artist as an outsider to break into the mainstream and change it.
Bands like Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, and more, have managed to make themselves heard in the mainstream without growing up in it, and that seems to be the way Rock works today.
Yes, Metal is more popular than some people might expect, and while it does come as a Rock sub-genre, it has enough differences and popularity to consider it a completely different genre.
Some people need to feel like they can rebel in healthy ways against everything that makes them anxious and angry, and Metal is a great outlet in that way, with fast drums, strongly distorted guitars, and loud screaming, it becomes this horror-like experience that makes your heart race with excitement.
There are now a lot of Metal subgenres and lots of influences from progressive rock, electronic music, and more, but the core of its aggressiveness is always going to be at the heart of this almost not popular genre.
8. Classical Music
Saying that classical music is not popular almost feels like a crime, it’s like saying you don’t like that grandfather who always tells amazing stories and everyone likes.
More than that it’s not just about the past and the incredible compositions that are part of our history as mankind, it’s also a part of the mainstream, although not in the same way as before.
Classical music is always present in movies, video games, commercials, theater, and more, simply because symphonies and operas are able to evoke feelings in a way that no other genre can.
There is something about the way this genre feels, that even a single instrument, like a piano, can move anyone and bring some tears in an otherworldly experience.
There are a lot more genres and subgenres but these are the most popular today, and the ones that fill stadiums, top 100 charts, and make their way into the everyday experience, whether it’s on different forms of media or just fans’ loyalty to keep listening.
Music is always changing and evolving but if one thing is for certain is that while popular genres may change, there will always be amazing music that makes life better for everyone.