Is Modern-Day Pop Music As Innovative As It Used To Be?

Illustration of music background in doodle style

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Illustration of music background in doodle style

  From the original and innovative sounds of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, to the upbeat rhythms of Charlie Puth and Cardi B, pop music has undoubtedly changed considerably over the generations. There is a question that begs to be answered; Has American pop music gotten more or less groundbreaking over time? 

  According to, researchers from the Medical University of Vienna studied 15 genres and 374 sub-genres and rated each one’s complexity over time. At the end of the study, the researchers found that with the growing popularity of each genre, the music became increasingly more generic and formulaic. The researchers added that genres that have maintained a high level of musical complexity have never been big earners as far as sales, such as folk rock and experimental music.

  “I believe modern technologies and computers have allowed musicians to make music in ways they couldn’t 40 or 50 years ago.” Sanderson Sociology Teacher Stephanie Rhodes explained, “Modern pop music takes styles used in the past and then uses resources available today to create something new.”

  Rhodes’ view on music is correct; The availability of the synthesizer and other tools have without a doubt changed American pop music as a whole. Evidence of this can be found by simply comparing 70’s pop music to modern pop music from the 21st century. Bands such as Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and Jethro Tull employed the guitar, drums, and sometimes even the flute to enhance the sound of the music.

  Another big difference between modern pop music and pop music from the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s is the genre of rap or hip-hop. In the week of March 6, 2021— 29 of the Billboard Top 100 songs were of the rap or hip-hop genre. 

  “I think Kanye West is a musical genius. He has changed the music game.” Spartan sophomore Chelsea Sipple stated, “His production is great and his discography goes from Chicago rap to melodic stuff. He doesn’t have a bad album.”

  Kanye West, along with other rap pioneers such as Tupac and Biggie Smalls, paved the way for modern rap music, which evidently is a favored music genre for many high school students, especially at Sanderson. Although rap is a different category than traditional “pop” music, some believe that mainstream music carries out the same message with different sounds.

  Dr. James Brown, Director of Choirs at Sanderson notes that, “Throughout the course of my life, I have not seen a whole lot of change as far as pop music goes.” He continues, “Artists are still identifying with political issues, and whatever is a hot topic at the time, we will see that recurring theme.” 

  Whether or not the average listener agrees that politics play a part in musical tastes, people do have preferences on what sounds are more groundbreaking or innovative. Sanderson High School sophomore Alli Marshburn has a differing opinion from most her age.

  “The music I listen to and that I’m really into right now is 70s-90s rock music as well as indie rock.” Marshburn went on to proclaim, “I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s ‘groundbreaking’ but I feel especially the rock music I guess at its time was definitely different than what had come before it. “ 

  Depending on opinion, modern pop music can be either groundbreaking and innovative, or a simple repeat of what used to be original and fresh. Regardless, scientific research has ultimately proven that the more a certain genre sells, the more and more said genre will sound repetitive, unoriginal, and formulaic.