Music is a universal language, however, to adapt to all the people that exist, it is divided into various genres that have unique characteristics. It is really interesting to understand the musical development through history and how combining different styles could create new genres that, to this day, are still relevant.
“There are colors for tastes” and there are also musical genres, since there is a different style for each person. In this case, here you can find the 20 most popular types of music in the world, to encourage you to learn more about each style and vary your playlist.
1. Classical Music
Although few think of classical music when it comes to popular music, this genre is still extremely important today.
Having appeared centuries ago, this style has laid the foundation for all other genres of music that exist today. Currently, it is associated with a formal and refined context, which is why its presentations usually take place in large halls with orchestras that have varied instruments, from a flute to a wide selection of violins.
Although there are new symphonies, most of the time the interpretations are based on old compositions by musicians like Beethoven or Chopin, for example.
The origin of blues dates back to the last years of the 19th century, when a large number of African slaves arrived in the Americas.
The cities of New Orleans and Chicago were places where a great cultural mix was achieved, in terms of music. Thanks to this, African rhythms managed to assimilate into the musical style of the West , giving way to the arrival of blues as a genre.
Previously, this style was characterized by melodies and lyrics that represented the social struggle and problems of the African-American community. However, the genre has diversified since its first appearance.
There are many types of jazz that are part of today’s music, such as Latin jazz or swing. However, although they are preserved as current styles, jazz has been around for more than a century.
As already mentioned, the arrival of African slaves in the United States was marked by a great cultural mixture that gave way to the blues. And similarly, in the late 19th century, a number of African-American musicians who were already playing the blues began experimenting with classical music and European musical styles. The result of all this combination received the name of jazz.
Many times, when talking about musical genres, people leave gospel aside, since it is music with Christian overtones. However, this is one of the most important styles and, since its appearance in the middle of the 20th century, it has not stopped being heard.
Large choirs, clapping and very marked rhythms; these are the hallmarks of gospel, a harmonic style that has transcended African-American Christian churches and has served as the basis for many other genres such as soul and even R&B.
Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston were singers who, on many occasions, performed gospel music, managing to popularize it internationally.
As you may have noticed, most of the musical rhythms, after classical music, have been the result of the combination of different styles.
Soul, for example, is another genre that comes from Afro-American music based on gospel music and, since its appearance, has greatly influenced the creation of other styles such as hip-hop, R&B and funk.
It is characterized by deeper lyrics and melodies and, most of the time, the songs retain choirs and background voices to harmonize. Some outstanding artists would be Etta James, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.
6. R&B (Rhythm and Blues)
At a time when blues was at its peak, in the mid-’40s, another style was rapidly emerging in order to meet the tastes of the younger generation. In this way, R&B was born.
Large numbers of African-American musicians moved from the blues to forming bands with melodies punctuated by electric guitars, drums, and bass. Something that differentiated R&B from other genres was the fact that musicians began to put more effort into their performances, emphasizing strong vocals and harmonious melodies.
This variation of the blues managed to inspire two of the most important genres of today : rock & roll and pop.
Among the current musical styles, it could be said that pop is probably the most popular genre today. The word “pop” is a diminutive of “popular”. That is, all music under this genre has been created to achieve the greatest possible popularity.
Because of this, pop is a genre made up of many other styles . The combination of soul, rock, R&B and funk is what makes pop music what it is.
Among its great exponents are the kings of pop: Michael Jackson and Madonna. And, more recently, singers like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift; the latter highlighted for integrating country into the world pop scene.
The folk music of each country is one of the greatest cultural expressions . Therefore, the reason why country managed to spread rapidly from the southeastern United States to the rest of the country was because the genre managed to capture the best of various cultures.
Country is a combination of Irish folk, African-American blues, gospel music, and other subgenres. This music is characterized by the use of string instruments such as the banjo, violin and guitar. In addition to the accordion and harmonica.
Although its true fame came with the name of one of its subgenres: rock & roll, this style was still quite similar to R&B, with a bit of country, blues and swing.
On the other hand, when true rock did emerge, in the mid-1960s, it was noted that it was coming to make a difference. This genre left dance beats behind to convey big electric guitar and drum solos, with energetic melodies that inspire the audience to jump.
The Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath are bands that marked the beginnings of rock. From there, this is one of the genres that has been divided the most, presenting new variants, with unique characteristics.
Among the most famous types of music for people who prefer loud sounds and noisy voices, metal is the most prominent genre, as it is the style that offers the greatest musical freedoms.
Metal, including all its variants, focuses more on conveying feelings and a little less on stylistic rules, unlike other genres. For that reason, it’s probably the only genre that supports screaming, melodies that drown out people’s voices, and controversial lyrics.
The arrival of disco music in the 70s really marked a before and after in the musical world.
Previously, a lot of emphasis was placed on the use of instruments, but since the advent of disco music, DJs began to gain more and more fame, because it was cheaper to hire them and because by playing the songs they gave a new sound in the clubs.
From this, various types of electronic music were born, because when they achieved recognition, DJs began to experiment with different rhythms and their machines began to expand by adding more functions to create music.
12. Hip Hop
Among the different types of modern music , hip-hop is currently one of the most valued styles. In fact, the biggest artists of recent years have been exponents of this genre and this is really impressive, because in the 80s, hip-hop was frowned upon and used to stay underground.
To avoid confusion, it is necessary to determine the difference between rap and hip hop, since many tend to combine both concepts. Rap is the art of rapidly rhyming and improvising over a musical track, while hip-hop encompasses urban culture in general.
In other words, rap is always hip-hop, but hip-hop can be trap, reggaeton or rap alike, since it manages to encompass various subgenres.
Jamaica has been a place where different rhythms have been created that, to this day, continue to be heard. In this case, in the late 1950s, elements of jazz, R&B, and calypso music were combined to result in a fairly fast, danceable beat. This is how Ska was born, which was the most listened to genre in Jamaica in the 60s and did not wait long to reach the United Kingdom, where it managed to influence the European musical current of the time.
It seems unbelievable that a genre like reggae has originated from a rhythm as lively as ska, which is rather characterized by being calm; however, the combination of rocksteady, blues, jazz and ska was the key to bringing reggae to life.
Although it is usually a style related to the good life and being calm, this genre has been linked to social criticism since its inception. In addition, it is a style quite close to the Jamaican Rastafarian movement.
Probably the most important exponent is Bob Marley, a man who is still recognized today. However, in the Spanish-speaking scene, groups like Los Cafres or Gondwana have managed to expand this genre.
Although it is usually grouped within the hip-hop genre, reggaeton has grown to such a degree that it needs to be mentioned individually as one of the most important styles.
Originating in Puerto Rico, this style was created from a combination of reggae, dancehall, and Latin rhythms, and took the Spanish-speaking music scene by storm in the ’90s.
Reggaeton suddenly took off, however, it remained an almost exclusive Latin American style for many years. Now it is a genre heard all over the world and its characteristic rhythm has been incorporated into songs made in different languages.
Funk is a genre derived from soul, as several artists in the 60s came to it wanting to create a more upbeat version of said genre. As was the case with the famous James Brown.
Also, the energetic rhythmic patterns with great bass lines of this style inspired other genres, such as disco music. Fortunately, today’s funky music still retains the original characteristics of the genre.
Among its most consolidated exponents, the Jamiroquai group could be highlighted, since since the 90s it has managed to attract a large number of people to this musical style and its melodies have endured over time.
Although salsa is a genre sung in Spanish and has a great presence in Latin America, this style actually originated in the Bronx, which shows the great Latin presence in the US.
It is not known exactly which nationalities influenced the creation of this music and the dance that comes with it; however, it is known that Afro-Cuban rhythms were the ones that had more weight in the creation of salsa.
Héctor Lavoe and Celia Cruz were probably the greatest exponents of this genre, who really managed to put salsa on the world Spanish-speaking music scene.
This style, intrinsically linked to the dance that bears the same name, originated in the southern region of Spain and is a rhythm related to gypsy culture.
Flamenco is a genre where the protagonist is the guitar and a voice with very distinctive nuances that make it impossible to confuse this style with another.
Brazil is a country with strong African roots, so it is not hard to believe that its most popular musical genre has so many African influences. This genre is characterized by its strong rhythm and the choirs that accompany the main voice.
The musical style is the representative genre of the great carnivals of Rio de Janeiro and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO , as it is a sign of Brazilian identity and has represented the country since the beginning of the 20th century.
20. A cappella music
This is not really considered a “genre”, but it is a style of music in which the voice takes over the lyrics and melody of the songs. Sometimes it is just rhythm, as is the case with beatboxers, while other times this style encompasses complex harmonies, as is the case with the famous group Pentatonix.
These are the 20 best known and most popular styles around the world. Therefore, if you want to expand your musical knowledge, each of them is worth exploring.