I'm of the generation that had their teenage years in the 90s. At that time, the mid-70s seemed musically very different - who could imagine a world with no techno and no hip-hop?

The mid-90s are now as far back in the past as the mid-70s were then. And though there have been shifts in the balance of genre popularity and some new fusions (the increasing crossover of techno/dance and mainstream hip-hop for one), It seems to me that there's been nothing distinctively new since the 90s. There have been revolutions in how we make, buy, and listen to music - but not so much development in what that music sounds like.

The 60s was full of change. The 70s had funk, disco, and punk; the 80s, hip-hop and synth pop. The 90s witnessed an explosion of dance and electronic styles. Since then it seems to have been evolution rather than revolution. I'm worried that I won't ever have an opportunity to shout "that's not real music" to a crowd of youngsters listening to something that wasn't around when I was young!

Are we likely to hear anything else really new in our lifetime? Or is pop done?

EDIT: Just saw this article claiming that there were three "music revolutions" - in 1964, 1983 and 1991. (It also mentions changes in harmony in the 1970s from funk, soul and disco). Maybe what I am wondering is, could there be another music shift comparable to those, and where might it come from?

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    Yeah, the music the kids listen to these days isn't noisy enough. That's got to be a first... Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 10:47
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    @MeaningfulUsername it seems they are annoying us oldies then, with their bland watered-down stuff!
    – user16
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 17:15
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    Hm, so it seems. And maybe this is more efficient even; a more annoying way of being annoying. I'm shaking my cane in the general direction of youth everywhere! Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 10:15
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    We've always had fusion. Most genres have been a fusion of previous genres.
    – DA.
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 22:57
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    I think UK satire site The Daily Mash had the best answer to this question: Modern youth not starting a subculture unless they get paid for it - "Teenagers are hinting at something ‘really big’ possibly called ‘Snung’ which over people 30 cannot relate to on any level..." "But first we need a cash injection to get our subculture through the development stage" Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 17:53

8 Answers 8


First of all (this is a personal gripe), 'pop' isn't a genre of music. It's short for 'popular' and therefore, by it's very nature will keep on inverting itself. What was 'pop' (popular) in the 50's isn't 'pop' (popular) now.

As far as genres are concerned I think that absolutely yes there will be more coming along. I think today's 'kids' are living in a era of music where 'bland' seems to be popular. I'm agreeing with @Meaningful Username here - our music (I'm a child of the 70/80's) used to scare our parents (look up satanic lyrics in heavy metal) but now 'our' music seems to scare the children !

There doesn't seem to be much 'edgy' music, it's all too 'nice' and 'safe'. The same thing happened in the 60's with flower power and hippies and what happened ? Punk - that really shook things up !

So, yes, there will be more genres and (you need to get ready for this) we older people probably won't understand how the new genres are even music but that is exactly what the kids will be looking for.

Having said that, my age group (30's - 40's and beyond) are far more open to new musical styles than my parents and previous generations were.

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    Don't get lost in the semantics, pop music is more than "whatever is listened by many". Yes, "pop" is short for popular, but that doesn't mean that everything popular is pop, or that you can't produce pop music unless the masses know you. Pop music has been around for a while now and has developed distinct patterns. With this in mind, pop is objectively a style and/or genre, beyond whatever the name implies. Today, there's a distinction between "popular music" and "pop music".
    – NPN328
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 12:33
  • @JCPedroza - completely agree. It's not going to stop me avoiding music classified as 'pop' though ;)
    – Pat Dobson
    Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 20:41

Yes, of course. What is the popular genre changes quite a bit from decade to decade. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not.

We also keep inventing new genres, as well as a seemingly infinite range of minute sub-genres, so the pool of options keeps increasing as well as to what will be the next 'pop'ular one.

There's no real argument as to why we'd not stop creating new musical genres. Humans have been doing it since they've invented music.

That said, perhaps the broad, universal trends aren't as noticeable. Up until the early 2000s, most pop music was heavily influenced by the media industries. The labels, radio stations, and MTV has a pretty strong monopoly on dictating what is popular and what is not.

As of the 2000s, the industry went through immense changes and music is now spread in so many more ways that it's become much less centralized. As such, the large decade-spanning monolithic genres have given away to a much more fragmented popular music landscape.

There still a lot going on, we just see it a lot differently than we did in, say, the 80s.


On second read, perhaps I misread the question a bit. I think if we're saying 'major genre' being defined by a huge marketshare, then perhaps the answer is 'no'...we may not have any more major genres of pop music like we did in the period from the 50s-2000s. The reason for this (I theorize) is that the concept of 'major popular music genres' depends on a highly centralized media industry to promote them. When what you listed to was primarily dictated by the record and radio industry (and later, MTV), they had the ability to take a few genres and market them like crazy and essentially 'force' the status of 'major genre' on the marketplace.

But that era is over so perhaps we won't see such 'major' genre shifts as we did before (not that the industry isn't trying...their stake in the online streaming industry is a sign of that...)

  • I'm not thinking that we'll never get anything new - there definitely have been plenty of little sub-genres springing up, as you say. But there were at least four or five decades of relatively rapid major shifts in the second half of the last century. Since then, haven't things been slower? Your point about the more fragmented industry / consumption of music is a good one and that may well be one of the reasons for less dramatic wholesale shifts.
    – user16
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 23:59
  • Other reasons that something dramatically new might now be harder to come up with : we've had a few decades now of quite intense global communication which has given opportunity for many of the cross-cultural inspirations that could happen to happen. Technology may also be a factor - we had the electric guitar, the synth, and the turntable, then the computer... then what? There may well be another big trigger (which could be another computer tech development) but I'm interested in what it might be....
    – user16
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 0:05

To reference Lenny Bernstein in his Norton Lectures, as far as we can push tonality (namely, the number of possible tones in a given octave, currently 12) to the limit by somehow dividing the intervals into smaller and smaller chunks, we can get pretty bizarre music. Now I'm speaking on classical music terms, but this decomposition of the traditional 12-notes-in-an-octave system into, say, 13-equivalent-intervals-in-an-octave system, can have an impact on today's modern electronic (and I mean electronic in the sense of Stockhausen and the likes) music. I was reminded that maybe it was Edgard Varèse who was involved with this, having been able to produce music with intervals smaller than the traditional half step.

  • To simply think of dividing the octave into smaller chunks seems a limiting way to look at the possibilities of tonality - after all, the frequency scale is continuous, so there is always an infinite range of notes to choose from; the trick is to find some that sound good together! That said, it is an exciting idea that there might be more evolutions in the tonality of popular music; there were certainly plenty in the last century, and I'm sure that there are many more palatable possibilities.
    – user16
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 12:13

When I was a kid
[don't ask, long time ago… ...ok, I admit, in the early 70's]
we were far too busy listening to the radio & trying to emulate the look by practising in the mirror with plywood guitars with copper wire strings to have any time to invent any new music style…
…then things changed.

It turned out that the best way to emulate what you already liked to listen to was to actually learn how to play it - not a task completed in 3 months; however, we were playing [bad] gigs at church youth clubs before we could really reliably tune our guitars.

Then came punk - theoretically an excuse to never learn to play or even tune your guitar.
By the time we caught up to that, though… almost miraculously, we'd actually learned how to play [The miracle was actually a whole lot more practise, but we didn't realise that at the time]

Then we got bored…

…We can do that - punk, been there, done that, wore the ripped t-shirt & still have the stains down the front to prove it.

What's next?

Well, you remember Autobahn? Well, turns out this synth thing is a whole new way of proving you can't play very well - but no-one is going to realise it for a long time - by which time we may have learned to play those too. Let's give it a go…

So, late 70's, early 80's there were these things that made not very convincing boink-squeak noises - but, hell, they gave us something to think about.
They also wanted more of our money to be able to join in. One synth wasn't going to get you far, you also needed a multi-track tape machine to work on; let you bounce tracks together & come up with some fuzzy yet inspiring new songs.

So we wrote songs based on 'what new toy we bought this month' - not the 'best' way to write, but a way to push the boundaries of a bedroom studio.

Next we got a 16-track, some outboard effects & if we were lucky, even a real spring reverb.

As the bionks & squeaks started to pall, then there were samplers.
We could now not just try to emulate "real strings" we could have a Tutti we could play in different keys - & boy, did we use that a lot.

One thing we did learn was how to 'play the studio'.
How to.. use a Sequencer; sync it to timecode; bounce tracks on tape; edit tape, ¼" & multitrack; fly in a chorus vocal down an entire track; make a dub/dance/party/disco/mix 12" single with only a razor-blade; run a synth through a Rockman; make a DX7 sound like a banjo [& how a banjo-player would use his instrument to do the same, if only we could afford one]; replace the drum machine snare with one we nicked from "Let's Dance"…
…we were in hog-heaven.

By the 90's, sampling was starting to become more 'clever', more like 'the original'.
Then we got the first DAWs, though we still called them 'sequencers' - but they could do audio too & we could finally lose the old tape machines… though we'd like to still master to DAT… at 48K, if we were lucky… not realising that sample-conversions back to 44.1 were not doing us any favours in the 90's.

By 2000, we had widespread internet, MP3s & DAWs that had lots of plugins; some free, some 'stolen'… until we could afford to buy them…

..but we had access to more noises than ever in the history of man.

So what did we do with them, this plethora of new sounds & techniques available to us?

We used the presets.

If it didn't satisfy in 6 clicks, on to the next plugin.

We wanted to sound like everyone else - & now it was very possible. We had access to all the same noises they did; a studio in a box. Forget mic technique, forget production style, we all now use the same things, we all sound the same.
There are still good & bad, but the access to the 'noises' is now ubiquitous.

…what's next?

At some point, sometime, someone will actually start to investigate how to "play the studio" again - find something other than presets & instant gratification; stop copying what is 'this month's hit' - because, by then, you're 3 months late to be any kind of fashion statement.

Make something new by actually working at something no-one's tried in a long time…

… be original

Learn from all that has gone before… but learn

Apologies - this was a complete 'stream of consciousness' rant. I may hone it later, if it grabs any interest ;-)

  • +1 for length - and good point, it must have been so much easier to make your 'own' sound back in the days. I even managed it... my sound wasn't very good though...
    – user16
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 20:10

Well, I'd class dubstep as an entirely different kind of 'electronic' music. It's still electronic, but so is house music, and that's considered an entirely different thing to trance or techno. There's always something new to explore.

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    I agree that it's new and distinctive in many ways (or was when it first appeared - it must be getting on for 15 years old itself now!) though it seems to me to be a kind of aftershock (See what I did there :) of the late 80s - early 90s electronic revolution though, rather than a major new tentacle reaching out (how's that for a mixed metaphor)...
    – user16
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 10:09
  • +1 on the pun, and I'm sure that along the 80's and 90's, people thought we had hit the limits... before several key genres revolutionized the world. Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 12:33
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    there's not a lot POST mid-90s - that's kind of my point really. 20 years is a long time for "not much" to happen!
    – user16
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 13:41
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    @topomorto I think 'major' is perhaps what we're hung up on. Going back to my answer, genre shifts felt major pre 2000 mainly because they had a much greater market saturation due to how the music industry marketed them. Post 2000, se simply have fewer major genres but a lot more niche genres due to the major shift in the industry. A parallel might be to look at arena bands. Pre 2000 much of the pop genres had artists at the top that would routinely sell out stadiums. That's not nearly as true anymore. As the industry fragmented, it became more difficult any one genre (and, in turn, any...
    – DA.
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 6:33
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    ...one artist) to grab a large marketshare of the audience.
    – DA.
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 6:33

Music is constantly shifting and moving with trends and against trends. 60's and 70's explorative music eventually gave way to Punk, which was the anthesis to Progressive Rock. Angry youth who couldn't play instruments but desperately wanted to be heard.

Eventually the musicianship of bands like Yes, Genesis and Rush gave way to sterile music like Culture Club and Simple Minds. Then again we had an upsurge in angry musicians who had a lot to say and wanted to rebel, and 80's Hair Metal was born.

Eventually that died down and was replaced by softer bands like U2, Dave Matthews and others, and then in the middle of the 90's we were hit with Grunge.

Always this ebb and flow, with lots of overlap. Music will always evolve, and new genres and sub-genres will always be born. Why? Mainly because as a people, we love to categorize. And when something doesn't fit neatly in a box, we will just give it a new name.

  • ...I note that you end your story with the mid-90s, which is the 'cut-off point' I mentioned in the first place!
    – user16
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 21:10
  • Well, EDM is the new rage (Skrillex, Bargore, et al), so that's a new genre. Commented May 6, 2015 at 22:39
  • EDM started in the 80s, or arguably even earlier. Dubstep has steadily got more popular recently but still (as I said on DJ Aftershock's post) seems like more of an evolution of grungy electronic stuff that was around in the early 90s. Still, it does seem like it is evolving - Skrillex (I just had a listen) seems to have a kind of 'mashup' thing going on...
    – user16
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 22:56
  • Having said that, these guys (in 1992) had a kind of mashup thing going on too... youtube.com/watch?v=BkczzkGrYDQ
    – user16
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 23:14
  • This gives an (oversimplified) version of music history, but it does not address the question, which is about the seeming lack of new genres. That the pendulum isn't swinging as much as it used to... Commented May 7, 2015 at 7:44

I don't believe that something really new will happen in pop music with the limited palette of chord types and chord progressions currently used.

After all, if it's true that there are only 4 chord types commonly used (major, minor, dominant 7th, and suspended 4th), and a I IV V chord progression (or variation thereof) is standard compositional fare, the workable combinations will be explored and exhausted, eventually. I argue that this has happened, but wouldn't be able to say exactly when it did.

Sure, music could continue to evolve rhythmically, only. We could have new rhythms and hybrid-rhythms of all kinds. We could have new dance crazes and amazing vocal gymnastics performed with the spoken word.

But I think that if pop music were to embrace more interesting melodies, extended chords, complex harmonies, subtle chord progressions, and virtuoso solos that are improvised - it would open up whole new vistas.

Of course, if that happened, something like jazz music (think Big Band Swing era) would be pop music, once again :)

  • You missed my favourite chord, the suspended second, and its cousin the minor 9th - not to mention the majestic open fifth! On the other hand, the dominant 7th seems to be on the slide (as mentioned in the linked article).
    – user16
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 0:47
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    Hasn't "pop" music already explored interesting melodies, extended chords, subtle chord progressions and virtuoso solos in the progressive rock of the '70s? Commented May 8, 2015 at 7:34
  • I would agree with you about progressive rock of the '70s having already explored the things I mention - except for "extended" chords and possibly "improvised" solos. So, I would say that jazz fusion (so far) has been the only genre that completely "fills the bill", for me. And I'm not suggesting that some new genre should have "all" these characteristics because we'd have deja vu (jazz fusion - which we still have anyway) all over again. They're just components to consider playing around with. Commented May 8, 2015 at 16:08
  • A lot of music plays around with all these things, creating new amalgamations of already existing genres. All types of chords have been used, and improvisation is no stranger to household names as Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead. Something akin to a new genre hasn't occurred for quite a while, which is what the question, in my understanding, is about. Commented May 8, 2015 at 18:46

New genres are typically innovated by an isolated closely-knit subgroup from a specific geographic location -- jazz from New Orleans, house from Detroit, hip-hop from the Bronx, reggae from Jamaica, bluegrass from Appalachia, and so forth. What makes the new genre distinctive is the way it develops for a while, aligned solely to that subculture, and insulated from outside influences.

The main thing that has changed in the modern world is that people are connected in different ways. The internet has given rise to smaller, less localized and less isolated subcultures, so it tends to spin off an endless variety of short-lived subgenres rather than create big, infrequent seismic changes as was true in the past.

Despite that, the next big genre has probably already been born somewhere --some forgotten and isolated refugee camp perhaps --invisible and inaudible to everyone except those who are creating it. We'll learn about it years later, when it finally goes mainstream.

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