Elective: Popular Music - All levels

Popular Music – All levels (10-20-30)

Popular music is often an indicator of young people’s attitudes toward society and established social mores. The study of such music, including an examination of its historical, cultural and social perspectives, gives students a greater insight into the role of music in society. Popular music is defined as the music that students are listening to today. It may include music of any style or category, regardless of when it was written.

To complete this module, you need to complete three tasks: Popular Music Forms, Song Structure, and Protest Songs.


Popular Music Forms

1. Click on this link to read a list of popular music genres.

2. Choose 2 genres to do some research on. Please include any websites or book titles you used in a bibliography. Write a paragraph on each one that explains:

  • What are the distinctive elements of style in this genre? What does the music sound like?
  • What instruments are usually used to perform this genre?
  • Where did this music come from? Give some details about its origins and development.
  • When was this music most popular? (approximate dates)
  • Is there a common subject matter or social context for this genre?
  • Who are some famous artists that perform this genre?


Song Structure

1. Define the following terms:

  • Introduction –
  • Verse –
  • Chorus –
  • Bridge –
  • Instrumental Solo –
  • Conclusion or Outro –

2. Go to YouTube and choose a song to analyze. This can be a song of any popular genre that you enjoy listening to. You may choose a song with lyrics or one that is purely instrumental, but analysis will be much easier with a song that has lyrics.

3. What song did you choose? What is the website address to the song?

4. Identify the sections in the song and provide time marks for the length of each section. You can use the terms that you defined in question 1 to help you identify the sections. Listen carefully: some sections may not exist (there may not be a bridge) or there may be more than one verse or chorus section.


Protest Songs

Music can be a powerful tool to inform the world about a specific political issue. A protest song is defined as: “a song that is associated with a movement for social change.” The goal of a protest song is to inform, enlighten, and spread a message to a wide audience. The lyrics may be controversial and meant to provoke conversations about the topic, or it may be a unifying song for members of the movement to listen to and gain strength and hope. Your task will be to analyze the message presented by a protest song.

1. Choose a protest song to listen to and research. You may select a song from the list below, or choose one of your own. 

2. Write a response to each of the following questions. Each response should be at least 1 paragraph in length. If you use a website or print resource, please include the title or website address in a bibliography.

  • When was the song written? What political/social event or movement was it inspired by? Describe the event or movement in detail.
  • Who wrote the song or was most famous for performing it? What was their personal opinion about the song or about the issue the song addresses? You may use quotes from the artist or lyrics from the song to support your ideas.
  • How are the elements of music (melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, texture, dynamics, style) used to enhance the message presented by the lyrics of the song? Use descriptive language and musical terminology as much as possible.