From the 50’s to Now: The Evolution of Music


Within the span of 70 years, music has come a long way. Genres have risen and fallen over the decades, and the popularity of musical styles has changed to fit the sign of the times. From the ’50s till now, here’s a look at the most influential artists and sounds of the different decades.


The 1950’s

Before this decade, jazz and country dominated and the most popular types of music were typically those to fit easy listening.¬† The ’50s saw the origin of rock-and-roll and a change to more fast-paced music. With the change in sound came the “king of rock-and-roll”, Elvis Presley, whose music spoke to the young and could be heard in many 50’s households. Other influential artists include Buddy Holiday, Chuck Berry, and Doris Day.


The 1960’s

The ’60s marked a time in which music heavily influenced American culture. The Vietnam War, the assassination of JFK, and the Civil Rights Movement all affected the mood of the decade and so we saw, like the ’50s, music captured the attention of younger listeners. With the civil rights movement came a significant push for racial integration in music. The first all-female group hit the top of the Billboard Charts and Bob Dylan released the first-ever music video. Motown became an increasingly popular musical sound and rock began with bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.


The 1970’s

The ’70s was most famous for rock taking center stage. As with the two previous decades, the younger generation gravitated to the genre, which defined the sound of the American rebel. KISS, formed in 1973, took rock to a higher level, creating the image of over-the-top costumes and face-painting. David Bowie, The Jackson 5, Fleetwood Mac, and Queen became prominent figures of the decade as well.


The 1980’s

During the 80’s, taste in music differed between different people. Alternative rock, glam metal, new wave, and synthpop all became popular. MTV, a television channel created to show music videos, debuted in 1981, making popular music more visual and changing the way that people consumed music by allowing them to watch a musical video. Hip-hop also began its rise in this decade, with hit bands like Run-D.M.C. smashing into the charts and getting nominated for Grammys.


The 1990’s

The 90’s brought forth a diverse wave of music. A sub-genre of rock called “grunge” debuted bands like Nirvana¬†and had immediate popularity. This killed the popularity of hair metal, music that borrowed from the style of the ’70s. During this decade, hip hop became much more mainstream than before, popularizing names like Tupac, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dog. Another popular sound of music was pop, which brought about popular bands like The Spice Girls and ‘N Sync and solo artists like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.


The 2000’s/Now

The 2000’s continued the popularity of pop phenomenons like ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, and The Backstreet Boys, but, with hip-hop artists like Nelly and Eminem topping charts, the two genres battled each other for top popularity. Now, we have seen the rise of hip-hop and rap in mainstream dominating the charts over pop genres and the continuing battle for superiority with the two most popular genres. We have seen big news stories about the music industry in recent years, such as the music-sharing program Napster and the rise of the Me-Too Movement. In addition, the rise of music streaming services – Spotify and Apple Music – have changed the way we listen to music by being immediately accessible to listeners through smartphones and laptops. [how?].