The Evolution of the Beat


Carly Baringer

Queen continues to impress audiences today. Junior, Carly Baringer painted a tribute piece in their honor.

Christy Cohen, Staff Writer

From the jazz of the 1920’s to the hip-hop and techno beats of 2020, it is clear that music has evolved. The genres of music that people prefer seem to change as the decades go by. By looking at the past 100 years of rhythm and song, we gain a different perspective of the music industry.

The Roaring 20’s is also known as “The Jazz Age”. Beginning in New Orleans, Louisiana, this period was characterized by an increase in the popularity of jazz music. Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were famous jazz musicians of the time that are still played to this day. “Swanee” by Al Jolson, “West End Blues” by Louis Armstrong, and “Rhapsody In Blue” by Paul Whiteman featuring George Gershwin were three of the most popular songs of the decade. Blues, swing,  and ragtime were also popular music genres of the time. Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra were some popular dance bands of the 1920s. Known as “The Empress of the Blues”, Bessie Smith was a famous female singer.

In the 1930s, swing, jazz, country, traditional pop, and big band were some of the most recognized music genres. Crooners, which were people who sang in a low, smooth voice, such as Bing Crosby, Rude Vallee, and Russ Columbo were very popular. Fred Astaire, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ma Rainey were also well known in the 1930’s. Hit songs included “Shadow Waltz” by Bing Crosby, “Cheek to Cheek” by Fred Astaire, and “Goodnight, My Love” by Ella Fitzgerald.

In the 1940s, jazz, big band, and swing were the most notorious genres. Crooners increased in popularity, with singers such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como rising on the stage. Rosemary Clooney, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw helped shape the music scene of the times. “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday, “Swinging on a Star” by Bing Crosby, and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Glenn Miller were some of the most well-known songs of the ‘40’s. 

In the 1950s, rock and roll, pop music, country, and rhythm and blues captured the ears of many. Some of the most recognized artists of all time, including Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and Doris Day came to the scene in the 50’s. Some popular songs included “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley, “When I Fall In Love” by Nat King Cole, and “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins.

In the 1960s, rock and pop music continued to dominate the music scene. Blues, funk, and soul music were popular as well. “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 was a hit song of the time. The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones were among the most famous famous groups. Bob Dylan, James Brown, and Ray Charles were also showing their talents in the ‘60’s. Songs such as “The Twist” by Chubby Checker, “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, and “Tossin’ and Turnin’” by Bobby Lewis were popular songs during this time.

In the 1970s, rock and roll, disco, punk rock, funk, and soul were the most popular genres. Some of the most prominent artists included Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, and David Bowie. Pink Floyd, Queen, and Black Sabbath were some of the most popular groups. In particular, Queen was at its prime during the 1970s, with hits such as “We Will Rock You”, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Don’t Stop Me Now.” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel, “The Wonder Of You” by Elvis Presley, and “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees were some of the most popular songs in the 70’s. 

In the 1980s, hip hop, new wave, pop, and hair metal music were among the most frequently played genres. Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, and Billy Joel grew in popularity during the 80’s. Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, and Aerosmith were just a couple of groups that produced memorable music. The most popular songs of the 1980s were “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston, “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi, and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.

In the 1990s, hip hop, rap, grunge, indie, pop, R&B, and Britpop were the way to go. Famous female singers of the time included Whitney Houston, Mariah Carrey, and Celine Dion. Famous male singers included Usher, MC Hammer, and Snoop Dogg. Popular music groups such as Nirvana, Boys II Men, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and TLC were also rising on the scene. Some of the most well known songs of the ‘90’s include “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, and “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.  The fun pop song “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys ,the romantic ballad “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, and the catchy tune “No Scrubs” by TLC were some of the many hits of the 90’s. 

In the 2000s, popular music genres included dance-pop, indie rock, emo, Latin pop, country, hip-hop, and Contemporary R&B. Some of the most recognized artists included Eminem, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and Justin Timberlake. Some of the most popular songs were “Yeah!” by Usher ft. Lil John, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira, “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé, and “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.

In the 2010s, the music genres of pop, rap, rock, and R&B were the most popular. Famous female singers of the time included Lady Gaga, Adele, Taylor Swift, and Rihanna. Famous male singers included Bruno Mars, Drake, Justin Bieber, and Ed Sheeran. Popular songs such as “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem ft. Rihanna, “Tik Tok” by Kesha, “Hello” by Adele, and “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga were blaring on the radio. 

In 2020, hip-hop, rap, R&B, and techno seem to be the most popular genres, though the decade is not yet over. Famous singers include Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Travis Scott, Selena Gomez, and Shawn Mendez. Popular songs include “Rain on Me” by Ariana Grande, “The Box” by Roddy Rich, “Life Is Good” by Future ft. Drake, and “Savage (Remix)” by Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyoncé. Since the decade of the 2020s is far from over, popular singers, genres of music, and songs will continue to change.

Music has undeniably changed in the past century . Several songs from the past have resurfaced only to become popular again. The music world follows a constantly changing, unpredictable cycle. New songs become popular every day , while songs that were popular a week before go out of style a week later. In addition, many artists as well as popular songs from earlier years have been forgotten. Possibly the biggest challenge that artists face is standing the test of time; a challenge in which only a few come out as winners.