Summary: Popular Contemporary and Easy-listening Singer Songwriters
Several singer-songwriters are renowned in popular music (20th-21st century) for having had their songs interpreted in the various music styles that define it. It is the field is often so-called ‘commercial’ music. The singer-songwriter is no-longer the sole ‘creator’. They often share part of the process with a producer. The producer tends to make the song more ‘appealing’ and/or ‘entertaining to the mass audiences. This is also part of the general standardisation that has been deemed ‘necessary’ in view of internationalisation of markets.
Different styles of production will tend to define the music style of the song which fleshes out the song. The style typically mirrors a particular age. However, the heavier the production, the more the melodies and more often the lyrics are lost in the process. This seemingly benefits a more ‘general’ feel. The aim is to alienate as few listeners as possible. The reflective aspect of the singer-songwriter genre is often lost for the benefit of the entertainment aspect which many have deemed ‘less serious’. This has led these types of singer-songwriters to often be overlooked. Only the very, very best being acknowledged by obligation. There has even been a case of re-categorisation of music styles by labels to separate ‘serious’ music from ‘commercial’ (deemed soulless). Teenager-type music split from more adult sounds. Those separations mean to reconquer any lost audience. The creation of the ‘adult contemporary’ and ‘alternative’ music style were an example of such doings.
However, facts are independent of our opinions or acknowledgement of them. In addition and fortunately, although these songs might be better known by their popular interpretation, they have increasingly been heard stripped of the frills of too much over-production, over-harmonisation and/or over-instrumentation to reconcile the listener with the song or maybe just to fit in with yet another new trend. And so the experiment to create a style that unifies and attracts the audience carries on.
Every generation or so creates their set of popular music styles no doubt inspired from previous ones and their own contexts. Popular singer-songwriters therefore span various music styles including Adult contemporary (if ever it really exists) such as Dianne Warren. The R&B genre has R. Kelly and Babyface. Hip-Hop and Rap has the likes of Eminem, Missy Elliott, Drake and MC Solaar. Craig David once dominated the Urban scene. Bob Marley arguably made Reggae popular enough to be included here.
Some other known Artists in the genre include British diva Elton John, French songstress Mylène Farmer, American icon Michael Jackson, the so-callled King of Pop. British singer-songwriter, turned songwriter Cathy Dennis is the creator of more than one successful pop songs. Her most successful creation is Toxic. American princess of Pop Britney Spears popularised the song and Yael Israeli-Tunisian music artist Naiem brought it back to its essence.
It’s easy to forget that entertainers such as songstress Mariah Carey, Queen of Pop Madonna, the voice that is Christina Aguilera, or talented musician Alicia Keys, write a lot of their own songs.
Typical pop songs end up having multiple interprets. The most popular interprets of their era can afford the best producer and propel a song to its highest peaks. This cements their own position at the top. But the real popularity comes when an indie band or a less ‘pop’ artist takes it on. Cathy Dennis’ Toxic is one example. Yael Naiem is by far not the only non-pop interpreter of the song. Another example is Baby One More Time. This Britney Spears’ first single topped the international charts for its fair share of time. Later, indie band Travis interpreted it. The news were almost as astonishing as when the Manic Street Preachers took on Umbrella which Rihanna had taken to a very solid and obsessive top. An additional Rihanna “song”, Don’t stop the music had the same treatment. It is a fact that many consider it a negative and argue that Jamie Cullum’s jazz is ‘pop Jazz’ that brings the complex sound to the masses. However, his interpretation of the song is still a great one in this writer’s opinion. One way or other other, covers allow the audience to see the different faces of a song, independently from its label. This allows pop songs to be seen outside their commercial robes, for what they truly are.
first published 11th of November 2013 on Singer Songwriters Worldwide at worldsingersongwriters.com