What are the Top Music Genres?

When we consider the best music genre, the answer is almost always subjective to taste and circumstance. However, we can calculate the top music genres in relation to their popularity with the general public.

A music genre can be defined as a conventional category that groups together pieces of music sharing a set of conventions or traditions. Music is divided into different genres using a range of criteria. However, due to music’s artistic nature, classifications are almost always controversial and subjective, with many genres overlapping.

This post outlines some of the top music genres in terms of their widespread popularity. Within each genre, we’ll share a list of music artists by genre so that you have a point of reference for each category. Finally, we’ll answer the question, ‘who is the greatest artist of all time?’ and share some information about some of the biggest music legends of all time.

mosh pit of a concert

The Top 10 Music Genres

1. Rock

Otherwise known as ‘Rock & Roll,’ rock music has been a popular genre since the early 1950s. Rock music has its roots in string instruments. However, the genre now includes modern instruments; therefore, it is hard to give rock music an accurate definition. Characterized by loud, strong guitars and charismatic rock stars, some of the world’s greatest musicians have paved their way to fame via rock music.

Some of the greatest music artists of all time were considered rock stars. These include John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, and Mick Jagger.

2. Jazz

Identifiable with blues and swing notes, Jazz has origins in European and West African culture. Originating in the late 19th to early 20th century, Jazz has played a historical role in empowering female performers, particularly during times of repression. To this day, Jazz remains an important and symbolic musical genre.

Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald are considered jazz music pioneers.

3. Electronic Dance Music

Typically referred to as EDM, this type of music is created by DJs who mix a range of beats and tones to create unique music. Electronic Dance Music is popular in dance clubs, especially in the form of live DJs, who will mix hundreds of different tracks in one session.

Artists such as The Chemical Brothers, Fat Boy Slim, and Underworld made dance music a chart sensation during the 1990s.

4. Dubstep

Dubstep is an electronic dance music subgenre that originated in the late 1990s’ in South London. Dubstep can be characterized by syncopated rhythmic patterns combined with prominent sub-bass frequencies. Music lovers consider dubstep to be a darker form of dance music. That said, since the late 1990s, dubstep has quickly found a place as one of the top music genres.

Two of the most popular contemporary dubstep artists are Flux Pavillion and Skrillex.

5. Techno

Techno is yet another sub-genre of electronic dance music. This genre became popular in Germany towards the end of the 1980s and was heavily influenced by house music, funk, synthpop, and futuristic fiction.

Detroit techno is said to be the foundation of the techno genre, and it’s a genre you may have listened to when out clubbing. In recent years, technology has significantly enhanced the quality of techno music, giving the genre a surge in popularity.

Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold are two of techno music’s highest earners.

6. Rhythm and Blues (R&B)

R & B is one of the world’s top music genres combining gospel, blues, and jazz influences. The genre was made famous by African American artists, and the term ‘rhythm and blues’ was coined in 1947 by Billboard magazine’s Jerry Wexler.

Before this, R & B was known as ‘race music,’ a term that originated in the African American community but was deemed offensive in the postwar world. In 1948, RCA records marketed R&B under the name ‘Blues and Rhythm.’  However, these words were reversed by Atlantic Records, the most dominant R & B label, when this genre became popular.

Usher, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Mariah Carey are some of the most prominent artists in the R&B genre.

7. Country

Country music is another one of the world’s top music genres. Originating in the 1920s, Country has its roots in western music and American folk. Country music can be defined by its unique vocal style combined with steel guitars, mandolins, and mouth organs.

Artists such as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Kenny Rogers are some of the most famous Country music artists of all time.

8. Pop

The term ‘Pop’ is derived from the word ‘popular.’ Therefore, Pop music is a genre that contains music generally favored throughout society. Pop has its roots in rock and roll style music, including influences from many other genres, from country and Latin to urban and dance.

Drums, electric guitars, and synthesizers are all instruments commonly used in ‘Pop’ songs.

Artists such as Madonna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber can all be considered pop music icons.

9. Indie Rock

In terms of genre, Indie Rock lies somewhere between pop music and rock and roll. Indie rock became popular on MTV in the late 1980s and has been one of the top music genres ever since.

The Strokes, Arcade Fire, The Shins, Elbow, and Coldplay can all be considered Indie Rock greats.

10. Electro

Electro blends electronic music and hip hop to create music that is similar to disco in sound. However, the use of vocoders, drum machines, and talkboxes distinguishes electro as its own outright genre.

Notable electro artists include Freez, Midnight Star, and Man Parrish.

records in a record shop

Who are the Best Music Artists of All Time?

The distinction of the greatest artist of all time is subjective, depending on personal taste and preferences.

However, if we go by record sales and global infamy, these are the top three greatest music artists of all time.

1. The Beatles

Between 1962 and 1970, the Beatles released 12 studio albums and toured the world extensively. Each album can be considered a masterpiece in its own right. The Beatles are classed as the world’s best-selling artist of all time, with approximately 600 million albums sold and 269 certified units.

It can be said that the Beatles changed the music industry like none of their predecessors and that they will continue to influence new artists for many years to come. They are one of the most influential groups in modern history.

2. Michael Jackson

Often referred to as the ‘King of Pop,’ Michael Jackson was a global sensation. His iconic dance moves remain unmatched, as does the reach of his music. Jackson was easily one of the world’s most outstanding live performers. The late superstar stands as one of the most accomplished artists of all time, with 100 billboard awards, 13 Grammys, four presidential awards, and 26 American Music Awards.

His 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling album of all time, selling over 65 million copies.

3. Queen

Freddie Mercury can be considered one of the best vocalists of all time. He reached notes that many people would find impossible. Queen released a string of superb albums and singles before Mercury’s untimely passing in 1991. Bohemian Rhapsody as a track has been unmatched in complexity and creativity since its 1975 release. The band sold over 300 million records, confirming their place as some of the greatest artists of all time.

Elvis Presley dancing

The Greatest Music Legend of All Time

What makes a music legend? Several factors combine to create a legendary star.  These include:

  • Charisma
  • Performing ability
  • Vocals
  • Style

Below, we share some statistics on one of the greatest music legends of all time:

Elvis Presley

Affectionately known as the ‘King of Rock and Roll,’ Elvis Presley was one of the most charismatic performers ever to grace the stage. Elvis had 149 songs reach the Billboard’s Hot 100 Pop Chart in America. Out of these hits, 114 reached the top forty, 40 reached the top 10, and 18 reached the number one spot. Elvis’s number one singles spent over 80 weeks at number one.

When Elvis wasn’t writing, recording, or performing songs, he managed to film and star in 31 movies. All in all, the king released 18 albums and performed almost 1700 live concerts throughout his 20-year career.

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