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New Wave To Rap And Beyond.....

By the late 1970's, income from record sales and live concerts were in decline. But by the early 1980's technological developments had begun to revitalise the industry. The most important of these were the music video, introduced by MTV in 1981, and the compact disc, which came to the market in 1983. The popularity of the video underpinned the growth of the new wave bands, particularly in Britain, and, following the phenomenal success of Michael Jackson's 1982 release "THRILLER", much of which was attributed to it's visual rather than musical innovations, an accompanying video became a necessity for every new release. The video also played a significant role in the growth of the heavy metal end of the market, expanding it's appeal from a more working class base to include white middle class kids. By the mid-1980's heavy metal accounted for 40% of all record sales in the United States.

The new wave movement reflected the extravagant, hedonistic club culture of early 1980's Britain, but, like glam and disco in the 1970's, it was ousted towards the end of the decade by a return to basics in the form of britpop, which took rock back to a guitar-based sound. This move was reflected across the Atlantic by the growth in popularity of alternative rock, particularly the punk / heavy metal mix of grunge typified by Nirvana, a movement which returned underground following Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994.

Technological developments also penetrated deep into the Third World, leading to the rise of worldbeat - music of a non-Western origin modernised and commercialised to make it more palatable for a western audience.
Perhaps more significant, however, has been the growth of hip-hop and rap out of the dub poetry and "toasting" of 1970's reggae. Rap hit the mainstream in the 1980's, finding a willing audience in white middle-class suburbia, paving the way for a more troubling development, Gangsta Rap, which brought the harsh realities of black urban street life to the masses during the 1990's. In the last decade rap has become a dominant style within popular music, penetrating into many other genres.

A final major element has been the growth of electronic dance music, a development from the pioneering work of late 1960's to mid-1970's German bands Tangerine Dream, Can and Kraftwerk and to a lesser extent the ambient music of Brian Eno. This takes the form of techno, acid house, drum 'n' bass and a multitude of other sub-groups which form the backdrop to the rave, the ecstasy-fuelled equivalent in the 1990's of the 1970's open air rock festival.

So in an increasingly fragmented marketplace with the pop charts seemingly in terminal decline, the internet revolution wrenching power from the corporate record industry and opening up an ever wider global market, what actually constitutes popular music is becoming harder and harder to define. There is also severe doubt as to whether a musical revolution of the significance of rock & roll still could ever take place in the future, and a large question mark now hangs over the very existence of the traditional popular song as the 21st century progresses.

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