Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres

Penguin Pr. Oct. 2021. 496p. ISBN 9780525559597. $28. MUSIC
This is quite simply a perfect book for any music lover and an ideal primer on the last 50 years of popular music in the United States. Sanneh, a New Yorker staff writer, organizes the book into seven parts—rock, R&B, country, punk, hip-hop, dance music, and pop—and looks at the actual and perceived elements of these genres and the differences among them. (He doesn’t talk specifically about Latin music, though he does write that the next 50 years of American music may well be shaped by Latin genres.) Sanneh writes, “This book isn’t meant to tell you what to listen to now. It’s meant to say something about what everyone else has been listening to, and why.” And by exploring individual artists, songs, and trends and combining his own analyses with those of dozens of other music writers (Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, Jessica Hopper, and Chuck Klosterman), Sanneh has crafted a uniquely open-minded appreciation of a swath of popular music. It’s written not in the voice of a music critic but that of a deeply engaged and passionate listener.
VERDICT A thoroughly enjoyable and perceptive book that champions the art of popular music.
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