From Urban Cowboy to the King of Pop
This chapter focuses on the rise of the concept of “crossover” in response to the transformation of radio formats and music industry categories during the 1970s and early 1980s. Country music is examined for its close proximity to the “Adult Contemporary” radio format, and the music for the film Urban Cowboy is analyzed for how it uses a variety of country music sub-genres. The transformation of Billboard’s popularity chart from “Soul” to “Black,” and of the radio format for black popular music from “Soul” to “Urban Contemporary” is examined in relation to the almost all-white format of “Album-Oriented Rock” (“AOR”). Michael Jackson’s breakthrough album Thriller is discussed for its ability to transcend what were widely viewed as impermeable boundaries. In spite of Thriller, however, a recording such as George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” reveals how mainstream popular music remained largely segregated at the beginning of the 1980s.
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