- Jonas Westover
A term used to describe popular music that appeals to listeners between the ages of 25 and 55. Because it is based primarily on marketing demographics rather than being strictly defined by musical elements, it embraces a wide range of genres. In the 1950s the moniker “middle of the road” (or “MOR”) was given to radio stations that played music intended for older audiences, including swing- and big band-influenced tunes. These stations arranged their playlists to be separate from youth-oriented rock and roll. When Billboard began to echo this format in 1961, their adult-oriented chart was entitled Easy listening. After changing names several times, the chart officially became known as Adult Contemporary in 1979. The distinction between youth-oriented and adult-oriented music has remained important into the 21st century, notably with the television stations MTV (youth-oriented) and VH-1 (adult-oriented).
As musical genres, radio formats, and industry charts have split and morphed, so too have the categories of adult contemporary music. In the 2010s the largest subgenre was hot adult contemporary, which typically featured a mix of hits from previous decades alongside contemporary light rock and softer R&B. Rap music, heavy metal, and dance club music are types of youth-oriented music typically excluded from this admittedly ambiguous format. Mainstream adult contemporary concentrated on somewhat lighter fare. Soft adult contemporary featured more acoustic numbers and ballads by such artists as Mariah Carey and Josh Grobin. While soft adult contemporary has been often geared towards white middle-class audiences, urban adult contemporary has been targeted to reach African American audiences with soft R&B music from such artists as Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, and Luther Vandross....