How Pop Music Boxed Itself In

It began innocently enough–
somewhere along the road
of blues and R&B,
when Little Richard’s piano hands
pushed drummer Palmer
to split the beat into two instead of three, with backbeats on two and four.

Then the squareness of this sound
–the duple, the beat as a four-sided box–
caught on,
moving rock further from its blues body.

Rhythm took a back seat
on harmony’s ride,
taking in the melodic sights
but still wanting to drive.

It got its chance
to take the wheel of funk,
switching accentual gears
to ride over its syncopated bumps,
and then coast on dance music’s
four on the floor open road.

But a feel was gone,
the fluidity of a beat divided into three
having fled into the open arms of jazz,
while the squareness, the duple beat,
wondered why so much pop music
now sounded the same.

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