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Easy listening music is a style of popular music and radio format that emerged in the mid-20th century, evolving out of swing and big band music, and related to beautiful music and light music. easy listening music features simple, catchy melodies, soft, laid-back songs and occasionally rhythms suitable for couples dancing. The genre includes both instrumental forms (often played on light of tone instruments such as the hammond organ, “lush strings”, or ukulele); and vocal forms featuring pop singers, such as Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Jack Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Eydie Gorme, Barry Manilow, Harry Connick Jr., Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Tom Jones and Mel Tormé.
The easy listening radio format has been generally but not completely superseded by the “Lite AC” form of adult contemporary music radio. Beautiful music is a subset of easy listening music, since, as a radio format, it had rigid standards for instrumentation (e.g., few or no saxophones) and restrictions on how many vocal pieces could be played in an hour. It is sometimes called nostalgia music. Often, songs were re-arranged instrumental “cover” versions of popular songs of the 1960s and 1970s custom-produced for the radio format during its peak in popularity.
The term “easy listening” has sometimes been applied negatively in the years since it went out of fashion. It is similar to what is called “lounge” or “lounge core”, but lounge music is much more jazz-oriented and dependent on musical improvisation than easy listening. Easy listening music is usually orchestrated by an arranger rather than improvised by a small ensemble.
Since easy listening music as such is rather unknown to the younger generation, the term “easy listening” is often incorrectly applied to other genres such as soft rock, soft pop, smooth jazz, or new age music. However this problem arises due to the fact that the actual definition is relatively broad. easy listening music is also sometimes referred to as “mood music”, “elevator music” (and in the UK as “lift music”). The term “muzak” is occasionally used as a (usually derogatory) synonym for easy listening music as well, but that is erroneous as muzak specifically refers to the music produced and programmed for public places by the Muzak Corporation, and is not a music genre in itself.