Recent scholarship on popular music has emphasized the importance of sectionality, analyzing formal, metrical, tonal, and timbral contrasts between the sections of songs. While these approaches have yielded considerable insight into structural compositional techniques, such focused and disparate approaches invite the ques-tion of overarching stylistic or generic contrasts within songs. Genre modulation—the practice by which a number of musical parameters within a song may signal a change in genre—can be perceived in much popular music since 1950, and may be an important factor in perceptions of sectionality within popular music.In this paper, I argue that analysis of genre modulations within songs may lead to a more comprehensive understanding of sectionality in popular music. Through examples from the Beatles and Taylor Swift, I show how genre modulations may be identified through a variety of musical parameters, and discuss how these genre modulations effectively create contrast between the sections of a song. These analyses challenge the convention of classifying songs by genre, suggesting instead that there may be considerable fluidity of genre within a single song, and that artists may consciously exploit genre modulation when seeking distinctive sectionality in their songs.
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- Genre Modulation as Sectional Divider