The Bop-Banger-Groove-Jam Continuum

When I saw this chart, I just knew I had to write an article about it. I present: 



Can every song fit somewhere on this chart? Why are bops and bangers opposites, and why are grooves and jams opposites? Well, I hope to answer all of these questions in this article. First– let’s look at bops and bangers.


I think this distinction is the easiest one to make. A bop is usually lighthearted and cheery. It’s easy listening, and widely enjoyable by most people. I think fundamentally, a bop can’t take itself too seriously.

A banger on the other hand, takes itself seriously. Bangers, usually, can be played at a stadium concert to a crowd of thousands. It gets you hype. Sometimes they are off-putting, and they usually have more meat to chew into, so to speak.

This is why a song like “ABC” by the Jackson 5 is a bop, while “Rosanna” by Toto is a banger. “ABC” is lighthearted, cheery, and maybe even a little goofy. “Rosanna” gets you hype, has something to say, is more intricate in the rhythm section, and might be off-putting to some people.

Calling a bop ‘pop music,’ while calling a banger ‘rock music,’ seems to be a pretty solid way to delineate the two. But, as with many things in music, you need to feel it in your heart. I can’t apply a strict definition to bop or banger, because there will always be an exception to the rule. If something feels boppy, it’s a bop. If something feels bangerific, it’s a banger.

Live Aid, 1985. One of the most bangerific stadium shows ever.


This axis is a little more difficult to define. I think the best way to define a groove vs. a jam is by one metric: how your body wants to move to it. A groove is more flowy, back and forth, loose, and, well, groovy.

A jam on the other hand is more rigid, straight, up and down, and head-bangy. Look no further than “Maniac” by Michael Sembello and “Wonderwall” by Oasis for a good example of the difference between the two. While both are bangers, “Wonderwall” is much more of a groove and “Maniac” is definitely a jam.

Oasis, writers of “Wonderwall”

Humans by nature love to categorize. We make genres, labels, groups, and distinctions somewhat arbitrarily in order to easily talk about whatever is being categorized. The classic 4-quadrant graph, like the one above, is a great example of this categorization. Combining 2 one-dimensional axes allows you to make 4 comparisons at once.

It’s neat, efficient, simple, and allows you to easily compare one thing on the graph to another. Now again– these categories are somewhat arbitrary, and there will always be exceptions to the rule, ESPECIALLY in something like music. Go ahead and try to place some of your favorite songs on the chart!

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