What is Adult Contemporary music?

(Last Updated On: June 1, 2022)

Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts

Billboard has been publishing various music charts since the late 1930s. Today, well over 50 different charts exist. One chart that’s taken quite an interesting ride is the Adult Contemporary Chart. But, what is adult contemporary music?

A Brief Overview of Adult Contemporary Music

In its simplest form, adult contemporary (AC) is generally a continuation of the easy listening and soft rock style that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently, it’s evolved with adjustments that align with today’s rock/pop music.

Adult contemporary tends to have an emphasis on melody and harmonies. Because of that, it’s typically very melodic and makes excellent background music. Like most of pop music, its songs tend to be written in a basic format employing a verse–chorus structure.

Common Instruments

AC typically relies  mostly on acoustic instruments. You’re likely to hear acoustic guitars, pianos, and saxophones. Electric guitars are normally faint and high-pitched when featured. However, recent adult contemporary music may feature synthesizers (and other electronics, such as drum machines).

Adult Contemporary Radio Play

An AC radio station may play mainstream music. However, it usually excludes hip-hop, as it’s less popular among the target demographic. AC radio often targets the 25–44 age group. As a result, a common practice in recent years of adult contemporary stations is to play less newer music and more hits of the past.

It Wasn’t Always the Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts

The chart debuted in Billboard magazine on July 17, 1961. Over the years, the chart has gone under a series of name changes. For instance, after originally being called Easy Listening (1961–1962; 1965–1979), it became Middle-Road Singles (1962–1964). From there, it was Pop-Standard Singles (1964–1965), followed by Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks (1979–1982). Since 1983, it’s been the Adult Contemporary Chart.

The first No. 1 song on the Billboard Easy Listening chart was “The Boll Weevil Song” by Brook Benton

Milestones and Achievements on the AC Charts

This blog inspired by Sporcle Events shows on 5/31/22.

On May 31, 2022, Sporcle Events ran hundreds of pub trivia shows across the country. Each night over 30 questions will be asked. The one that inspired this blog: The Billboard chart that was once known as the Easy Listening chart is now known by a name that can be abbreviated A.C. What do the letters A.C. stand for?

You can play a Sporcle quiz with this question and others from that night anytime. You can also find a Sporcle Events location near you or join a virtually-hosted trivia game.



About Mark 51 Articles
Mark is the current Vice President of Entertainment at Sporcle. He founded Motor City Trivia back in 2009, which is what Sporcle Events is today. After hosting and attending thousands of pub quizzes over the last decade plus, he likes to write about some of his favorite trivia tidbits.