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In music crossover is a term used to describe artists of a certain style or genre whose popularity crosses the considered boundaries of where the music of that style or genre is normally found. "Crossing over" is a marketing term, and is always a movement toward the mainstream.
For example, in the early years of rock and roll, many songs originally recorded by African-American musicians were rerecorded by white artists (such as Pat Boone) in a more toned-down style (and often with changed lyrics) that lacked the hard edge of the original versions. These covers were considered by some to be more palatable to white parents, and white artists were thought to be more palatable to programmers at white radio stations. Songs by the original artists which where then succesful are called crossovers as they "crossed over" from a black to a white audience.
Crossover as appreciation of music not normally listened to
One way of defining crossover, is that it occurs when a work from one genre of music becomes popular among listeners who ordinarily listen to other, more popular genres. For example, particular works of classical music sometimes become popular among individuals who mostly listen to popular music. Some classical works that achieved crossover status in the twentieth century include the Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel, the Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Górecki, and the second movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, K. 457 (from its appearance in a 1967 film entitled Elvira Madigan).
Often crossover results from the appearance of the music in question in a film score. For instance, Sacred Harp music experienced a spurt of crossover popularity as a result of its appearance in the 2003 film Cold Mountain, and folk music experienced a mini-revival due to the reception of 2000's O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Even atonal music, which tends to be less popular among classical enthusiasts, has a kind of crossover niche, since (as Charles Rosen has noted) it is widely used in film and television scores "to depict an approaching menace".
Crossover is highly prized by executives of the music industry, since the profits of a recording that achieves crossover status can be high.
Crossover as music of mixed genres
In popular music, the term crossover is most commonly used to describe a style of alternative rock mixing elements from funk, rap and heavy metal that became extremely popular in the early 1990s. This style was initially referred to as funk metal. Some well-known crossover artists are the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Rage Against The Machine.
However, crossover as mixing of genres in one piece has a longer tradition than that: see e.g. Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orchestra, where the pop music of that time is crossing the border with classical music. Around the 1970s several pop music artists produced such classical/pop crossover music, e.g. also Frank Zappa who composed pieces for execution by a classical orchestra.
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