From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"One of the earliest examples of crossover music is the music of French composer Claude Debussy. In 1889 the French government staged the great Paris Exposition, an event that was to have profound effects on many areas of western art and music. Debussy visited the exposition and it was here that he first heard gamelan music performed by Sundanese musicians. He was transfixed by the hypnotic, layered sound of the gamelan orchestra and reportedly returned to the Dutch East Indies pavilion over several days to listen to the Indonesian musicians perform and to study the structure and tuning of this novel musical form. His exposure to gamelan music had a direct influence on the composition of his famous Nocturnes for orchestra. "--Sholem Stein
Crossover is a term applied to musical works and performers that achieve popularity with mainstream audiences beyond the usual listenership of their particular genre. The term is also used within the music industry to refer to a marketing strategy with this goal.
In some contexts the term "crossover" can have negative connotations, implying the watering-down of a music's distinctive qualities to accommodate to mass tastes. For example, in the early years of rock and roll, many songs originally recorded by African-American musicians were re-recorded by white artists (such as Pat Boone) in a more toned-down style (often with changed lyrics) that lacked the hard edge of the original versions. These covers were popular with a much broader audience.
In practice crossover frequently results from the appearance of the music in question in a film soundtrack. For instance, Sacred Harp music experienced a spurt of crossover popularity as a result of its appearance in the 2003 film Cold Mountain, and bluegrass music experienced a 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."
The largest figure to date for a crossover hit has come from Grammy Award-winning country singer LeAnn Rimes, whose song "How Do I Live" sold over 3 million copies and spent a world record breaking 69 weeks on the Hot 100 chart, more than any other song in history, despite peaking only at number 2. It was also a massive hit in Europe.
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. 467 (from its appearance in the 1967 film Elvira Madigan).
Such popularity has undoubtedly been assisted by the use of classical music in advertising campaigns. For example, the long-running British Airways advertisements familiarised a large viewing public with a duet from the opera Lakmé, by Léo Delibes.
Another means of generating vast popularity for the classics has been through their use as inspirational anthems in sports settings. The aria "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot has become indissolubly linked with soccer.
Classical to pop and vice-versa
Within the classical recording industry the term "crossover" is applied particularly to classical artists' recordings of popular repertoire such as Broadway show tunes. Two examples of this are Lesley Garrett's excursions into musical comedy, and also José Carreras's recording West Side Story, as well as Teresa Stratas's recording Showboat. Soprano Eileen Farrell is generally considered to be the first classical singer to have a successful crossover recording with her 1960 album I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues.
The Three Tenors was a landmark concert in which Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo brought a combination of opera, Neapolitan folksong, musical theatre and pop to a vast television audience. This laid the foundations for classical crossover as we know it today.
Pop singers have consistently sought to attain a symphonic or operatic dimension in their writing and performance. A seminal early example is Une Nuit A Paris, a seminal mini rock opera from The Original Soundtrack (1975) by 10cc. Other pioneering works include The Moody Blues's Days of Future Passed (1967), Deep Purple's Concerto for Group and Orchestra (1969) and Gemini Suite Live (1970) as well as Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975). More recent examples include "Genuine Imitation Life" from Genuine Imitation Life Gazette (1996) by The Four Seasons, as well as Metallica's S&M (1999).
Collaborations between classical and popular performers have included Sting and Edin Karamazov's album Songs from the Labyrinth. An iconic collaboration between the late Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé resulted in the worldwide hit "Barcelona".
The aspiration of classical singers to appeal to a wide pop audience is exemplified by the career of Rhydian. Classically trained, Rhydian appeared in the UK version of the pop talent show X Factor (4th series, 2007, placed second). His four albums and subsequent appearances have straddled pop, classical, musical theatre and religious television fields.
Conversely, the aspiration of pop singers to develop the stamina, musicality and charisma for opera singing was exploited in 2010 in the ITV television series aired in the UK, Popstar to Operastar, won by Darius Campbell.
Sarah Brightman, called the best-selling soprano of all time, is considered a crossover classical artist, having released albums of classical, folk, pop and musical-theatre music. Brightman dislikes the classical crossover label, though she has said she understands the need to categorize music.
Finnish operatic rock soprano, Tarja Turunen, is the most popular singer performing rock and metal as well as classical music in Finland and throughout Europe. Turunen uses her classical singing technique in all of her songs. She gained popularity as the former main singer of the symphonic metal band Nightwish. She has sold millions of copies of her albums all over the world. She has released two classical and several metal albums.
Romina Arena is considered to be one of the most prominent female Classical Crossover singers in the world and sometimes is referred to as the “Queen of Popera”. Arena writes and produces all of her music, sings and speaks fluently in 10 different languages.
Christchurch soprano Hayley Westenra is primarily a classical performer, whose Pure CD has been named the United Kingdom's biggest-selling classical album of the 21st century so far. Along with her well-known classical repertoire, she also performs a mixture of easy listening, folk and pop style songs, and bridges classical music to worldwide audiences with her uncommon ability to sing in English, Māori, Italian, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Irish Gaelic, Welsh, French, Portuguese, Quenya, Latin and Scottish Gaelic.
English born Soprano Gemma Louise Edwards is a naturally gifted classical Singer who enjoys pushing the boundaries of opera and classical music. She also performs a mix of musical theatre, jazz and acoustic pop.
The television talent shows America's Got Talent and Britain's Got Talent introduced two popular classical crossover performers, Paul Potts in 2007 and Jackie Evancho in 2010. Classical crossover performers have also often performed on "classical week" of the TV show Dancing with the Stars.
The pioneering work of Mario Lanza
Vocally, the most popular crossover artist was tenor and film star Mario Lanza, although there was no such recognized genre as "crossover" at the time of Lanza's greatest popularity in the 1950s. Signed to RCA Victor as an artist on its premium Red Seal label, Lanza's magnificent voice reached beyond classical music-buying audiences. His recording of "Be My Love", from his second film, The Toast of New Orleans, hit Number One on the Billboard pop singles chart in February 1951 and sold more than two million copies, a feat no classical artist before or since has achieved. Lanza recorded two other million-selling singles that made Billboard's top ten, "The Loveliest Night of the Year" and "Because You're Mine." Five of Lanza's albums hit Number One on Billboard's pop album chart between 1951 and 1955. The Great Caruso was the first and to date is the only recording composed exclusively of operatic arias to reach Number One on the pop album charts. The Student Prince, released in 1954, was Number One for 42 weeks. No classical label artist, including The Three Tenors, has achieved the success on the popular charts that Mario Lanza did in the 1950s.
Jazz crossover and rock crossover
Besides describing music of a distinct genre that becomes broadly popular, the musical term "crossover" suggested mixed genres. "Fusion" is a more common term for this phenomenon. Examples include jazz fusion and world music. Example albums of crossover jazz plus classical music were albums of Deodato, Jean Luc Ponty and Bob James. Bob James One (CTI, 1974), contained the song "Feel Like Making Love", which Roberta Flack already had as a hit. Radio stations played this song and contributed to the success of album One. The album was notable for adapting classical music to a modern-day scene, e.g. "In the Garden" was based on Pachelbel's Canon in D and "Night on Bald Mountain" was a cover of Modest Mussorgsky's composition of the same name.
Other examples of crossover in music are bands that play a mix of genres such as funk, rap, rock, metal and punk, for instance bands such as Urban Dance Squad, Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., Primus, Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down and 311.