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Easy listening is a broad style of popular music and radio format that emerged in the 1950s, evolving out of big band music, and related to MOR (middle-of-the-road) music as played on many AM radio stations. It encompasses the exotica, beautiful music, light music, lounge music, ambient music, and space age pop genres. The range of lounge music encompasses soft rock music-influenced instrumentals, modern electronica (with chillout, nu-jazz and downtempo influences), while remaining thematically focused on its retro-space-age cultural elements.

It was mostly instrumental music format that was prominent in American radio from the 1960s through the 1980s. Lounge music, beautiful music, and the often derogatory terms Muzak, "doctor's office" and elevator music are other common terms for the format and the style of music that it featured. Beautiful music can also be regarded as a subset of the middle of the road radio format.

Easy listening is broad and may include instrumental arrangements of popular music designed for playing in shopping malls, grocery stores, department stores, telephone systems (while the caller is on hold), cruise ships, airports, doctors' and dentists' offices, and elevators. The term is also frequently applied as a generic (and often derogatory) term for any form of easy listening, smooth jazz, or middle of the road music, or to the type of recordings once commonly heard on "adult contemporary" radio stations.

Easy listening music for malls and elevators is typically set to a very simple melody, so that it can be unobtrusively looped back to the beginning. In a mall or shopping center, elevator music of a specific type has been found to have a psychological effect: slower, more relaxed music tends to make people slow down and browse longer.

A good deal of easy listening music was pure instrumental (i.e., no main vocal part, although there could be minor vocal parts), which was called lounge music. Sometimes, this music would be theme music from movies or TV shows, although such music could be produced independently from other entertainment productions. These instrumentals could be produced with an orchestral arrangement, or from an arrangement of instruments very similar to that found in jazz, or even rock and roll such as the Hammond Organ or electric guitar.

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