In the 1930s and 1940s, musicians and artists from different cultures and varied backgrounds joined and made the golden age of Shanghai popular songs which suggests the beginnings of Chinese popular music in modern times. The present article gives a historical description of the rise of Shanghai popular songs and examines their generic features according to Franco Fabbri’s five groups of genre rules. Through gramophone recordings, radio broadcasts and films these musical products enjoyed great popularity despite severe criticisms from certain sectors of society. The diversity of musical elements, lyrical contents and forms of performance of these popular songs reflects a collective style of the participating artists and institutions and past audience tastes in a metropolis different from other major cities in the world at that time.