Popular Music and Society

Published by Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Print ISSN: 0300-7766
This paper explores various readings of “Biko” by Peter Gabriel4. Gabriel , Peter . 1980. “Biko”.”. Charisma Records, 7‐inch single CB370 View all references in an attempt to understand the extraordinary political impact of the song. The song did more than simply act as a vehicle for reflecting Gabriel's thoughts and feelings: it brought about awareness and also challenged and ultimately changed people's lives. It is argued that “Biko” by Peter Gabriel4. Gabriel , Peter . 1980. “Biko”.”. Charisma Records, 7‐inch single CB370 View all references is not simply a political rally song with an ability to facilitate “collective identity formation” (Eyerman and Jamison10. Eyerman , R. and Jamison , A. 1998. Music and Social Movements, Cambridge: Cambridge UP. [CrossRef]View all references) but a protest song able to intersect with the political consciences of audience members.
A "snapshot" of the Billboard music industry charts from 1990 to 2005 was created to examine how corporate ownership influenced the content of the hip-hop and rap genres. The analysis included a close textual reading of the charts to identify trends associated with ownership in the music industry. The findings suggest the merging of the music industry into four dominant firms aided in the creation of music genres with messages different from the grassroots messages in the tradition of hip-hop and rap.
This paper teases out the connections between modernism and spatial/temporal representations on “Love and Theft,” particularly as they relate to the album's fundamental tensions between tradition and modernity. I focus on the album's acknowledgments of literary modernism and its use of modernist techniques to address the flexibility of time, rural/urban divisions, and the archetype of the American rustic. In its lyrical content and musical idioms, the record reveals a complicated, creolized center and encapsulates the drama of vernacular music's movements between the city and the country.
In 2000, Dynamite Hack, a white indie-rock band, covered NWA's “Boyz-N-The-Hood.” Hack's cover complicates earlier assertions that rap songs cannot be covered, and it speaks to histories of white artist covers of black R&B groups in the 1950s, as well as 1970s punk covers and their parody of rock performance. Dynamite Hack's single and video juxtapose their white vocal style, and visual images of white economic privilege, with NWA's narrative of ghetto crime and survival. I argue that Dynamite Hack is careful not to parody hip hop, and that instead the group uses the gangsta imagery of NWA's lyrics to parody their own whiteness its distance from hip hop credibility.
This article examines how the songs of the progressive rock group Rush can be understood as a manifestation of North American middle-class identity, and considers how individualism and escapism play integral roles in the formation of a largely male, middle-class, suburban world view. The article contextualizes and critiques the individualistic nature of middle-class identity, as it is presented by Rush in songs such as “Subdivisions” and “Tom Sawyer.”
This article investigates contemporary relationships between the popular music genre russkii rok (Russian rock) and historical, societal, national, and religious contexts. From an account of the St. Petersburg rok discourse it moves on to analyze how the genre is embedded in notions of the national. Among the aspects discussed are ties between musicians, government, and the Russian Orthodox Church. Made from a post-Soviet and postcolonial viewpoint, the investigations suggest that, while nationalism plays a prominent role in the genre's popularity, diffusion, and appropriation, a sentiment such as nostalgia is perhaps no less important.
For several decades now, Sweden has been successful in the worldwide popular music arena. This article explores how Sweden, as an integral part of the global music industry, has been able to cope with the changed market conditions brought about by regulatory changes and digital technologies. The article reflects on the virtualization of music distribution, the decline of the long‐play album and the ageing popular music audience.
As music consumption increasingly moves to the Internet, music as a product becomes even more intangible and service-like. This tends to create a number of marketing problems. Through a review of services marketing literature and illustrative observations of online music services, this paper explores the intangibility aspect of online music and assesses how online music providers deal with the intangibility of their offer. The paper concludes that providers of online music largely utilize services marketing strategies to manage the intangibility of their products, although difficult issues such as pricing and consumer valuation of tangibility remain to be solved.
This article discusses the Australian band, the Triffids, who established a large cult following in Britain and across Western Europe in the 1980s. The article establishes the ways that the band's city of origin, Perth, Western Australia, permeates their lyrics. In doing this, this article contributes to recent discussions of popular music which seek to ground musical production in various ways in the specificity of place. It is commonly argued that the inhabitants of Perth have a view of the world born of the city's remoteness from the rest of Australia - it is the only major city on the west coast. In this article I go further and argue that, in addition, the city's proximity to the desert and also its overwhelmingly suburban built environment, and the worldview that is commonly associated with suburbia, also influence the ways the inhabitants of the city think about the world. I then argue that it is the attitudes founded in this background that permeate the band's lyrics, written by Dave McComb.
This historical investigation tells the story of the Bob-o-links, a vocal quartet of female college students from Kansas, who figured prominently in the first congressional campaign (1959–60) of Robert J. “Bob” Dole. This study argues that the Bob-o-links contributed, through their music, to helping Dole achieve the name recognition he needed to win the race. Further, it not only serves to illustrate one case of the use of music to inform and sway the public in a largely rural region, but also contextualizes and personalizes much broader themes connected with the marketing and selling of political candidates through music.
This article offers a historical perspective on the music industry's response to new technologies by reviewing the home taping controversy of the early 1980s. In particular I analyze Congressional hearings on bills that sought to impose a royalty on blank tape and tape recorders. I argue that the home taping debate foreshadowed issues that continue to trouble the music industry: its unpreparedness for a new economy that valorizes consumer information, its reluctance to embrace new distribution technologies, and its adherence to the album format.
Music and performance have been at the heart of the ongoing Egyptian revolution since its outbreak on January 25, 2011. In this paper, we argue that popular protest music in particular has helped to shape and articulate emerging desires and aspirations as well as participating in criticisms and grievances at the site of political change. We aim to demonstrate, through the analysis of popular protest songs, how the 2011 Egyptian revolution has been imagined, articulated, and defined in popular culture. We trace the links between older revolutionary songs and how they have impacted new ones, while engaging with a number of theoretical issues on the role of popular music during periods of revolutionary struggles, in order to contextualize the domain of protest songs representing the Egyptian revolution. The last section of the article maps out a number of key popular music bands, musicians, and singers who have emerged and gained momentum as the “voice” of the 2011 revolution.
Using as its departure point the controversy surrounding the release and dissemination of Danger Mouse's Grey Album, this article discusses the recent brand of activism that has emerged as a reaction to the expanding influence of intellectual property law. The limited edition Grey Album, in which Danger Mouse mixed the instrumentation from the Beatles' White Album with vocals from rapper Jay-Z's Black Album, came to the attention of EMI/Capitol, the owner of the Beatles' sound recordings, in early 2004. Danger Mouse received a cease and desist letter from this copyright holder immediately after it was released, but it wasn't until the company began sending cease and desist letters to fans who were trading and distributing the album on the Internet that EMI/Capitol was positioned at the receiving end of a large, organized online protest. The Grey Album itself is also a useful object of study because it highlights the ways in which copyright law has not caught up with the century-old cultural practice that is collage. Placing this album in a historical context—from musique concrte to post-millennial mashups—helps to highlight the ways notions of the authorship and ownership have changed over the years, with regard to intellectual property.
This paper recounts the history of jazz music in the United States and its passage from despised, marginal entertainment to the solid respect conferred by academe. The author asserts that such respect has little to do with music and a great deal to do with class, race, jobs, and money. The first extracurricular college jazz band at North Texas State College in 1947 has since moved to tenured chairs in music departments. The author and other researchers caution that the very vibrancy of jazz may be swaddled inside the velvet cage of academic music which may threaten its very existence. (EH)
Hip hop has been defined as a hypermasculine and at times homophobic musical genre; however, female rappers, unlike their mainstream male counterparts, have taken opportunities to express queer desire in their music. This essay explores how female rapper Nicki Minaj baits queer desire as a mode of empowerment, self-objectification, and fantasy through an examination of her musical works and associated images. The author argues that her expressions of queerness reify both hetero- and homosexual desirability while addressing sexual desire and fulfillment in her music and contribute to creating space for varying possibilities of black female sexual subjectivities in an environment hostile to such exploration.
In recent years popular music studies has witnessed a turn towards concentrating on music at a local level (Cloonan) and its use in what DeNora calls everyday life. In a separate, but overlapping, development there has been a growing interest in the night-time economy. At an academic level this has included some interest in the role popular music plays in that economy (e.g. Bennett; Bjoumlrnberg and Stockfelt) and at the UK governmental level it has included responses to “binge drinking” (Home Affairs Select Committee; Prime Minister's Strategy Unit; Scottish Executive) and to licensing.1 But there has been less attention paid to the role that music plays within a key part of that economy—pubs. In this article we examine the use of music in city centre pubs in Glasgow, Scotland. We include the role of music in attracting customers to pubs, the different types of clientele attracted, the relationship between music and alcohol sales, and the ways in which music can act as both a trigger for disorder and a means of preventing it. We develop a typology of uses of music and explore the implications for popular music studies.
God Bless the Grass (1966) was the first album dedicated to songs of environmental protest. Pete Seeger and Malvina Reynolds placed environmental issues within the tradition of proletarian realism, while revising its celebrations of the heroic industrial worker. Seeger became involved in environmentalism, notably the Clearwater project, when he felt marginalized within the Civil Rights movement. God Bless the Grass was recorded a month before the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965, when Bob Dylan's performance of his new electric repertoire indicated that Seeger's turn to conservationism coincided with what, to the new rock audience, was artistic conservatism.
What do you value most about your voice? As ethnomusicological studies of the voice expand, so must our understanding of what voice even means. Voice must entail more than just a sonic phenomenon, but must also relate to our ideology. By fusing an ethnomusicological and legal perspective, this article will explore the “right of publicity,” introduce the concept of the negative voice, and explain why Waits stands as the culmination of a gradual evolution of the right of publicity. These explorations can help us understand how musicians can protect their ideological, as well as their physical, voices.
This paper uses the increasing integration of social media into music making and marketing to reflect on the work artists and their fans perform. While new technologies are celebrated for making cultural production more accessible, there is also more pressure on artists, as cultural entrepreneurs, to produce and distribute their own work. At the same time, fans are facing greater invocations to participate through overt calls to become co-creators or through more passive participation like behavior tracking. Fans cannot really consume without working. Using an analysis of British musician Imogen Heap—including press articles and data scrapes from Heap's social media accounts—this paper focuses on the changing occupational and creative roles for artists and fans and the attendant implications for the circulation of cultural goods.
Determining if music and the artists who produce it belong in a particular popular music genre is accomplished socially, not musically, and this paper explores the role that consumers play in the process. It begins by reviewing theory and research on authenticating criteria and on the relationship of authentication to identity. It then explores the effects of globalization and postmodernity on popular music authentication through analyses of print and web consumer responses to two late 1990s recordings, Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos and Buena Vista Social Club. Results suggest that, even in the “global postmodern,” popular music authentication is likely to remain important to consumers in the formation and maintenance of group identity.
With the development of online music distribution, a number of authors argued that independent musicians could compete on equal ground with major record labels. In this article, I explore the effects that online distribution has had on distributing music to consumers. This essay argues that, through the development of iTunes, the major record labels have maintained the same advantages that they held through physical media distribution networks.
A comparison of two narcocorridos, Los Tigres del Norte's2. Los Tigres del Norte. “Contrabando y traición.” Contrabando y traición, Fonovisa, 2006. CD.View all references “Contrabando y traición” (1974) and Alfredo Ríos's “El Katch” (2009), highlights both continuity and change in core features of the genre. Whereas Los Tigres del Norte demonstrate a greater degree of restraint, a change of perspective enables Ríos to enthusiastically celebrate the illicit lifestyle of the narco-trafficker. The lighthearted musical setting of “El Katch” emphasizes personal autonomy by degrading the sense of the power of death, but a preoccupation with mortality remains, following Ríos beyond the song's boundaries into his off-stage reality.
This bibliography updates two extensive works designed to include comprehensively all significant works by and about Woody Guthrie. Richard A. Reuss published A Woody Guthrie Bibliography, 1912–1967 in 1968 and Jeffrey N. Gatten's article “Woody Guthrie: A Bibliographic Update, 1968–1986” appeared in 1988. With this current article, researchers need only utilize these three bibliographies to identify all English-language items of relevance related to, or written by, Guthrie.
Davy Graham's innovative 1963 rendition of the Donegal air “She Moved Through the Fair” and his “theory” of “a connection between Oriental music and the folk music of Ireland” are, I contend, best read under the rubric of Irish Orientalism. To demonstrate, I examine the writings of Herbert Hughes, the Celtic Revivalist who collected the air, explore Graham's background as son of a Scots father and Guyanese mother, and analyze how Graham's rhetoric engages Orientalist constructions of the exotic and female. Finally, I show that the DADGAD tuning Graham invented has become, for numerous Western guitarists, a signifier of exotic Otherness.
Applying the historical concept of “romantic racialism” as introduced by George Fredrickson in The Black Image in the White Mind, this article highlights the paradoxical continuum of racialism running through opposing schools of dominant blues historiography in the United States. From right, center, and left, white researchers on African-American blues music and people approached their work with competing political outlooks, and yet they shared an underlying collective investment in the blues that was always more than musical. Whether derogatory or sympathetic, the blues image in the white mind was one of certain contradiction, but also surprising continuity.
In the years since Johnny Cash's death in 2003, popular and scholarly writing has persisted in framing Cash's politics as contradictory—thus seeming to support Kris Kristofferson's line, often assumed to be about Cash: a “walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.” This essay argues that, although Cash may have seemed conflicted in the late 1960s and early 1970s, his political views on Native Americans, prison reform, and the Vietnam War, especially, were remarkably consistent in that they were based not on ideological views as much as on emotion, instinct, and an ability to relate to familial suffering. As a political artist, Cash practiced an uncommon public politics of empathy that appealed to a diverse audience.
The phrase “home taping is killing music”—a slogan invented and heavily promoted by major labels to combat the unauthorized duplication of music in the early-1980s—now sounds quaint after the rise of digital distribution. Because the legal arguments surrounding the trading of copyrighted music on file-sharing networks have been extensively debated elsewhere, this article primarily focuses on the way this alternative distribution system poses a very real challenge to major labels. That music monopoly, which has been in place for a century, was able to secure its dominance because it controlled the means of production—something that is no longer the case, because recording, production and distribution costs have radically dropped in price since the 1990s. This article, which operates in a journalistic mode, places into historical context the 1990s compact disc boom and the subsequent rise of digital distribution. The consumer-led file-sharing explosion forced an unwilling music industry into the online marketplace, something that this article argues has been a boon for those working outside of the major label system. This has opened the door for small labels and independent artist-entrepreneurs to use these relatively inexpensive technologies to disseminate their music and circumvent the clogged, payola-drenched playlists of corporate radio.
In jazz's historical discourses, major figures are often regarded as “geniuses” of exceptional ability or talent. At the same time, such artists have been used to construct jazz's historical canon, often representing entire genres or stylistic movements. In fact, these musicians might be wholly unrepresentative of the performance communities from which they come. Conceptualizing such artists as “outliers” allows us to see their experiences as both exceptional and grounded in the community. It also leads to a fuller understanding of the roles of “ordinary” jazz musicians, who were members of the same communities but did not achieve wider recognition.
There are significant cultural differences among music audiences in different locations. Such geographic differences in the propensity to consume new popular music will have an impact on the choices artists and their managers make about where to perform live concerts. We suggest that the popularity of particular places on touring circuits operates as a proxy for the cultural sophistication of the place. Moreover, various locational factors also play a role in where performances take place. In this article, we explore how tour itineraries in the United States and Canada create urban cultural and spatial hierarchies and vice versa. The data source to establish these hierarchies is Celebrity Access, an online industry source in which large amounts of touring information are available. We include more than 12,000 concerts played during a two-year period (2006–08), mainly by alternative rock artists, in the analysis.
Technology and Legal Timeline. Source: author
The MSPs' Ownership. Sources: author; Burkart and McCourt
Digital Downloads: Units Shipped. Sources: RIAA 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Value of Digital Downloads by Type. Note Blank cells show data available. Sources: RIAA 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
The paper reviews the “celestial jukebox” model of digital music distribution in light of its recent transformation into “cloud”-based music services. Elaborating on a prior history of the celestial jukebox business model, the paper identifies continuities with services built around music portals, updates the legal and business strategies of the most popular cloud-based services, compares core functionalities of cloud-based services, and discusses the cultural significance of an international youth movement opposed to the celestial jukebox under various national “pirate parties.” It speculates that the pirate parties envision counter-reforms to global information policy that are culturally environmentalist in their worldview.
In this paper, we consider musical cell-phone ringtones as virtual, communicative and cultural performances. They appear unpredictably, they are interpreted by variegated and dynamic audiences, and they establish stages upon which cultural meanings are portrayed. We will argue that the musical ringtone functions as a musical madeleine in Marcel Proust's sense, an involuntary mnemonic trigger of a complex web of individual and collective memories. Having this quality, the ringtone lends itself perfectly to the performative manifestation and display of (sub)cultural identities in the public sphere. We will illustrate these workings of the ringtone by way of a small case study taken from gangsta rap culture, the song and ringtone “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent.
Top-cited authors
Mark Alexander Fox
  • Indiana University South Bend
Jannis Androutsopoulos
  • University of Hamburg
Holly Kruse
  • Rogers State University
Steve Jones
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
Andy Bennett
  • Griffith University