Session/Séance3c: IASPM Panel 1. Thursday/jeudi 25 May 2017. 4:00 – 5:30 pm, EJB 216
Gender, Aging and Abject-ifying the Canon
Moderator: GABRIELA JIMÉNEZ (University of Toronto)
1. You Don’t Belong Here Anymore: Madonna and Place of the Aging Female in Popular Music
Tiffany Naiman, UCLA
I take a fresh look at Madonna as a case illustrating my analysis of the structures of power and value that regulate women’s labor and artistry in contemporary popular music. Madonna’s current career denies and problematizes the hetero-normative, ageist narrative of decline wherein middle-aged women are deemed no longer sexually desirable or desiring. As an artist, she puts an extraordinary amount of labor into being Madonna – a pop star with the fitness, stamina, and voice to perform an athletically demanding show nightly. Yet critics often denigrate this labor in gendered terms, as an aging woman’s desperate attempt to maintain youthfulness, when in fact it is indispensable to her art and livelihood. Her self-regulation, meant to align her image with pop norms, exposes both the performative nature of aging publicly in pop and the way that such aging is regulated by gendered discourses of normative embodiment, vocality, and conduct. Ageist assumptions that Madonna’s contribution to popular music is ineluctably past – and thus could no longer appeal to a younger fan base – measure her persona against two seemingly incompatible standards: how a pop singer should look, sound, or behave, and how a 57-year-old white woman should age appropriately. These contradictory demands raise questions about western popular culture’s relationship to women over 35, and how they manage to negotiate its norms more or less successfully. After all despite the constant insistence from critics that she retire, Madonna persists, and this persisting itself may represent her greatest challenge to the genre of pop and its culture.
Keywords: aging, labour, value, sexism, power
2. “No Matter How Old, How Young, How Sick – I Mean Something”: Peaches and Her Abject Bodies
Charity Marsh, University of Regina
When one talks about recognition and belonging in relation to popular music in Canada, a fairly common list of musicians circulates. These include artists who have made it into the popular music canon because they resonate with Canadians. Or more specifically, these musicians resonate with Canadians who buy into a particular national identity. Canadian popular music has become synonymous with names like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Ann Murray, Stompinʼ Tom, Rush, Feist, and The Tragically Hip. In our current climate, even artists such as Tanya Tagaq and A Tribe Called Red, whose recent musical contributions challenge the music typically linked to some sort of “Canadian-ness”, are clearly claimed as belonging to Canada. These claims are bound up with current socio-political climate (e.g. the Truth and Reconciliation processes) and occur regardless of these artistsʼ overt critiques of nationalism. As the Canadian public accepts the electronic genre bending of Tagaq, the overtly feminist and queer electronic/ hip-hop/ performance artist Peaches is ignored regardless of her musicianship, boundary bending contributions, and her ongoing mentorship and support of those who continue to be marginalized within the music industry. In spite of how she has at times articulated her music within the context of national identity, Peaches is too queer, too female, too old, too electronic, too sexual, too grotesque, too visual, and too genre blurring to be recognized within the conventional framework of the Canadian popular music canon. Taking into consideration Peachesʼ album, Rub (2016) and her most recent tour, I take up the following questions: Can the likes of Peaches ever be understood as part of Canadaʼs popular music canon? Can she be brought into the fold? Should she be? What is it about Peachesʼ Abject body(ies) that continues to provoke and cause so much discomfort?
Keywords: national identity, abject bodies, the grotesque, queering popular music, Canadian canons
3. “We’re the Old Generation and We’ve Still Got something to Say”: First and Second Generation Monkees Fans in the Digital Age
Norma Coates, Western University
This decade has and will see many 50th anniversaries of germinal 1960s music moments: the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Rolling Stones, the 50th anniversary of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, the 50th anniversary of the release of many canonical albums, and eventually, the 50th anniversaries of Woodstock and Altamont. Perhaps the most unexpected 50th anniversary celebration, marked with a new album and an international tour, is that of the Monkees, the made-for-television, “pre-fab four” whose existence, and young female fans, exemplified pop artifice alongside developing discourses and practices of rock authenticity. In this paper, part of a new research project, I examine digital Monkees fandom to explore the gendered dimensions of the group’s longevity. Digital activity is centered around two broad groups who identify themselves as first-generation fans and second-generation fans. My initial research suggests that women far outnumber men in first-generation spaces. MTV’s rebroadcast of the series in 1986 led to a second-generation of fans, including men who assumed the role of Monkees’ archivists and worked with the group and their label, Rhino Records, on re-release projects, and as “official” keepers of Monkees history. Women are not excluded from these activities, of course, but are contributors. I argue that the masculinization of certain aspects of Monkees fandom factored in no small way to the rehabilitation of the group in the public (male) eye, and contributed to their longevity as the group celebrates their 50th anniversary, and to the fandom and group’s strong digital presence.