Session/Séance 7f: IASPM Panel 3. Saturday/samedi 27 May 2017. 9:00AM - 10:30AM, EJB 330.
Cultural Memory, Musical Nostalgia and Belonging in Popular Music
Moderator: NORMA COATES (Western University)
1. “New York Belongs to Us All”: Musical Nostalgia and Hegemonic Power after 9/11
Kip Pegley, Queen’s University
Fifteen years after the attacks of 9/11, we now have a clearer perspective on how music shaped, and was shaped, by the mass media in its shattering aftermath. American popular music post 9/11, for instance, featured surprisingly little overt political opposition to the country’s elevated participation in international conflict (Fisher and Flota, 2011; Garofalo, 2007), and while overt oppositional stances were silent, responses to this unfamiliar, unintelligible moment were covertly expressed through the seemingly benign strategy of musical nostalgia. In this paper I explore American musical nostalgia in the post 9/11 era and isolate nostalgia as an overlooked, yet important rhetorical device in the age of newly-legislated “homeland security.” To this end, I explore the changing meanings and psychological functions of nostalgia to understand why it was exceptionally heightened after 9/11. I then consider musical nostalgia within the United States in this fragile moment and identify a number of musically nostalgic narratives that both served psychological needs and celebrated hegemonic identities (particularly white, working- class masculinity). Finally, I turn to The Concert for New York City, a benefit concert held on October 20, 2001, to show how musical nostalgia was used within that venue as a highly effective, widely-cast net that resonated with multiple generations, resulting in reminiscence “bumps” (or heightened memories) for a range of demographics regardless of whether these listeners actually consumed this music in their youth and developed their own “firsthand” memories (Krumhansl and Zupnick, 2013). Ultimately, this paper examines how music sutured together generations of Americans to feel as though they “belonged” to the United States post 9/11, while it simultaneously affords us the opportunity to look forward and question how musical nostalgia could be usurped by the new Trump Administration for their agenda to “Make America Great Again,” thus further consolidating white hegemonic privilege.
Keywords: nostalgia, belonging, mourning, hegemony, 9/11
2. “I Don’t Belong to You”: Public and Private Identity in George Michael’s Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1
Karen Cook, University of Hartford
In September 1990, George Michael released his second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. Since his early years as half of the duo Wham!, Michael had been frustratingly stereotyped as a superficial teen idol. He deliberately cultivated a more serious yet rebellious image on his multiplatinum debut album Faith (1987). The famous video for the title track showed Michael in now-iconic attire: ripped jeans, black boots, leather jacket and sunglasses reminiscent of James Dean. While listeners recognized the album’s maturity, they also saw his sexualized image as commercially motivated. Michael was again pigeonholed as a sex symbol, and in part due to the album’s sexual lyrics and racy videos, questions abounded as to his orientation. With Listen, Michael deliberately set himself apart from his prior endeavors. In opposition to the synthesizer-heavy Faith, Listen was largely acoustic, darker in timbre and tone, and its introspective, confessional lyrics replaced sex with heartbreak and longing. Michael himself appears neither on the album cover nor in most promotional material, and in the video for “Freedom ‘90,” a vehement rejection of his previous persona, the iconic attire from the “Faith” video is set ablaze. The lyrical, visual, and musical choices made on Listen demonstrate Michael’s conscious remodelling of his image. His uneasiness with his industry-constructed persona climaxes in its blatant visual and verbal destruction. His contemplative, confessional approach duplicates this remediation, re-casting him yet again as a serious musician but also as a lonely, isolated man trying to be “someone [he] forgot to be.” Moreover, points of lyrical continuity between Faith and Listen speak to Michael’s changing understanding of his homosexuality, which he would not publicly acknowledge for another eight years. Listen is thus a major turning point in Michael’s alignment of his public and private identities and a marker of his quest to belong to himself alone.
Keywords: George Michael, queer, identity, image, marketing
3. Beyoncé’s Lemonade as a Site of Cultural Memory
Melissa Avdeeff, University of Victoria
On 9pm April 23rd, 2016, HBO released a mysterious project by Beyoncé entitled Lemonade. Leading up to this moment, there were signs that a new album was in the works, marked by her release of ‘Formation’ and a 2016 Super Bowl halftime show performance. Following her self-titled album, there was an expectation that Beyoncé would create a new creative work that would not only challenge the current state of the music industry, but also relate to wider social issues, similar to the way BEYONCÉ generated wide scale discussion of contemporary ideologies of feminism. The release of Lemonade signalled Beyoncé’s public alignment with black feminist thought and a celebration of the diversity of black cultural representation. This paper focuses on the original medium of Lemonade, television, as a construction of cultural memory, and encapsulating current modes of online sociability through the immediate discourse on social networking sites. Where were you when Beyoncé premiered Lemonade? Television has a long history of creating collective memory through shared cultural events, occurring in real time. Diversification of media and the ability to time-shift when that media is consumed challenges the historicity of traditional media. Although Beyoncé’s Lemonade release can be situated in the more passive consumption strategies of television, it is also highly dependent on SNSs for marketing. Water-cooler chat has intensified and moved online, while still uniting people in an (albeit less clearly defined) temporal period that contributes to the discourse of the event. In a society where the goal is to ‘break the internet,’ what does it mean to utilize television as the primary format for dissemination? Through an analysis of the dissemination and reception of the visual album, this paper examines how the media through which it occurred informed Lemonade’s reception. If the medium can be considered the message, what meaning was encoded and decoded in Lemonade?
Keywords: Beyoncé, social media, fandom, cultural memory, technology