Volume 6 (2012-13)
ISSN 1751-7788

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Free, Confused and Lonely: On Age, Pop, Fashion and Incompatibility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Ellliott

 

 

University of Sussex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A history that entails envisioning, listening, and the art of combining by using technical devices, which privileges a sense of their multifarious possibilities over their realities in the form of products, cannot be written with avant-gardist pretensions or with a mindset of leading the way. Such a history must reserve the option to gallop off at a tangent, to be wildly enthusiastic, and, at the same time, to criticize what needs to be criticized. This method describes a pattern of searching, and delights in any gifts of true surprises.

 

 

Siegfried Zielinski[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

In 2012 the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released the song ‘22’ as part of her fourth album Red. Over anthemically choppy guitar chords and ramrod-straight beats, the song extolled the virtues and the confusions of being a 22-year old, reflecting its composer’s own current experience.[2] While the verses contained barbed comments on the kind of hipsters and ‘indie kids’ who might routinely dismiss Swift and her mostly teenage fanbase as being seriously uncool, the explosively rhythmic, cheerleader-like chorus celebrated a perfect (if messily perfect and messily privileged) stage of life. In the words of one reviewer, ‘“22” is all about trying to “forget about the deadlines” and embraces only the most sugary hooks available’, yet ‘[u]nderneath the heel-clicking positivity and shiny production sits the line “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way”, a rather stunning meditation on being in your early 20s that’s flicked off like a piece of pre-chorus lint.’[3] As it hymned the will to party, the song rang registers of inclusivity and exclusivity, individuality and community, at once an invitation to shared experience and a reminder that those outside the song’s immediate address could only look and listen with a sense of non-belonging.

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At the time of Red’s release, I was formulating a proposal for a book on age, time and experience in popular music. The project from which the proposal emerged had begun by considering the lack of serious attention given to popular music performers as they entered the late stages of their career. The kind of attention shown to ‘late style’ in classical music, literature and the visual arts seemed lacking in popular music studies. Where consideration of age and popular music did appear, it was generally presented in sociological work that foregrounded the role of ageing audiences and the role that music and youth culture played throughout the life course. Such work was producing some fascinating observations and helping to challenge established views of the ageing process and of popular music as somehow a preserve of the young. What was often missing, however, was a sense of how the representation of time, age and experience was undertaken in musical performances, especially in the writing and voicing of song lyrics. As my research started to overlap with longstanding interests in loss, nostalgia and self-authentication, it became apparent that it was not a simple case of equating the representation of age and experience with ‘older’ writers and musicians, but rather recognising the ways in which the passage of the life course was reflected by writers and performers of all ages. Recognising the danger of opening up the project to such potentially infinite reflection, I nevertheless decided to include work on what I came to call ‘anticipated lateness’, the sense of having access to experience at various crucial points in one’s life, of precocious retrospection, of being, to use the common expression, wise beyond one’s years. My own musical interests quickly led me to some useful examples in songs by young artists of an earlier generation – Bob Dylan, Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Nick Drake – but I also started to consider more recent performers such as Amy Winehouse and Adele.

2

 

 

 

 

So when I heard ‘22’, something clicked. Here was someone who embodied so many of the issues with which I was grappling. Not only was Swift singing about age and experience, but she was doing so while still young and with a remarkable sense of self awareness. Even more impressive was the fact that she had already been doing this for a number of years, having gained considerable success with her first album, released in 2006 when she was sixteen. Prior to ‘22’ she had already hymned youthful experience to great effect, either through explicit references in songs such as ‘Fifteen’, ‘Dear John’ and ‘Place in This World’, or via more general depictions of girlishness, school, first loves, summer vacations and parents. Then there was the way in which Swift had moved from identification with country music – a genre which has traditionally placed great emphasis on time, age, experience and nostalgia – towards a more clearly pop-centred approach seemingly aimed at a teen audience and focussed on the transitory pleasures and pains of youth. Accompanying all this was the fact that Swift had come to public attention in the era of social media and, as a phenomenally successful pop star, had attracted an enormous body of emotional discourse via responses to her life and work left by fans and haters on forums such as YouTube. The conflation of biography and art, of public persona and song persona, was something I wanted to explore in my work on the late voice and Swift seemed to offer an excellent case study.

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At least, that’s how I would write it up for academia, possibly connecting these observations to another narrative, one based on the happenstantial discoveries of the research process, what Siegfried Zielinksi, drawing on the work of Rudi Visker, calls ‘anarcheology’.[4] Zielinksi writes about the way the search for certain sources leads us along paths we’d never expected to travel; he writes with regard to the search for media origins, but his thoughts can just as readily apply to the routes and rambles familiar to anyone involved in online research, where links lead to other links in a chain that leaves you far from where you started out, sometimes with little sense of how to find your way back. That’s how I’d first encountered Taylor Swift’s work, back in 2007 when I stumbled upon a YouTube clip of her performing the song ‘Tim McGraw’ on the ACM Awards. In the audience was the country musician Tim McGraw (not the main subject of the song, but a crucial reference in it) and the performance culminated in Swift introducing herself to McGraw in a staged-for-TV gimmick that was mawkish but still moving. I’d discovered the clip while trying to find out more about McGraw, a country star whose vocal grain had impressed me on recent recordings such as ‘Whiskey and You’ and ‘Kristofferson’. Now I was intrigued. Here, in my phenomenology of listening, was Taylor Swift singing a song about Tim McGraw, a singer I’d recently heard singing about Kris Kristofferson, a singer who, over the course of his career, has written a number of songs about other singers. What started out as a game (how long could the chain be taken back? When would someone take it forward by writing ‘Taylor Swift’?) developed into a set of observations on how country musicians work at self-authentication partly by reference to other country musicians. Later, that idea got resurrected when I started thinking about age, experience and ‘22’.

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But there were problems. As I began to formulate a possible paper in my mind and as I started to imagine the forums in which I would probably present the work, I realised the potential absurdity and futility of such a project. The absurdity stemmed from the fact that, although I had first become interested in Swift back in 2007 when she was still ostensibly ‘country’, I realised that I would be writing and talking about a pop star whose primary ‘meaning’ appeared to be in her ability to articulate an experience I myself was now too ‘late’ to appreciate. A mid-life academic extolling the virtues of a celebrity two decades his junior and perhaps trying to make ‘sense’ of her, to articulate her ‘meaning’ in a manner more ‘serious’ (because more ‘formal’, more ‘reserved’, older, nostalgic) might be seen as misguided or, worse, creepy.[5] Even in the open and generally forgiving discipline of popular music studies, there is still too often a strong sense of distinction between aesthetic pleasure and ‘academic’ value and, while youth-marketed pop is still seen as sociologically significant, there is still an assumption that it has little or no aesthetic value. Performers like Taylor Swift remain difficult to engage with in musicology because their sociological worth (amplified by the noise emanating from the popular discourse that surrounds celebrity) eclipses the brilliance of their craft. There is also the concern about transience, about the time it takes for scholarly writing to ‘fix’ an ever-shifting pop culture, a concern rooted in the idea that such writing is of more lasting value than that which it attempts to capture. Confronting the ageing scholar still smitten with pop’s precocious, beautiful products, one can’t help but conjure the figure of Vladimir Nabokov, both committed lepidopterist and creator of the tragicomic Humbert Humbert. .

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It is not so much that one couldn’t attempt to place value on Swift’s songwriting and performing skills – as I would wish to do – while also remaining sensitive to her place in her social context. Rather, it is that the former process would, I felt, involve a subjective approach that the professed objectivity of the latter would wish to dispel. It’s also not that subjectivity and objectivity can’t meet and mingle in principle, but in practice there are issues. There is already an overwhelming chorus of subjective response to Swift and it emanates from the fans, haters and cultural critics whose social media posts alert one to one’s otherness from all that. Because I could not, and did not particularly wish to, mingle with other Swifties or be a Swiftie, there was an important aspect of subjective experience that I remained locked out of. Yet my position outside this group did not make me wish to dismiss the group and here I felt the sense of difference from those who, finding themselves outside of or otherwise alienated from a particular group identity, use the otherness of the group as a negative counterpart to a cultural position they wish to validate, elevate or protect. The discourse around popular culture thrives on such othering value judgements, often articulated via modes of authentication.   

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Swift, it still seems to me, offers something for people at any stage of life in her precociously sophisticated reflections on important moments. There is a mixture of escapism and realism in her work that invites us to a place we all need to go to at various points in our life. This is no doubt one of the reasons Swift has been praised by a number of music critics and veteran songwriters (Kristofferson among them). If ‘Tim McGraw’ seemed a mere curiosity to me in 2007 when I first heard it, in 2012 it spoke eloquently. But it was not just the personal message that I picked up from it; that identification was also a gateway into appreciation of the song’s technical brilliance (which should have been evident to me all along). In addition to my own lack of vision, it was the aspects of target audience and mediation that had erected a chasm between appreciation and inclusivity.

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In 2012, the Korean singer-songwriter Psy released the song ‘Gangnam Style’ as part of his EP Psy 6, as a single and, more importantly, as a video.[6] The song became the sound (and sight) of the summer as the video went viral, becoming the first to receive over a billion views on YouTube, spawning thousands of response and parody videos and providing a chapter in the evolving global success of K-pop. As numerous commentators pointed out, Psy was quite far from being the typical K-pop star due to his age and physical appearance, yet his music was marketed alongside that of other K-pop idols and often featured guest appearances by younger artists. Where much K-pop relied on a particular sense of coolness and/or cuteness associated with youth, Psy used self-parody and cheesiness to express a rather more farcical image of Korean culture. Age was written into this through Psy’s reference to himself as ‘oppa’ (‘older brother’) in the song’s chorus, underlining the way that K-pop reflects its parent culture by according status to age, celebrating youth while simultaneously presenting it as a transient and inconsequential stage in the life course. But if the viral visuals of ‘Gangnam Style’ were predicated on the Benny Hill-style follies of the buffoonish Psy and on comic timing rather than the perfectly synced choreography of the idol groups, the song’s soundworld had much more in common with K-pop, delivering anthemic crescendos and infectious hooks alongside overdriven, siren-like sequencer patterns, stopping and restarting at strategic moments for sing-alongs, dubstep breaks and dance cues. 

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A few months prior to the release of ‘Gangnam Style’, I had started to take a more than passing interest in K-pop when a friend had introduced me to the catchy, feel-good songs of the Wonder Girls and other acts from the JYP, YG and SM entertainment companies. Shortly afterwards, by chance, I began supervising a doctoral project on K-pop and was soon a regular listener to (and viewer of) music by Big Bang, Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, 2NE1, 4minute and f(x). I became fascinated with the particular ways in which K-pop music was manufactured and marketed, a process which paralleled that found in many other parts of the culture industry past and present but which seemed to be taken to new levels, especially with regard to the training system used for preparing idol bands. K-pop presents its audiences with hyper-technologised voices that border the natural and the unnatural and with bodies and voices that are both real and virtual. On the one hand, we are presented with seemingly impossible, fantastical bodies and voices; on the other, we know that these bodies and voices are the products of rigid discipline and training, of technocosmetic alteration. Real bodies are punished, disciplined and altered in the process of presenting audiovisual fantasies in which all labour is rendered invisible and inaudible. K-pop takes a machinic popworld as its norm and highlights what can become of the individual within that world, sending out messages of empathy and cute-calls for help or attention.

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For me, these aspects of virtuality and technology brought to mind certain strands of posthumanist theory, especially those adopted by writers to discuss vocal techniques in black music and the use of sampled voices in pop music.[7] The posthuman perspective seemed to open the door to interesting questions relevant to K-pop artists and their audiences, not least by challenging critics of the kind of standardised production techniques K-pop is associated with. In a world as codified and rigidified as K-pop, the ways in which audiences individualise their idols has much to tell us about the politics of authenticity.

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But there were problems when it came to engaging with fan discourse, especially that found on the internet, on fan forums, social media and K-pop gossip sites. There was an abundance of material, all too humanist and therefore useful as a counterbalance to Adornian standardisation critiques and posthuman speculations. But lurking here to find out this information, doing one’s (virtual) ethnographic duty, there was a sense of deviance that went further than breaking the ‘rules’ of age appropriacy to hint at issues of scopophilia and media perversion. This was partly down to ways in which juvenilia is factored into the culture, from the cartoon noises accompanying Korean TV programmes and cute visuals adorning fansites to the more general fetishisation of youth and prettiness. K-pop may not toy with Lolita imagery to the extent that its close neighbour J-pop does, but there are clear and ever-present articulations of the allure of youth. The perverted and/or othering gaze of the moviegoer, as theorised by Laura Mulvey and Slavoj Žižek, gets transformed in the age of the passive internet forum viewer into something that carries the threat of going ‘beyond the screen’ into interactivity.[8] Gazing at K-pop videos was one thing; engaging with fan responses was another. I don’t want to dismiss or denigrate the discourse because I’m not convinced by those ‘serious’ commentators who condescendingly mock ‘desperate’ fans lost in the fantasy of idol identification (as if those ‘serious’ commentators were not willingly giving themselves up to the fantasy of authentication when it came to their ‘superior’ tastes). However, I can’t and don’t necessarily want to give an ‘emic’ perspective. No more a Wonderful or a BlackJack than I am a Swiftie, I remain unaccounted for, other, the lurking deviant in the fan forum.[9]

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Perhaps the worryings of a popular music scholar adrift between the exclusive clubs of youth and advanced age are not of any particular interest, especially when the scholar is observing from a position of cultural safety. But there are other issues to note here, including the ways in which notions of fashion and faddishness continue to be used in the area in which I work – academia broadly, popular music studies more specifically – as ways of denigrating or belittling research that does not adhere to particular observers’ ideas of what scholarly work should be and do. It seems to be important to many involved in critical thought (academics, journalists, cultural critics) to denigrate or ironise the ‘fashionable’ and to use the term and its equivalents (faddish, modish, bandwagon-jumping, etc.) as ways of attacking the ideas and methods of others in a rather lazy, non-discursive manner. This tendency is connected to the aforementioned issues of age and appropriacy because of the ways in which fashion is associated with youth and ageing people are associated with a loss of engagement with new trends in popular music.[10]

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Fashion-as-insult gets used in various ways in academic and critical discourse. Following the solipsistic pattern adopted in the foregoing, I will use a few personal anecdotes to briefly block out some of the ground. One involves a history lecturer who, during the course of a job interview, questioned me on the methods and sources I had used in my scholarly work. The tone of the ‘question’ was accusatory; the historian, who had at least scanned as far as my bibliographies, suggested that I was perhaps a victim of fashionable name dropping. Apparently he had been alarmed both by the fact that certain of the names to be found in my work (among them that of Slavoj Žižek) were names that could be found in a lot of other recent work, hence suggesting modishness. Another concern was the amount of sources I was drawing upon, which led to a concern about a lack of joined-up thinking. Historians, he said, were licensed to do this because their discipline required a rich variety of sources. But musicologists? The question was left hanging. My response at the time was to politely indicate the importance of rigour in using sources, though I might equally have spoken of the recognition of the history of ideas or of the fact that Žižek’s work had been available in English for more than twenty years prior to our meeting (making it a rather long-running ‘fashion’) and that, during this time, it had influenced a number of people in a range of disciplines, not least those involved in trying to find ways of connecting our cultural lives with our political situation. This brief semi-exchange was, I feel, indicative of a longer-running and wider debate about faddishness in scholarship and, indeed, about interdisciplinarity, a notion that remains, for all its faddishness in institutional discourse, more of a rhetorical concept than a reality.

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I connected my interview experience to the repeated voicing of concern, in response to work I have published or submitted, over the ways in which high and low registers are seen to mix uneasily. This has manifested itself particularly in wariness over the bringing together of cultural theory – especially that derived from twentieth century continental philosophy – with popular music: Alain Badiou and Brian Massumi with Nina Simone; Jacques Derrida with Víctor Jara and Silvio Rodríguez; Roland Barthes and Jacques Lacan with Amália Rodrigues; Louis Althusser with Iron Maiden (and perhaps, who knows, in future: Paul Ricoeur with Taylor Swift; Katherine Hayles with f(x)?). I do not presume that the connections I have sought have always been successful, but neither have I doubted the reasons for attempting these perspectives at the time of reading, listening, thinking, feeling, speaking and writing. But whether the connections were convincing and productive or not seemed, for some, to be less important than the rebuttal of such methods regardless of result; the problem lay in the very act, the very foolishness, of attempting such connections. In response, I have taken comfort from the work of scholars who have pushed the connections further than I have, producing a kind of musicology that not only merits the name ‘radical’ (of which more below), but also asserts the seriousness (as well as the serious fun) of popular culture.[11] But I have also remained disturbed by the distrust of the popular/mass/commercial/fun/etc. shown by certain thinkers. For such critics, the use of ‘foreign’ theory is tantamount to nonsense.

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While working on an essay on the use of nonsense language in the work of Robert Wyatt, I was led, via the circuitous, spiralling routes research often takes (Zielinski’s anarchaeology) back to the ‘Sokal affair’ of the 1990s and, more specifically, to the delight with which Alan Sokal, the deflator of poststructuralist and postmodernist rhetoric, was quick to put the word ‘nonsense’ into the title of a book he co-authored with fellow physicist Jean Bricmont: not just nonsense, of course, but ‘fashionable nonsense’.[12] This use of ‘nonsense’ as some sort of absolute was interesting for me in light of my Wyatt project because one of the sources I had been using was Gilles Deleuze’s Logic and Sense, a still-useful working-through of the interdependency of sense and nonsense (Deleuze, of course, was one of Sokal and Bricmont’s main targets for ridicule). Such nuanced thinking was alien to Sokal and Bricmont, who, for all their self-confessed rigour, ultimately ran into a problem encountered by many a denouncer, namely that they cannot ultimately account for the fact that others have found meaning in something that they find nonsensical: they can only condemn, disprove and mock. As Elisabeth Roudinesco wryly notes, ‘in opposing a supposedly rationale scientific discourse to relativism, the two scholars fabricate a jargon as incomprehensible as the one they are thrashing’.[13] What are we to make, furthermore, of Richard Dawkins’s support of Sokal’s position, in which Dawkins uses snippets of ‘fashionable nonsense’ to lampoon academics working in the arts and humanities?[14] From the ‘evidence’ gathered here, it appears that all that English Literature and Cultural Studies academics want is to confuse their students and readers. This avowed intention is ‘proven’ via the collation of some decontextualized quotations, cherry picked for technical difficulty. There is no acceptance that these attempts at exploring ideas, these occasional linguistic infelicities, could possibly come out of the messy business of thinking and experimenting, no sense that what can be thought and imagined about the world might occasionally be as important as what can already be found in it. Rather, men such as these would rather shut down speculative debate for fear it might lead to ‘confusion’. Ultimately, the shutting-down of speculative endeavour turns out to be as fundamental as the orthodoxies such writers denounce.

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To bring the foregoing paragraphs together, what grated for the historian was the assumption that the only reason for using Žižek and ‘other such theorists’ (the lumping together is itself amusingly lazy) was ‘fashion’, with no sense that the work might be drawing upon a history of ideas that led back through Žižek to Lacan, Freud, Marx and Hegel, that it might be an attempt at recognising Žižek’s call to examine these legacies in light of the present day and in light of popular culture, the great mirror and crystal ball of the present. What this, and responses by Sokalites, continue to suggest to me is that it is the responses themselves that operate from the perspective of presentism (and, hence, fashion) rather than the works they seek to denounce. This proximity of fashionable-as-accusation and fashionable-in-itself is further evidenced by the paradoxical way in which Žižek’s work is both accused of being fashionable and seen (when it is actually read) as representing a thoroughgoing critique of the fashionable and a defence of old-fashioned ideas and ‘lost causes’. Indeed, in his critique of many of the figures associated with poststructuralism and postmodernism, Žižek has even been compared with Sokal.

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What any of this means for musicology may be uncertain but, to provide one final anecdotal observation, I do recall how, upon the publication of the first call for submissions to Radical Musicology, the word ‘radical’ was understood by some as pertaining to fashion, to being up to date, cutting edge and de rigueur, but was not understood in terms of its own etymology, relating to roots or fundamentals. A fashionable rather than a radical understanding of ‘radical’? Perhaps, but such a misunderstanding was less serious than that which saw the call for radical musicology in terms of exclusivity rather than inclusivity. I raise the foregoing points as a way of briefly challenging such a fundamental misunderstanding. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I want a musicology that embraces the fashionable and the radical but is able to do so without seeing either one as a negative quality. And I feel I want to see long histories, present manifestations, deep time and present experience, the new in the old, research paths that tangle in exhilarating ways as they negotiate the alleyways of time, age, and experience, accidental discoveries, branchings and graftings of knowledge, true interdisciplinarity, ‘happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way’. I wonder at the populist potential of musicology (of academia more generally) and note that populism is generally avoided due to the fear of transience, speculation and experimentation. What, I still wonder, would a genuinely popular popular musicology look like, one that balances seriousness and rigour with fashionable and far-reaching concerns, that does so without the need for othering value judgements or claims to self-authenticity?

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Bibliography

 

Anonymous, ‘Taylor Swift, “Red”: Track-By-Track Review’, Billboard online edition (October 19, 2012), http://www.billboard.com/articles/review/1066798/taylor-swift-red-track-by-track-review.

Auner, Joseph, ‘“Sing It for Me”: Posthuman Ventriloquism in Recent Popular Music’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Vol. 128 No. 1 (2003): 98-122.

Burke, Séan, The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida, 2nd edition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998).

Dawkins, Richard, ‘UPDATE: Fashionable Nonsense?’, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (16 June 2011), http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/637927-update-fashionable-nonsense.

Forman, Murray and Jan Fairley (eds.) special issue of Popular Music, Vol. 31 No. 2, As Time Goes By: Music, Dance and Ageing (May, 2012).

Hepworth, Mike, ‘Ageing and Old Age: Reflections on the Postmodern Life Course’ in Bill Bytheway et al (eds), Becoming and Being Old: Sociological Approaches to Later Life (London: Sage, 1989).

Jennings, Ros and Alison Gardner (eds), ‘Rock On’: Women, Ageing and Popular Music (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012).

Middleton, Richard, Voicing the Popular: On the Subjects of Popular Music (New York and London: Routledge, 2006).

Mowitt, John, Percussion: Drumming, Beating, Striking (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002).

Mulvey, Laura, Visual and Other Pleasures (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989).

Roudinesco, Elisabeth, Why Psyhcoanalysis?, translated by Rachel Bowlby (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).

Salecl, Renata and Slavoj Žižek (eds), Gaze and Voice as Love Objects (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1996).

Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science (New York: Picador, 1998).

Visker, Rudi, ‘Foucaults Anführungszeichen einer Gegenwissenschaft’, in F. Ewald and B. Waldenfels (eds), Speile der Wahrheit, Michel Foucaults Denken (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991).

Weheliye, Alexander, ‘Posthuman Voices in Contemporary Black Popular Music, Social Text Vol. 20 No. 2 (2002): 21-47.

Weheliye, Alexander, Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).

Zielinski, Siegfried, Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means, tr. Gloria Custance (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2008).

 

Discography

 

Psy, ‘Gangnam Style’ (‘강남스타일’), Psy6, Part 1 (싸이6, Part 1) (CD, YG Entertainment, YGK0190, 2012).

Taylor, Swift, ‘22’, on Red (CD, Big Machine/Mercury 3717453, 2012).

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Siegfried Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means, tr. Gloria Custance (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2008), p. 27.

[2] Taylor Swift, ‘22’, on Red (CD, Big Machine/Mercury 3717453, 2012). The song was co-written by Swift and the album’s producers Max Martin and Shellback.

[3] Anonymous, ‘Taylor Swift, “Red”: Track-By-Track Review’, Billboard online edition (October 19, 2012), http://www.billboard.com/articles/review/1066798/taylor-swift-red-track-by-track-review

[4] Zielinski, Deep Time. Zielinski cites the following text as his source: Rudi Visker, ‘Foucaults Anführungszeichen einer Gegenwissenschaft’, in F. Ewald and B. Waldenfels (eds), Speile der Wahrheit, Michel Foucaults Denken (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991).

[5] I use the term ‘mid-life’ rather than ‘middle age’ partly in response to Mike Featherstone and Mike Hepworth’s essay ‘Ageing and Old Age: Reflections on the Postmodern Life Course’ (in Bill Bytheway et al (eds), Becoming and Being Old: Sociological Approaches to Later Life (London: Sage, 1989), pp. 143-57) and partly to bring up associations of mid-life crisis.

[6] Psy, ‘Gangnam Style’ (‘강남스타일’), on Psy6, Part 1 (싸이6, Part 1) (CD, YG Entertainment, YGK0190, 2012).

[7] I’m thinking in particular of the work of Alexander Weheliye. See his ‘Posthuman Voices in Contemporary Black Popular Music, Social Text Vol. 20 No. 2 (2002): 21-47 and Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005). See also Joseph Auner, ‘“Sing It for Me”: Posthuman Ventriloquism in Recent Popular Music’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Vol. 128 No. 1 (2003): 98-122.

[8] Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989); Renata Salecl and Slavoj Žižek (eds), Gaze and Voice as Love Objects (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1996); The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (dir. Sophie Fiennes, UK/Austria/Netherlands, 2006).

[9] ‘Wonderfuls’ is the name used by members of the Wonder Girls’ fanclub, ‘BlackJacks’ by fans of 2NE1. A Swiftie, in case it was not clear from my earlier usage is, in the words of one Urban Dictionary user, ‘A fan of the young country/pop singer/songwriter Taylor Swift’ or, in the words of another, ‘someone who fangirls over Taylor Swift every time they see her or hear her name’. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=swiftie

[10] For further discussion of this area, see Ros Jennings and Alison Gardner (eds), ‘Rock On’: Women, Ageing and Popular Music (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012) and the special issue of Popular Music edited by Murray Forman and Jan Fairley, Vol. 31 No. 2, As Time Goes By: Music, Dance and Ageing (May, 2012).

[11] Here I’m thinking of work such as Richard Middleton’s Voicing the Popular: On the Subjects of Popular Music (New York and London: Routledge, 2006), John Mowitt’s Percussion: Drumming, Beating, Striking (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002) and Weheliye’s Phonographies.

[12] Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science (New York: Picador, 1998).

[13] Elisabeth Roudinesco, Why Psyhcoanalysis?, translated by Rachel Bowlby (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), pp 97-100. For a critique of poststructuralist theories of authorship that is more considered and nuanced than Sokal and Bricmont’s, see Séan Burke, The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida, 2nd edition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998).

[14] Richard Dawkins, ‘UPDATE: Fashionable Nonsense?’, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (16 June 2011), http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/637927-update-fashionable-nonsense.