Seeing pop music journalism as a form of cultural criticism
Pop Music and the Press
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edited by Steve Jones
Since the 1950s, writing about popular music has become a staple of popular culture. Rolling Stone, Vibe, and The Source as well as music columns in major newspapers target consumers who take their music seriously. Rapidly proliferating fanzines, websites, and internet discussion groups enable virtually anyone to engage in popular music criticism. Until now, however, no one has tackled popular music criticism as a genre of journalism with a particular history and evolution.
Pop Music and the Press looks at the major publications and journalists who have shaped this criticism, influencing the public's ideas about the music's significance and quality. The contributors to the volume include academics and journalists; several wear both hats, and some are musicians as well. Their essays illuminate the complex relationships of the music industry, print media, critical practice, and rock culture. (And they repeatedly dispel the notion that being a journalist is the next best thing to being a rock star.)
"Pop Music and the Press will be a necessary addition to the collection of anyone interested in the study of popular music. These essays, written from a variety of academic disciplines and perspectives, explore and even sometimes capture the variability, the passion, and the frustration of writing and reading music journalism. This book really does add something to the mix that is popular music studies."
"Warning, my people (that is to say, rock and rap critics): read these pages and find yourselves subject to all-too-partial observation, someone else's critical agenda, and a bit of misplaced envy. Seem familiar? You've been doing it to musicians for years. And now the tables are turned..."
"A compilation of essays from scholars and professional music critics, this is a highly academic look at the practice of music criticism, the craft's brief history, and the trends that shape the opinions of American and British music writers. While the history lesson and excerpts by highly regarded protocritics like Lester Bangs and Robert Christgau are enjoyable, the book truly shines when it examines ongoing industry issues such as giving equal opportunity to women musicians and how to cover properly the death of a musical legend. Editor Jones (communications, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago) and his contributors aren't afraid to criticize the critics, but in doing so they sometimes sink to the methods they're denouncing. Missing are in-depth meditations on the importance of underground music fanzines and the sudden rise of Internet rock criticism. Overall, however, this book provides a thought-provoking and inspiring look at the practice of music criticism."
"This fascinating new volume...fill[s] a significant gap in popular music scholarship...the book is an essential text for any scholar of popular music....a major contribution to the academic literature on popular music in part because it provides a foundation, heretofore absent, for future investigations of the world of music journalism and the cultural significance of the same."
Read "Talk About Pop Music," a review from Columbia's Free Times, 25 September 2002, written by Dan Cook (pdf).
Part I: Institutions and History
Part II: Discourses
Part III: Case Studies
Steve Jones is Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Among his books are CyberSociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community (editor) and Rock Formation: Popular Music, Technology, and Mass Communication.
Contributors: Jeff Chang, Martin Cloonan, Kevin Featherly, Mark Fenster, Simon Frith, Gestur Gudmundsson, Joli Jensen, Brenda Johnson-Grau, Holly Kruse, Ulf Lindberg, Timothy M. Matyjewicz, Sharon R. Mazzarella, Kembrew McLeod, Morten Michelsen, Chris Nelson, Robert B. Ray, Thomas Swiss, Hans Weisethaunet, and the editor.
In the series
Sound Matters, edited by Michael Jarrett.
Using music as the entry point for cultural analysis, books in the series Sound Matters, edited by Michael Jarrett, seek to articulate the values, beliefs, and dreams of the societies that create it. This series invites project proposals whose interdisciplinary approaches to music and cultural analysis will result in innovative, provocative, and accessible results.