Voice, place and genre in popular music performance

Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Sociolinguistics, 2011, 15 (5), pp. 573 - 602
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Earlier sociolinguistic studies have conceptualised popular song as a field of phonological variation where singers do or do not maintain features of their national or regional accents in singing. The present paper explores a wider agenda for the sociolinguistics of popular song, theorised as a diverse field of performance organised according to genre. Following initiatives in the sociology of popular music (particularly Simon Frith's research), voice is interpreted as the repertoire of meaning-making options available to performers. Voice subsumes dialect indexicality, but also the management of singer identity and singer-audience relations through the performance of lyrics, rhythmic and bodily modalities. Place is understood as the specific socio-cultural contexts that are explicitly or implicitly voiced, including contexts of performance and reception. By performing within or against generically structured stylistic norms, performers construct and disseminate different vernacular values and identities. Live tracks from three different, broadly-defined genres are considered in detail classic rock and roll (Chuck Berry's Maybellene), folk/country (James Taylor's Copperline), and punk rock (the Sex PistolsJohnny B. Goode)
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