Crossover Fatigue: The Persistence of Gender at Motown Records

Taylor & Francis (Routledge): SSH Titles
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Feminist Media Studies, 2012, 14 (1), pp. 90 - 105
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This article examines the cultural politics of “crossover” at Motown Records, focusing on the relationship between genre, gender, and career longevity. Beginning with the Supremes’ covers albums in the mid-1960s, the article links notions of musical originality to commercial logics of publishing, gendered divisions of labour, and racialised channels of record distribution. It also traces the rise of the celebrity songwriter-producer in soul, including artists like Isaac Hayes, Norman Whitfield, and Stevie Wonder, who fit a new mould of artistic authenticity that clashed with the carefully manicured performances of 1960s “girl pop.” The professional mobility afforded to men in both rock and r&b should prompt media scholars to consider the temporal dimensions of artist trajectories in the music industry, and taking the constraints on girl group singers seriously allows for reflection on (gendered) music industry knowledge about which audiences matter and for how long.
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