In celebration of the relaunched, forward-thinking new JPMS, I’d like to skim through some dusty old music books. My current project, a critical guide to American popular music tomes, builds short entries around the authors, artists, and topics that accrued a corpus as far back as William Billings’s 1770 New-England Psalm-Singer. If my findings are any indication, a journal pursuing non-academic perspectives will discover not just different contributors but a different balance of expertise and guesswork, different interpretive moves and working archives, different glee at different moments in song.

Most enduring work in the literature of American popular music, meaning both the academic sense of...

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