This article investigates representations of gender and work in the hit 2016 song “Rockabye” by Clean Bandit featuring Sean Paul and Anne-Marie in relation to a new orientation toward care labor and feminine performance we call “feminist realism.” Feminist realism, we argue, is a sensibility that calls attention to the disproportionate labor entailed, and risk undertaken, by performances of femininity, while despairing of structural fixes for these problems. The article assesses these issues of gender, sex and work in relation to music and dance in the “Rockabye” song and music video, arguing that the song’s depictions of exploited feminine and reproductive labor, reflected in its Nordic-British-Jamaican nexus of production, provide a particularly insightful articulation of feminist realism; we also analyze fan reviews to argue that this message resonated with audiences. Finally the article explores Sean Paul’s role as a featured artist on the track and video, drawing out the relationship between his attentiveness to the unsung labor of Jamaican musicians in creating the contemporary dance-pop scene and his support for similarly undervalued women in service work in their “daily struggle” for survival.
Daily struggle: Gender, work and feminist realism in Clean Bandit, Sean Paul, and Anne-Marie’s “Rockabye”
Owen Coggins is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Social & Political Sciences at Brunel University London, investigating ambiguity, marginal religiosity and ideology in black metal music. Owen’s monograph Mysticism, Ritual and Religion in Drone Metal (Bloomsbury Academic 2018) won the 2019 IASPM Book Prize, and he is working on a book with Deirdre Morgan about folk instruments in global metal music.
Molly Geidel is a senior lecturer in 20th century US cultural history at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Peace Corps Fantasies: How Development Shaped the Global Sixties (2015). She is working on two books, one on documentary film and development in the Americas, and the other on the counterinsurgent girl.
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Owen Coggins, Molly Geidel; Daily struggle: Gender, work and feminist realism in Clean Bandit, Sean Paul, and Anne-Marie’s “Rockabye”. Journal of Popular Music Studies 1 September 2022; 34 (3): 59–79. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2022.34.3.59
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