It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since we started our terms as JPMS co-editors. In that time, we’ve tried to both stress the interdisciplinary character of popular music studies and to foreground work by and about people who are traditionally underrepresented in the field. This issue is a solid reflection of those priorities.
Before we get to that, we’d like to welcome a new member to the JPMS team. Brian Wright from Fairmont State University has joined us as the JPMS web editor. He’ll be in charge of the JPMS page on the IASPM-US site and JPMS social media. We’re excited to have him on board!
The issue kicks off with a contribution from a performer. Indie-folk musician Peter Stampfel tells us about his project that traces the history of pop music in the twentieth century by performing and recording covers of one song from each year, such as “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” for 1908 and “Wannabe” for 1996. We round out Amplifier with a piece by Eva Pensis on the music in the TV series Pose, which has been widely acclaimed for its use of trans actors in portraying the 1980s ballroom scene.
Field Notes is all about the remix. Reflecting on the process of making an audiobook version of his scholarly monograph on Thai pop music, Ben Tausig writes about the promises and challenges in producing pop music scholarship that treats sound and text as “coequal partners.” Maxwell Williams and Chris Nickell, reporting back from the 2018 Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) meeting, consider how the tensions between current trends in pop music studies and ethnomusicology’s traditional commitments to matters such as folk cultures and ethnography may be used to shake SEM out of some bad habits. Finally, From The Vault follows Mike Berry as he revisits Erik Neilsen’s “My President is Black, My Lambo’s Blue”: The Obamafication of Rap?”. Berry’s piece samples and remixes Neilsen’s original in order to reflect on the “Trumpification of Rap.”
The issue’s peer-reviewed articles look into a variety of geographies and technologies. The first two studies pay special attention to gender. Catherine Provenzano’s “Making Voices: The Gendering of Pitch Correction and The Auto-Tune Effect in Contemporary Pop Music” examines how the popularization of digital pitch correction in twenty-first century pop music affects the way we racialize and gender voices and judge the labor of singing; as futuristic as these voices may sound, they are often treated and perceived in conventionally patriarchal and white supremacist terms. In “‘I’m Not the Drummer’s Girlfriend’: ‘Merch Girls,’ Tour’s Misogynist Mythos, and the Gendered Dynamics of Live Music’s Backline Labor,” John Villanova uses the case of the “merch girl” to reflect on women’s prescribed role in the music industry, especially when it comes to touring. While “Hate and War” might be the state of current US-China trade relations, Jian Xiao and Shuwen Qu’s “Performance as Intervention: Understanding the practices of Chinese punk musicians” studies contemporary Chinese punk musicians’ use of performance to challenge and carve out alternatives to state power within China. George Villanueva’s “Chitown loves you: Hip hop’s alternative spatializing narratives to Trump’s hateful campaign rhetoric about Chicago” turns our attention to the other side of that authoritarian spat; this piece studies how Chicago rappers Vic Mensa, Chance the Rapper, and Jamilla Woods both critique Trump’s racist depictions of Chicago and work with organizers to build institutional supports for the city’s black and brown youth. Rounding out this section is Pat O’Grady’s “The Master of Mystery: Technology, Legitimacy and Status in Audio Mastering,” which argues that industry discussions of audio mastering represent the practice as “mysterious” in order to preserve its professionalization and prestige.
The Book Review segment opens with a review essay: Paul Rekret thinks Mark Abele’s Groove: An Aesthetic of Measured Time with Fumi Okiji’s Jazz as Critique: Adorno and Black Expression Revisited. Both books, he argues, hold apparently contradictory premises1—Adornian methods and the “radical emancipatory possibilities of pop and jazz music”—together to develop new methods of working through Adorno. In her review of Leigh H. Edwards’s Dolly Parton: Gender and Country Music, Cecilia Ticchi explains how the book positions Parton as a performer whose continual self-reinventions simultaneously affirm and undermine discourses of both femininity and authenticity. Steve Waksman reviews Philip Gentry’s What Will I Be: American Music and Cold War Identity, which analyzes musics ranging from Doris Day to John Cage to South Pacific and Hamilton to argue for the historical and ongoing salience of social identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, to American popular music and politics. Reviewing Shane Vogel’s Stolen Time: Black Fad Performance and the Calypso Craze, Gayle Wald argues that the book’s titular concept of “stolen time” makes important interventions in debates about Afro-pessimism. In the final essay, David Dunaway reviews Jesse Jarnow’s Wasn’t That A Time: The Weavers, the Blacklist, and the Battle for the Soul of America.
All four sections of this issue feature works by a wide range of pop music writers, using a variety of methods and studying a huge diversity of popular musics. The pieces reflect on the past and the present, as well as diversity and interdisciplinarity, a commitment that we intend to carry into the Journal’s future.