At the time we wrote this Editors' Note, Lil Nas X's “Old Town Road” was in its record-setting nineteenth straight week atop the Billboard Hot 100. This song's unprecedented success was made possible, at least in part, by Lil Nas X's mastery of memes and video-based social media. Wayne Marshall talks about this new dimension of popular music's social media ecology in his contribution to this issue's Amplifier section. Studying the circulation of black social dances, such as the Floss and the Milly Rock, on the massively popular interactive online game Fortnite, Marshall raises several concerns about the meme-like circulation of black dance on social media, such as cultural appropriation, digital blackface, and the use of dance-memes in gamergate-style bullying but ultimately remains optimistic about the promise of this evolving dimension of popular musical culture. Amplifier's artist feature focuses on Korean hip hop. Myoung-Sun Song leads a roundtable with Korean rappers and label owners MC Meta, Tiger JK, Deepflow, The Quiett, Nucksal, and Zico. In this wide-ranging conversation, they discuss everything from relationships among Korean, Japanese, and American hip hop, to creative methodologies, to the evolution of the Korean hip hop scene.
Field Notes begins with a scholarly roundtable convened by Jake Johnson on the relationship between musical theater studies and popular music studies, which, as the title suggests, may appear to be “divided by a common language.” Contributors consider how issues such as authenticity, genre, identity, boundary policing within popular music studies and guilty pleasures work to divide and unite musical theater and popular music, both as cultural phenomena and scholarly fields. Instead of From The Vault, this issue features a review essay and a response to that review: Matthew B. Karush reviews Michael Denning's Noise Uprising, and Denning responds to Karush's skepticism regarding the book's account of the political impacts of early twentieth-century phonographic music.
This issue's peer-reviewed articles all address issues of identity and musical values, making a slow crossfade along racial and gender lines from Chicano songs to Latinx Rocabilly to white outlaw country to the mostly teen girl and mostly white members of the Frank Sinatra fan clubs. Richard Cruz Davilla's “Authenticity and Authentication in ‘Chicano’” argues that Rumel Fuentes's cover of Doug Sahm's “Chicano” is an “endorsement and authentication” of Saham's original, whose authenticity is in question because Saham is not himself Chicano but sings the lyrics from a first-person Chicano perspective. Shifting focus from individual Chicanos to a Los Angeles Latinx subculture, Kimberly Kittari's “Viva La Razabilly: The Cultural Politics of Latinxo Rockabilly” studies the way Southern California Latinxs are essential to sustaining the rockabilly scene and use the genre as a way to celebrate their Latinidad. In “Country Music for People Who Don't Like Country Music: Sturgill Simpson and Outlaw Privilege,” Adam Hollowell and Alexandria Miller use the historical case of Sturgill Simpson to reflect on the politics of contemporary country music; they argue Simpson's use of outsider posturing to double down on country music's insider-ist exclusions prefigures the newer, white masculinities expressed in country music today. Finally, Katie Beisel Hollenbach's “Teenage Agency and Popular Music Reception in World War II-Era Frank Sinatra Fan Clubs” analyzes the WWII-era archives of the American Frank Sinatra fan club to show how fan club activities, because they were derided as teen girl frivolity, provided the members safe and open spaces to discuss and negotiate tough issues, such as sexuality or American identity during wartime.
The book review section begins with Anna E. Nekola's survey of three titles on Christian popular music: Mark Porter's Contemporary Worship Music and Everyday Musical Lives, Ari Y. Kelman's Shout to the Lord: Making Worship Music in Evangelical America, and Monique M. Ingalls's Singing the Congregation: How Contemporary Worship Music Forms Evangelical Community. According to Nekola, the books survey Christian popular music in the US, Canada, and the UK, and examine issues from the perspectives of musicians, congregations, and critical social theorists, and thus provide an evocative snapshot of this subfield of popular music studies. D. Gilson reviews former JPMS co-editor Karen Tongson's Why Karen Carpenter Matters and finds Tongson's mutually informative use of personal experience and critical theory a model for popular music scholarship. Reviewing Nina Sun Eidsheim's The Race of Sound: Listening, Timbre, and Vocality in African American Music, Nicole Furlonge highlights Eidsheim's theorization of how we can learn to listen in more racially just ways. In his review of Joan Morgan's She Begat This: 20 Years of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Elliott Powell shows how Morgan's writing performs her central claim about Hill's album: its multivocality and heterogeneity “begat” contemporary hip hop feminism. Thomas Austin Graham argues that Florence Dore's Novel Sounds: Southern Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll's analysis of the indirect presence of rock music in the work of mid-century white southern writers, such as William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, contributes to the growing body of work that studies the ways Southern US writers and musicians both crossed and policed the color line in the 1950s. Finally, Lorena Alvarado reviews Licia Fiol-Matta's The Great Woman Singer: Gender and Voice in Puerto Rican Music; the book's concept of the “thinking voice” thematizes how mid-century Puerto Rican women vocalists theorized gendered racial oppression.
Collecting media ranging from video games to snail mail fan club correspondence, genres from Latinx Rockabilly to Korean hip hop to Anglophone musical theater, and disciplines from sound studies to ethnomusicology to English, this issue exemplifies popular music studies' ability to bring together things people usually keep in separate boxes … which, if “Old Town Road” is any index, may be the future of pop music itself.
Robin James and Eric Weisbard