Keynote speakers will include Lydia Goehr, Robin James, Tamara Levitz, and Gary Tomlinson. A full list of our speakers (including scholars in musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, philosophy, art history, media studies, and literary studies) is included below.
This conference is co-sponsored by Stony Brook’s Departments of Music and Philosophy. It has been organized in collaboration with the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the AMS and with the assistance of the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the RMA.
The event is free and open to the public. If you have any questions, please contact Stephen Decatur Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony Abiragi, UC Boulder
James Currie, University at Buffalo
Murray Dineen, University of Ottawa
Ryan Dohoney, Northwestern
Benjamin Downs, Stony Brook
Denise Elif Gill, Washington University, St. Louis
Lydia Goehr, Columbia University
Ted Gordon, University of Chicago
Roger Mathew Grant, University of Oregon
Mack Hagood, Miami University, Ohio
Robert Harvey, Stony Brook
Christopher Haworth, University of Calgary
Aaron Hayes, Stony Brook
Berthold Hoeckner, University of Chicago
Don Ihde, Stony Brook
Robin James, UNC, Charlotte
Adam Knowles, New School
Sophie Landres, Stony Brook
Tamara Levitz, UCLA
Sara Marcus, Princeton
Eduardo Mendieta, Stony Brook
John Melillo, University of Arizona
Julie Beth Napolin, New School
Tony Perman, Grinnell
Deniz Peters, Music and Performing Arts, Graz
Emily Richmond Pollock, MIT
Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Bowdoin
André Redwood, Notre Dame
Martin Scherzinger, NYU
Lorenzo Simpson, Stony Brook
Chris Stover, New School
Kris Trujillo, UC Berkeley
Gary Tomlinson, Yale
Daniel Villegas Vélez, University of Pennsylvania
Dan Wang, University of Chicago
Emily Wilbourne, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
Peter Winkler, Stony Brook
Jessica Wiskus, Duquesne
Bud Powell was not only one of the greatest bebop pianists of all time, he stands as one of the twentieth century’s most dynamic and fiercely adventurous musical minds. His expansive musicianship, riveting performances, and inventive compositions expanded the bebop idiom and pushed jazz musicians of all stripes to higher standards of performance. Yet Powell remains one of American music’s most misunderstood figures, and the story of his exceptional talent is often overshadowed by his history of alcohol abuse, mental instability, and brutalization at the hands of white authorities. In this first extended study of the social significance of Powell’s place in the American musical landscape, Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. shows how the pianist expanded his own artistic horizons and moved his chosen idiom into new realms. Illuminating and multi-layered, The Amazing Bud Powell centralizes Powell’s contributions as it details the collision of two vibrant political economies: the discourses of art and the practice of blackness.
Nate Sloan: This book began as your dissertation. What drew you to Powell at that time?
Guthrie Ramsey: I had had an interest in Bud Powell as a performing pianist. You come up with your list of musicians that you want to emulate, and Powell was one of them. When I matriculated to the University of Michigan and began this life as a scholar I really didn’t know what I wanted to work on, but at that time jazz was a viable subject for a dissertation at Michigan because of an eminent scholar of American music, Richard Crawford, and at that point he had advised the dissertation of Mark Tucker on Duke Ellington, Jeffrey Magee on Fletcher Henderson, Jeff Taylor on Earl “Fatha” Hines; [laughs] and I guess I was continuing in that tradition of jazz pianists being examined under Rich Crawford.
NS: What made you feel like this was the time now, in 2014, to turn this into a book?
GR: I wrote another book before this one, Race Music: Black Culture from Bebop to Hip Hop, and that is more expansive than jazz; it takes blues, rhythm and blues, gospel and hip hop, and I wanted to produce that book first because as a young scholar I wanted to build a reputation on a breadth of popular music styles instead of one. When I moved back to Bud Powell I believe I had learned a lot more about what would make it a stronger book by that time and so when I returned to him l I just felt like I had more chops to deal with all the issues that his life entails.
NS: I find it refreshing that your book is not just a chronology, but an assessment of who this figure was and what his importance was. One thing that’s powerful about your writing is that it doesn’t avoid Powell’s mental illness, a significant part of his career. Did you have any precedents for writing about jazz and mental illness?
GR: I relied on the research of other people who had written about mental illness more generally in the African American male population. What I learned from dealing with Powell is that you have to approach the subject both realistically and sensitively. You have to think about what it means for a person who happens to be young and black at midcentury, what it means to be both somewhat disabled psychologically and yet, at the same time, to believe that the music you play and write was your main mode of communicating what that meant. I tried to treat him not only as a working musician, as a laborer in the culture industry, but to think about the fact that he had a family, he had personal relationships, he had colleagues. I wanted to show how he interacted with them in the context of being a hugely talented musician, and someone who had to live a life being somewhat impaired.
NS: Reading your book got me thinking: do you hear references to his mental instability in his musical output, whether in the music itself, or even in the song titles, like “Un Poco Loco,” or “Dance of the Infidels,” or “Wail.” I wonder if you read those as references to his condition.
GR: Well, I’m not sure who titled pieces. Sometimes the titles come from other people. I think they were meant to signify that [Powell's mental illness], but I typically tried to think about what the music is doing structurally and how that signifies in the world, and using the titles of songs only as a departure or some useful reference for listeners who are reviving the music. I don’t see it necessarily all the time or unilaterally as a prompt from the musician him or herself.
NS: Could those titles be interpreted as a marketing tool? Because some of his song titles are strikingly different from those of his colleagues.
GR: I think about it as more of an introspection, and as someone who was perhaps deeply philosophical. That’s what I personally get from the music, and I certainly wrote from my own interpretive stance: I think is he is person who had to learn how to think because to he had to interact with a world that was not always kind to him, not always understanding or patient with him.
NS: It’s shocking to read about his treatment at the hands of psychiatric institutions. I couldn’t help but think as I was reading: if he hadn’t been black, would his treatment have been different? Would the reception of his fractured genius have been different?
GR: I think once you look at the social evidence and the fact that he was living under Jim Crow; this was at a moment when things were taking a change. But, it is what it was [laughs]. In terms of whether a non-black person would have been treated differently, I had to depend on others’ research; who talked about the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia among white middle class women. The diagnoses tended to move around to different demographics, different populations at different historical moments. So not taking the term schizophrenic as being a stable one, but one that means different things at different times for different people.
NS: There’s an aspect of the book that I found very interesting, which was learning of Powell’s classical education and his abiding interest in classical music. I wonder if you hear a classical influence on his compositions, or his improvisatory technique?
GR: Yes, I do. I think that while there are lots of ways to gain technical facility on a instrument, the musicians like Powell who did study Western art music and piano literature, I personally hear—even in his articulation, the sweeping grandeur of some of his statements—much derived from that training. Not only from that training, but also how he was able to couple with, and play with, the popular styles of the time. I really see it as being an amalgamation of trainings, let’s call it.
NS: Can you expand on his friendship with, and his mentorship by, Thelonius Monk? I wonder if you detect an influence of Monk on Powell, or maybe even vice versa.
GR: I certainly hear the influence join from Monk to Powell, because I think of Thelonius Monk as being a master of harmony, and that he was able to take the language of popular music of his moment and infuse it with an air of experimentalism. I look at Monk as the same thing with blues based culture as was Powell with the bebop language: that he had to a certain degree inherited, and to a certain degree helped codify. I definitely hear it on the level of harmonic expression, the influence on Powell from Monk.
NS: I totally see that. It’s fascinating to read this book and see him not only interacting with Monk but with Tatum himself, and there’s that amazing anecdote about him and Tatum getting into a cutting contest and Powell proving he can use his left hand by only playing with it the next night, and even maiming his right. I mean, this sense of competition and one-upmanship is kind of stunning, and you describe it as Powell taking it further than anyone else.
GR: [Laughs]. I’ll say.
NS: To the point that he’s disturbing his friends and manager.
GR: Well, what I think we can concentrate on is that this shows where this heroic, masculinist, virtuosic display, if left unchecked, where it can go. And particularly in the hands of someone who has a proven track record of having some emotional and psychological instability.
NS: One thing I find really compelling about Powell’s trio records is his interplay with his drummers, especially, and I’m curious if in your research you found that there was one drummer in particular that he really liked working with, was there a whole stable of drummers who he enjoyed playing with?
GR: There are not many records of Bud Powell’s words out there, that I know of. I know that there were musicians who were particularly sensitive to him, like Max Roach, first and foremost, and throughout his life there was an empathy between them, not just musically but interpersonally. I think that tends to be true with musicians who knew Bud Powell before he had all his struggles and developed all of these issues, and I sense from them some kind of perfection around him, that he was—and this is what I really wanted to come across in the book—is how much his colleagues really cared about him, and how hard it was on him and all his family members when he started having all these issues and troubles, and I look at whatever they were doing on the bandstand as how they felt about him when they weren’t playing music. I also know that there were musicians who claimed—for instance, George Duvivier—that he did not know Bud Powell at all but just had an extended gig with him. That he was unknowable. That, in fact, his personal demeanor was not interactive with everybody.
NS: Thinking about the larger continuum of this music, I wonder how you see Powell’s influence on 21st-century jazz musicians. Is he someone who is still studied in jazz institutions? Are there specific pianists working today who are directly inspired by his craft?
GR: I hear at least 99% percent of the realm of what we call jazz piano today as influenced by Bud Powell’s centering of the pianist in this avant-garde experimental musical culture of the mid-20th-century, and how he’s on par with what would be expected of a saxophonist or a trumpeter in the context of those small bebop ensembles. And I feel that influence even today.
NS: In the first few chapters of your book you paint a narrative of bebop that beautifully complicates the narrative sometimes put forth in a very facile and reductive way in textbooks. I’d love to hear you talk for a second about how your understanding of Powell’s life and work helps give us a better understanding of the bebop movement.
GR: I think the movement—since we’re calling it that, I kind of inherited that word—I’d like to have more nuanced pictures of the musicians who contributed to this style of music. They led complex personal and professional lives, they were individuals. Some had longer lives than others; some were able to successfully deal with the underside of the jazz life, able to craft a living in an industry that was stacked against your well-being, able to deal with the challenges of trying to be an artist in a Jim Crow society that would have preferred you be a shoeshiner. A lot of different discourses that I’m hoping to illuminate in the book are about who these musicians were, what their aspirations were, how many obstacles there were to them in creating the creative life that they wanted to have. And then, ultimately, I want to talk about it as a story of victory, of creative victory, among harsh circumstances. We want to have our masterpieces without the messiness of the everyday lives that those masterpieces represent, and I suppose what I wanted to achieve in this book is to show how we can be both enamored of what they created but then also respect the process they went through to create it.
Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. A widely published writer, he is the author of Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (University of California Press, 2003). It was named outstanding book of the year by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. His next book, Who Hears Here?: Essays on Black Music History and Society, a mid-career collection of his essays is also forthcoming. He was recipient of the Lowens Award from the Society for American Music for best article on an American music topic in 2001.
Nate Sloan is a PhD candidate in musicology at Stanford University, writing a dissertation on the Cotton Club. His research interests include jazz, Tin Pan Alley, and urban geography. He is an Associate Professor at the California Jazz Conservatory. As a composer, he has written music and lyrics for two musicals. Recently, he scored the film Slomo, which won Best Short Documentary at SXSW 2013 and was shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination. He is also one-half of the guerrilla theater production, The Gideon and Hubcap Show, which performs exclusively in living rooms.
*This review was co-authored by Jess Dilday and Mike D’Errico
The IASPM-US conference’s DJ night this year was definitely one to remember. We had a diverse group of DJ/scholars dropping a variety of beats, and enthusiastic crowd participation created the perfect storm on the dance floor, which didn’t let up until the bar closed at 2 AM. We even had an MC.
The event was held at the Station—the bar section of Southern Rail, a restaurant, bar, and music venue built to pay homage to the historical train station in Carrboro, North Carolina. The vintage feel of the creaky wooden dance floor lent an eclectic air to the night’s festivities, with broken records sitting alongside a stuffed deer head lining the wall behind the DJ booth. Early in the night, the IASPM crowd filled the floor, only to be later flooded with a diverse mix of UNC students and Carrboro townies strolling in to celebrate both St. Patrick’s Day and the start of Spring Break in the research triangle.
The event was hosted by resident DJ PlayPlay—North Carolina native, key player in the Durham club scene, and assistant web editor for IASPM-US. As she was setting up, a man following the moniker “Chocolate Drop” approached her and requested she play some “old school.” As a sound check, she dropped The Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache,” and the party popped from there. The IASPM crowd, already eager for the music to begin, began to dance, while PlayPlay handed the mic to Chocolate Drop, who proceeded to rock it with a brilliant freestyle to successfully hype the crowd early on.
With the energy created by Chocolate Drop, IASPM-US graduate student representative Benjamin Court—a.k.a. Supreme Court—started out the night with his first foray into DJing, dropping the Talking Heads, ESG, and numerous gems from the New Wave, to win over the crowd’s mix of intellectuals and weekenders alike. It was a solid entrée into the DJ booth for Court—a child of the Rochester punk scene, most often seen performing shock and awe noise sets in LA art galleries and dive bars with shirtless compatriot John Horner.
Next up was Bit Faker, the alias of UCLA PhD student and film producer Tiffany Naiman. Rocking a Native Instruments S2 digital setup, she rolled out an immaculate selection of late 80s/early 90s industrial and EBM, including “The Most Wonderful Girl” by Lords of Acid, among other 303 house favorites. Her set was certainly a highlight for the organization’s president, Robert Fink, who was drenched in sweat and grinning in delight at this point. Meanwhile, other conference attendees captured the moment on their phones, snapping picks, tweeting, and shooting Vines of the event.
When Mike D’Errico—a.k.a. The Attic Bat a.k.a. The Los Angeles Grime Sniper a.k.a. Bat God—hopped behind the booth and dropped back-to-back trap music via Beyonce and Miley, everyone who wasn’t already dancing rushed the floor. Trap music is the genre most of the Station regulars are familiar with, as most of the resident DJs play at least some half-time instrumentals during their four-hour sets.
Luis-Manuel Garcia (LMGM) transitioned with an all-vinyl, classic turntable setup, packing the floor with a disco and house set that did not disappoint. Having carried a crate of records from Berlin while rocking a faulty house mixer at the Station, LMGM’s set represented the “vinyl is final” aesthetic well, with every blend hyping the Station even further.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the night was the 90-minute dub-for-dub vinyl battle by former DJ trio in the research triangle—DJ PlayPlay, Doctor Dakar (Ali Colleen Neff) and Fifi Hi-fi (Sarah Honer). Especially impressive were the smooth and consistent blends between tracks reflecting widely disparate tempos and stylistic feels, as well as the sense of play and experimentation imbued in the crate digging sensibilities of all three DJs. With each mix, the self-proclaimed “Red Wine Society” challenged each other further, lending an interactive and spontaneous feel to the already exciting night.
To close out the night, PlayPlay transitioned to a vinyl Serato set up for a juke, footwork, and jungle set. As was the case during the vinyl battle, it was the improvisatory character combined with a penchant for taking risks that defined (and continues to define) PlayPlay’s style. Earlier on that day, The Attic Bat asked her what she was planning on spinning that night, and she told him that she hadn’t even worked on it yet, and that she would probably just spend some time scouring Soundcloud for some “surprises” before the gig. The result was a jittery apex of mashed up classics combined with lo-fi Soundcloud demos and remixes, constantly pushing the intensity upwards of 180 BPM. An expert crowd-reader with a solid skillset in both “analog” and “digital” techniques, PlayPlay was the perfect host for the second installment of what proves to be an exciting and enduring tradition for the IASPM-US annual conference.
Edited by Mark Pedelty and Kristine Weglarz, Political Rock (Ashgate, 2013) examines how—through their careers and oeuvre—a diverse group of musicians have expressed political statements, invoked messages of protest, supported social movements, and commented on issues related to class, gender, environmentalism, imperialism, and war. The collection’s editors and authors incorporate autobiographical reflection, song analysis, live performance interpretation, and critical theory to address the contributions of such “political rockers” as Peter Gabriel, Pearl Jam, The Clash, and Ani DiFranco. In this interview, Mark Pedelty and Kristine Weglarz discuss the book’s inspirations, intentions, and contributions.
Daniel Simmons: First off, how did you decide on the photograph of Patti Smith for the front cover of this book?
Mark Pedelty: We wanted to find either a good photo of a musician featured in one of the essays or something else that would capture the idea of political rock visually. A few years ago I performed with a drummer, Randy Jezierski, whose partner, Lorraine Mikolon (Lori), had traveled with bands in the 70’s and 80’s as a photographer. Her archive includes photos of the The Clash, Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick, and others. Really amazing backstage pictures and onstage images. We thought that the photo of Patti Smith performing in front of an American flag was visually stunning, and that it might quickly orient the reader to the topic.
Daniel: From the perspective of editors seeking to define and exemplify the wide range of “political rock,” which artists not written about in this anthology’s chapters do you wish you could have included, and why?
Mark: Great question regarding omission and commission. We came up with a very extensive list of rock acts, those that have the reputation of being “political,” so as to avoid the more typical “all music is political” move. Some music is coded and interpreted as being more immediately relevant to power, justice, inequality, and human stakes in general, so we created the list with those parameters in mind. Then we put out calls for authors to join us and to choose an artist that has mattered greatly to them in some form or fashion. We took the scholar-fan vantage point very seriously. We let potential authors know that if they had someone in mind that was not on the list, but fit the basic criteria (political rock), that we’d be very open to expanding it.
There is also the matter of page length. The publisher asked us to limit the book to about 200 pages and 10 chapters, give or take. We ended up with 223 pages and 11 chapters.
Hopefully, the Introduction speaks to the question of omission. We tried to fill in some blanks via the Intro, but also asked forgiveness for leaving out some very obvious acts. For example, if this were an extensive history vs. a set of biographical case studies, Bruce Springsteen would be an essential addition. Fortunately, most political rock luminaries have been covered elsewhere, so we have attempted to cite the most influential works on the topic, such as Ray Pratt’s Rhythm and Resistance. Pratt does an excellent job with Springsteen, for example.
Kristine Weglarz: I would have loved to include a chapter on System of a Down. Even though Rage Against the Machine have had a few small reunion shows, and Tom Morello still tours, for me, no other band but System of a Down embodies the same spirited use of music videos, lyrics, and the creation of means for fans to productively engage in political and social causes.
Daniel: Your introduction argues that “life, lyric, sound and movement are integrally connected” (15). The majority of these chapters provide cogent analyses of political rock lyrics, along with musicians’ actions and affiliations with political groups, organizations, and movements; however, minimal attention is given to how the music actually sounds. With that being said, Kristine’s chapter on Pearl Jam analyzes the band’s theatrical performance of “Bushleaguer,” while Michael LeVan’s commentary on Rage Against the Machine briefly interprets Tom Morello’s guitar noises. Why have scholars of political rock, folk, and especially, rap, focused so much on lyrics instead of on tropes of protest and social statement embedded within instrumental sounds and musical techniques? Free Jazz criticism, particularly Frank Kofsky’s Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (written at the very end of the 1960s), focused strictly on musical tropes, techniques, and sounds (though of course, by examining Free Jazz, Kofsky analyzed a genre largely devoid of lyrics).
Mark: I think there are several reasons for the lyrical emphasis in political rock analysis and the greater attention to other sonic qualities in jazz. Of course, much of the writing in rock studies is focused on sonic matters like timbre and rhythm, using descriptors and analytical frameworks borrowed from the discourse of rock itself. However, as I found when surveying activists several years ago (2009), lyrical content is one of the things that defines political rock as a subgenre. Pardon me for providing a few cites of my other published work; I am providing them for context, because I deal less with these issues in this book. My thinking on these issues has been influenced heavily by a few subprojects and I am uncomfortable speaking for the other authors, each of whom has very different views on the same topics, which is what makes it a worthwhile read, I think. As much as popular music scholars adhere to Simon Frith’s admonition regarding lyrics (and have overreacted to that reasonable caution), their centrality is harder to avoid in political rock. Two of the qualities that make rock songs “political” in the minds of listeners are (1) topicality and (2) lyrical denotation. In fact, the same is true of explicitly political jazz. For example, Gil Scott-Heron’s lyrics are easily accessible, and heavily accessed, online. That is somewhat unusual for a jazz artist, but not for explicitly political musician-activists like those we have emphasized in Political Rock. Political rock songs tend to be defined in contradistinction to typical rock, including the emphasis on topicality and lyrical denotation. In much of rock, lyrics are ancillary or, perhaps, just part of the overall sonic gestalt. However, when Peter Gabriel sings about “Biko,” he makes that clear through lyrical performance in addition to signifying it through funereal drums, chants, and bagpipes (and, by the way, according to his assistant, Gabriel read my essay while on a flight and found my interpretation accurate enough to warrant permission to use his lyrics in the essay). When Bruce Springsteen sings “41 Shots,” he echoes Billie Holiday’s exhortations to her club audiences to really listen to the words of “Strange Fruit.” Springsteen tells his festive audience to quiet down and listen differently, to pay attention to the words.
However, I hear these same critiques over and over again when talking about political rock: (1) the canard that “all music is political” (a way of relativizing away and flattening out politically committed musical examples) and your question concerning sound, which is an excellent point. Personally, I’ll admit that I have become somewhat less interested in writing and reading about musical qualities that are better expressed in other media. As numerous persons, including Martin Mull and Elvis Costello, have famously stated, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Personally, I tend not to write as much about deeply connotative aural elements because it is what I, and every musician (i.e., every human being), communicates through musical performance itself. My music studies colleagues might vehemently disagree on this point, but I feel that text is a very good place to write about text, but a less interesting or effective place to communicate timbre, rhythm, harmonics, etc. If you want to understand what it meant and means when Jimi Hendrix performed the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, you are probably better off watching the video and listening to the recording than reading an analytical description of his emotive sound qualities as signified by a masterful balance of distortion and reverberating echo. Having said that, there is too little by way of “instrumental sound and musical technique” in the book. One reason for that might be that, per the goals of the book, these essays were not just written by musicologists, ethnomusicologists, and popular music studies scholars, but by scholar-fans from multiple humanities and social science disciplines. Not everything can be accomplished in one book; and we were more interested in giving earnest attention to what most have ignored, including explicitly political musicianship in movement-related performance contexts.
Kristine: I think it’s important to consider that what we’re seeing in terms of published products (journals, books, etc.) are reflections not just of larger patterns of music scholarship, but more importantly, patterns in how journal and music scholarship publishers interpret what constitutes “fair use” of lyrics. We ran into this issue a few times with a number of chapters and could probably write an article on this exercise alone. This combines with what Mark identified as the waxing and waning of attitudes towards Frith’s anti-lyric stance. I’ve personally tried to stay away from doing lyrical analysis not just for the reasons Frith puts forth, but also because I approach popular music studies more from a performance studies perspective. Additionally, I’m not particularly persuaded by traditional musicology arguments about the meaning, for example, behind parallel fifths, the inclusion of a cadence here rather than there, the melodic structure of the reprise and/or bridge and so forth, as so much of the theory linking these to politics is ahistorical, and really doesn’t address affect as a motivator.
Daniel: Mark’s comment about Peter Gabriel’s interest in Mark’s interpretation of “Biko” reminds me that one common theme addressed throughout this anthology is the shared ideological connection between political musicians and their audiences. From the now-antiquated MySpace to Pandora, the musician’s ability to grant access to potential listeners has exponentially multiplied. How might these technological advances affect musicians like Billy Bragg, Ani DiFranco, or even Kim Gordon, whose work first spread via “DIY” networks and/or independent labels?
Mark: Good question. I have not thought enough about the ways new technologies have changed the production, distribution, and reception of political rock in comparison to other types of rock. Other than a passing reference to tape sharing, I don’t really deal with it in the book chapter either. Linda Keefe and I completed a quantitative content analysis of fan blogs (2010) that does deal with the issue indirectly. We found evidence that fans of political rock acts write about overtly political topics much more often than do fans of other pop and rock artists. However, we did not compare blogs with other media. Yet, as you indicate, it is important to consider how technology might influence politics. I’ve been doing that lately in my work concerning environmental activism among musicians.
One vantage point of Political Rock is autoethnographic. At some point in their essays each scholar-fan was asked to reflect on his/her individual relationship to the chosen artist, especially in terms of political thought and action. Therefore, perhaps I should mainly speak to my own idiosyncratic experience and chapter as it relates to tech. Because it did not receive radio play, I might not have encountered Gabriel’s “Biko” if it were not for the mix tapes my brother sent to me in college. I say that because my main entry to politicized rock, like many of my generation, came about through listening to punk rather than more mainstream musics. That is one reason why, especially with age, I came to appreciate Gabriel more and more. Also, in the anti-apartheid and anti-interventionist movements—especially in relation to U.S. imperialism in Central America—you heard new music and exchanged it as well, so those were my main sources of information about political rock artists as a young activist. I am sure that social media and online distribution has changed the way in which activists exchange musical ideas, with peer-to-peer sharing becoming all the more important, and exposure to diverse and distant music increasing. My relationship to movements has changed with age, as per usual, so I don’t have much insight into that question other than to note that in the survey of activists almost all of them focused on examples from their college-age years, no matter how old they were when filling out the survey. I’ve done the same in my chapter and so have several of the other authors.
Given the changes in tech, I am always a bit surprised by the fact that most of my students listen to a shared set of intersecting artists, depending on their genre of choice. Perhaps the ease of acquiring music outside of industrial distribution channels has produced more of a theoretical than practical opening for critically challenging music. The echo-chamber effect might have increased the insularity of some listeners. I know in my case that I am no more or less likely to encounter politically engaged music now than I was when music was exchanged via tapes and face-to-face conversations with other activists. Pandora-ish algorithms might do more to make the listener feel cosmopolitan and distinct in their musical tastes than they do to truly diversify listeners’ actual tastes.
The big question that I have been working on in this regard is why more people don’t make their own music and, for those who do, why more don’t make it in relation to the local places and communities they inhabit. I’ve been resistant to Sherry Turkle’s idea of Alone Together, but think she has something there. Deterritorialized mindsets and the hyper-mediatization of daily life have had both positive and negative ramifications for political rock and, more importantly, political movements, but I have not thought enough about the topic. Thanks for planting the seed.
Pedelty, Mark. “Musical News: Popular Music in Political Movements.” In The Anthropology of News and Journalism: Global Perspectives, edited by Elizabeth Bird, 215-237. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009.
Pedelty, Mark and Linda Keefe. “Political Pop, Political Fans?: A Content Analysis of Music Fan Blogs.” Music and Politics 4, no. 1 (2010): 1-11.
Kristine: I think one of the larger questions this issue raises is about access. I’m skeptical, for issues related to political economy reasons, of the liberatory power of the Internet and file sharing in terms of its equalizing potential. If anything, I believe it exasperates existing differences in power and access. I think this is a challenge that DIY artists face when dealing with new media-centric means for producing and distributing music. The other issue that remains a problem is touring. Even if we accept that music recording and production can and has been decentralized, the industry of touring is still largely centralized and controlled by a very small group of players, who in turn have exclusivity contracts with both venues and labels. This does not bode well for many independent artists looking to find paths of reaching audiences without “plugging in” to a larger traditional network of labels, promoters and eventually, producers.
Daniel: One distinct contribution of your collection is its invitation for readers to engage in ongoing discourse about political rock at “the Political Rock blog on WordPress.com” (xv). How is that going?
Kristine: I wish I could have better timed my own website to better promote the political rock blog, but alas, I have just managed over the short winter break to get mine up and going, with a link to both the book as well as the Political Rock WordPress blog. My hope is that it provides some needed traffic.
Mark: The book is too new to know yet. Political Rock was written as a conversation starter, so we hope to see part of the conversation happen at http://politicalrock.wordpress.com/. Our hope is that initial library sales and course discounts will get the book out there (and in paperback) so that teachers and instructors might assign a short submission to http://politicalrock.wordpress.com/ as part of using the book in their classes. However, as Kristine points out, it is up to us to get out there and promote it. I hope that everyone reading this interview considers submitting a short story about his or her experience with rock and politics, a favorite political rock artist, etc. There is so little written in terms of the intertextual relationship between rock performance, texts, and lives in relation to politics, and we want to hear from everyone that feels like sharing their experiences and insights. Thanks for helping us get that going. Hopefully we will have a number of submissions to feature by this time next year.
Daniel: Could you elaborate more on a point addressed in your introduction: while it is true that not all political rockers have affiliated themselves with liberal or even leftist causes, much of the scholarship surrounding political rock (including your anthology itself) has somewhat ignored the work of right wing musicians (xvi). Why?
Mark: I would let the explanation in the Introduction stand as is. Most rock explicitly defined as political—whether by fans or critics—has been articulated with liberal politics and/or left movements. Granted, as Lawrence Grossberg explained so effectively in the 90’s, there is nothing intrinsically left, right, or otherwise about rock music as a genre. However, the very fact that he felt compelled to launch an argument against that popular thesis (that rock is tendentiously left) demonstrates the centrality of that popular discourse. As Grossberg demonstrates, it is fallacious to think of rock as intrinsically rebellious, but it is equally undeniable that most of the rock music explicitly coded and decoded as “political” has been articulated with liberal and left movements and ideologies.
Nevertheless, what I often refer to as the “Joe Hill tradition” very clearly articulates “political” folk and rock music to Left politics. Once again, I am only talking about that relatively rare, yet important, subgenre of popular music coded by fans and critics alike as “political.” Whether it is right wing critics [such as Laura Ingraham] asking rock musicians to “shut up and sing” or fans voicing an interest in political rock, let’s face it: few have Ted Nugent in mind. Instead, most mention names that role off the tongue and onto surveys, from Bob Dylan to Ani DiFranco.
Having said that, someone needs to write the book on right wing rockers. Pat Long’s article for the New Statesman (March 8, 2012), “Why are there so few right-wing rock stars?” does a nice job of restarting that conversation. In the 90’s, Mark Hamm crafted an excellent chapter on racist skinhead Oi music in American Skinheads. In fact, I found that a frightening and enlightening read. It made me realize what a fine line there is between critical punk parody and less ironic renderings of fascism. It made me think about bands like Fear in a very different way.
Also, as I mentioned above, Political Rock recruited fan-scholars to write about musicians that have greatly influenced them in their thinking and political action. Good luck finding an academic who exhibits that kind of relationship towards a right wing musician.
However, the main point stands: if explicitly political liberal and left rock musicians are rare, explicitly right-wing rock musicians are a very endangered species (once again, I am thinking here in terms of more explicit political articulations and evocations, not a pop musician who evades taxes or a critical reading of Ke$ha). In fact, libraries are chock full of books about what we do not cover in Political Rock. When taking on political topics in rock I am often reminded of Philip Tagg’s concern over inertia in music studies, a powerful poststructural norming that threatens to relativize away and flattens political meaning (everything is political; therefore, nothing is political). Political Rock is purposely crafted to get at a subgenre of music that, despite its importance among politically engaged fans, is largely ignored in mainstream music studies. In fact, music journalists and critics have much more to say on the topic than have popular music scholars. However, that simply adds to your point. Studies of right-wing rock are rarer yet and worthy of a book. Someone should write that book.
Daniel: What were you hoping to learn about the intersection between music and politics when you first chose this project? How has your understanding of political rock music’s historical and contemporary relationship to politics changed due to either your own personal findings or those of the chapters’ individual authors? I am particularly intrigued by Michael LeVan’s idea of Rage Against the Machine’s “guerilla use of corporate media” to further anti-corporate, anti-imperialist aims from within the body of the corporate, imperialist system itself (202).
Mark: Frankly, the idea for the book originally came from Doug McLeod at Wisconsin. We were sitting in a bar in Madison and he suggested that we recruit fellow scholars to write about their favorite political rock musicians. He mentioned Michael Franti as a contemporary example. I loved the idea, having been a fan of several punk bands and artists mentioned in the book. However, in undertaking the project I learned a lot about what made rock resonate politically for others, or at least for the scholar-fan-activists involved in the project.
There was a great deal of commonality as well as distinct experiences and voices. For example, although Ani DiFranco, Joan Baez, Julieta Venegas and other women rockers have had a major impact in my own life as a fan and activist, I was not sure if that was true for those who would take up our call for essays. Thanks to great chapters by Marcy Chvasta, Norma Coates, and Nancy Love, women rockers were featured as well as the men who so often dominate these books on the cultural history of rock.
However, despite co-editing the project, I had a hard time choosing a rock artist to write about. I would have naturally turned to The Clash, Billy Bragg, or maybe even Bob Geldof (The Boomtown Rats’ The Fine Art of Surfacing was the first album I memorized). However, after contemplating figures that were influential in movements that I have been a part of over the years (decreasingly with age), Peter Gabriel jumped out, despite the fact that he had only written one explicitly political song that fit all of the requirements of the book (e.g., part of my own past or present as an activist-scholar), “Biko.” I have always been a fan of Gabriel’s music, but was neither part of the mega-benefit phenomenon he helped to invent nor active in Amnesty International and the organizations he supported. However, the moment I wrote about at the end of the essay made such an impression in my mind, and I became so impressed with Gabriel’s backstage organizing over the years, that I felt compelled to write about him. His combination of character-driven maskwork on stage and backstage organizing of peer rock stars is unique and impressive from the standpoint of merging art and politics. As I mention in the essay, as opposed to Bono, Sting, etc., Gabriel made a point of separating his musical characters (onstage) and political persona (offstage), using creative maskwork to create music that had a surprisingly autonomous power. Rather than Bono as deadly serious stage personality preaching about X (a fine and effective orientation as well), Gabriel the artist has always been a performer behind the compelling musical mask, while Gabriel the human being works backstage to foment change. Although I make the point about explicit political articulations in the Introduction, I was intrigued by Gabriel’s powerful, purposeful, and highly selective employment of political themes in music to do political work that reaches far beyond the concert stage and stadium. To answer your second question, that is what changed for me as a result of this research and writing. Writing the essay made me appreciate Gabriel the person, the artist, and activist even more, but really brought home to me how much work goes into making music do something more than selling beer or providing a soundtrack for romance. There is a fear among many Western musicians and scholars alike that thinking about social effects might profane art. However, for some artists and activists, it is just the opposite; not thinking about wider and deeper connections can restrict art to “text,” culture to performance, and people to playthings. That is perhaps what I enjoyed exploring most, the clever ways some musicians break out of the cage of cool that keeps so many other rock artists and fans in check. “Shut up and sing” seems to be lobbed at musicians from all angles, but some find ways to compose, perform, and sing about more than the usual fare despite checkbook exigencies, disciplining critiques, and mainstream genre expectations.
I imagine each author learned something new in writing his or her essay and I hope that these essays inform and even inspire readers to explore their own musical histories (and then share them with us at http://politicalrock.wordpress.com/). I’d like to think that our N of 11 is just the start of a wider conversation.
Kristine: I was working on my dissertation and prospectus when Mark approached me with the idea of doing an edited collection. Although I was initially somewhat nervous about including an edited collection on top of the work I had to complete to earn my doctorate, my dissertation was already evolving into a piece on rock and politics, in a broader sense. The process of writing for the book, reading the chapters, and editing really helped to strengthen my own dissertation arguments, rather than drawing out the writing process of both; and for that, I’m thankful and fortunate.
For better or worse, my dissertation wandered more into the waters of political economy, rather than politics, where I originally thought it would be in terms of subject matter. The book served as a really worthwhile means to look more deeply at the specifics of political and social movements within rock away from my analysis of touring and rock ecologies.
The Pearl Jam chapter really represents, to me, all of the motivations for studying political science, going to graduate school and pursuing doctoral work. Thinking of LeVan’s observation with Rage Against the Machine, there was a moment during a live performance of Pearl Jam’s “Bushleaguer” where it just felt as though the “game” had changed. The actual act of attending shows felt different. Bands had been playing in politics for years, but never a band I had known so well, or followed so closely. I wanted to figure out what, specifically, was happening in terms of the fan base, in terms of their rhetorical tropes, and the response. For better or worse for fans, but thankfully for my work, the band kept that political edge long since “Bushleager” was ill-received.
Daniel: Once thanking you for this interview, I’d like to ask two final questions: what understanding or definition of “political rock” do you hope readers will obtain from this collection? Also, what do you think is Political Rock’s most definitive contribution to the secondary literature on rock’s intersection with politics?
Mark: Most activist-fan readers will immediately get what the book is about, and it is in large part written for them. In fact, although scholars have remained somewhat uninterested in explicitly political popular music, rock fans seem to have an appetite for it. I’ve noticed that musicians with political reputations seem to be over-represented on the bookshelves relative to other indicators, such as record sales. There is a lasting sense of gravitas there.
For students, I’d hope that they learn about political traditions in rock that are not always apparent in VH1/MTV-style retrospectives on rock. Hopefully, if and when the book becomes an affordable paperback and eBook (ask Ashgate for the course and student discounts), the book will reach both of those primary audiences.
As for fellow scholars, I’d hope to further forestall the fairly knee-jerk reaction experienced in so many music studies contexts, the tendency to act as if there is no useful political distinction to be made. As mentioned earlier, there is a strong, mainstream tendency to dismiss explicitly political rock as lacking in art and/or to relativize away its very existence. Speaking for myself, I think of the book as trying to create a space for explicitly political art and forestall the “Isn’t all music political?” critique. Yep, all music is political, but at a more nuanced level we see that there are many ways of being political and one of them is represented in explicit, topical, movement-oriented rock. That is why we draw a distinction between the “politics of rock” and “political rock” in the Introduction. Yes, it is interesting to think about how ostensibly non-ideological rock is also politically meaningful, especially once the critic considers intertextual connections, interpretive frameworks, institutional links, etc. I am as much a sucker for political readings of Ke$ha and Justin Bieber as the next person. My courses are filled with such articles. However, this book is about rock that artists, fans, and critics think of as “political,” music whose internal discourse is purposefully and artfully political, music that does not have to be unmasked and interpreted by scholars in order for its political charge to become evident. That does not mean there is nothing left for scholars and critics to do with political rock, but rather that it presents distinct avenues for understanding that mark it as a meaningful subgenre. In my experience, fans, activists, and critics listen to and use Neil Young very differently than they do Huey Lewis, and part of the difference is in the artists’ political intentions, as inscribed within the music itself. I guess that’s one of the missions of the book, to urge music studies to take that musical tradition more seriously, in rock and other popular genres.
However, to end where I started, I would say that the book’s main mission is to impart new understandings of the biographical trajectories and movement connections of influential political rock icons.
Kristine: I’d echo what Mark said regarding what we’d hope to have other scholars and academics get out of reading the book, without a wholesale dive into lyrical analysis. There’s an amazing amount of discussion of political musicians, particularly around election time, and most of it is dismissive, negative, or really lacking any substance. What always surprises me is how shocked journalists and the general public act when musicians do jump into electoral politics. This is especially the case with musicians who’ve had a track record of doing so, and yet, the surprise, backlash, and overall dismissal of these artists’ efforts continues. At the same time, we wanted readers to understand that we weren’t trying to limit our discussion of political rock to tangible connection between parties, NGOs, and the musicians themselves. Political rock, in this sense, has a history, weaves between artists, and often repeats itself.
Mark Pedelty is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. His website is Ecomusicology.net.
Kristine Weglarz is an Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at the University of West Florida. Her website is http://subpoprockcity.tk.
Daniel Simmons recently completed his Ph.D. in Modern American History at the University of Connecticut. His dissertation was titled “Must Be the Season of the Witch”: The Repression and Harassment of Rock and Folk Music during the Long Sixties. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
The committee for the David Sanjek Graduate Student Paper Prize of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music – US Branch (IASPM-US) invites graduate students who will be presenting at the 2014 IASPM-US annual conference to submit their papers for consideration.
Eligibility: Any student who presents, in person, a formal paper at the IASPM-US annual meeting is eligible for the prize. A student shall be defined as a person pursuing an active course of studies in a degree program. This includes persons who are engaged in writing the doctoral dissertation but not those who are teaching full-time while doing so. Student applicants must be members of IASPM-US.
Application Process: To apply for the prize, candidates must electronically submit a copy of their paper to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a brief bio (75 words) and copy of their conference registration receipt. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, March 6 at 11:59 pm. The paper deposited is to be the version that is read at the conference and may not exceed twelve double-spaced pages (roughly 3,900 words).
The winner will be announced at the general business meeting at the annual conference and the award includes a cash prize of $350.
Please feel free to email the chair of the committee, Ed Comentale (email@example.com), if you have any questions.
Committee: Ed Comentale, Charles McGovern, Katherine Meizel
The Association for Popular Music Education (APME) will host its 2014 Conference, “Innovation in Music Education,” at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, CA on June 19th-21st, 2014. This conference aims to delve into a variety of topics centered on the following four areas:
1. Innovations in Music Education
2. Individuals looking to start a Popular Music Program
3. The Music Industry and Popular Music Education
4. K-12 Popular Music Students
Educators interested in all aspects of popular music education are encouraged to submit proposals for presentations. Submissions should specify and conform to one of the following formats:
Proposals for panels and clinics should provide a clear outline of the panel or clinic’s content and procedures (not to exceed two pages in length).
Proposals for papers should provide a summary of the paper in a minimum of 300 words. Paper submissions should focus on practical aspects of teaching and learning popular music education.
The presenter’s name, email address, and affiliation should be included on a separate sheet of the proposal. For proposals with multiple presenters, the name, email address, and school affiliation for each presenter should be included.
Jointly offered by the Don Wright Faculty of Music and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University.
What is it?
A pioneering, innovative, and interdisciplinary MA degree program for students who want to explore any and all facets of popular music by combining cultural and creative approaches. This cross-disciplinary degree melds critical media study and cultural theory with cutting-edge explorations of recording practice and production.
Who are we?
Western University boasts one of the largest complements of popular music scholars in North America. Members of our core faculty are all internationally-reknowned and published scholars, recognized as leaders in the field and passionate about graduate education in popular music.
What do we do?
Students take three required seminars in the first year covering media theory, popular music studies, and approaches to sound and musical creativity along with two elective courses. Seminars are kept small in order to foster collegiality and dialogue. During the final year of their program, students work closely with a faculty advisor on one of three options: a traditional thesis; a creative project, often a close musical analysis or examination of a recording technique and practice; or a tailored program of coursework with a viva voce examination as the capstone. Recent theses include: a comparision of musical borrowing in the Middle Ages and in on-line remix culture; an examination of audio mastering as musical practice; a critique of Canadian popular music culture during the rock era; and a model for the analysis of microphone practice on rock recordings.
What happens after graduation?
Several of our graduates have continued on to prestigious PhD programs. Others graduates are working in a range of related fields, including: record production; music education; music journalism; and arts and non-profit administration.
Students receive a highy competitive funding package and have opportunities to act as teaching assistants in both Faculties.
Western University is located on a beautiful campus in London, Ontario, halfway between Toronto and Detroit.
Audrey Yardley Jones
Graduate Program Assistant
University of Ulster, Belfast Campus, Northern Ireland (June 20-21, 2014)
There are few bands that have enjoyed as much adoration or endured as much controversy as The Clash. Emerging originally as a principal voice in the burgeoning mid 1970s London punk scene, The Clash would soon cast off the fetters that restricted many of their peers, their musical tastes becoming ever more eclectic and their political field of vision ever more global. In the process, the band would widen the cultural and political horizons of their audience and would for many come to exemplify the power of popular music to change minds. While The Clash would attract a great deal of critical acclaim, this would always be less than universal. Most famously perhaps, the fanzine editor Mark Perry proclaimed that punk had ‘died’ the day that the group signed to the multinational record corporation CBS. The allegation that they had ‘sold out’ would haunt The Clash throughout their career and indeed would continue to cast a shadow long after their fractious split.
The enormous cultural influence that The Clash have exercised over the last four decades has found reflection in many spheres but not, strangely, in that of popular music studies. While academics have devoted considerable attention to a great many other, arguably less important, bands, they have had remarkably little to say about The Clash. This symposium represents in part an endeavour to redress this particular, curious silence. A Riot of Our Own will bring together academics, journalists, photographers and musicians to examine the enduring influence and abiding controversy associated with The Clash. It is hoped that the event will constitute an engaging and critical attempt to shed light on both the cultural legacy and contemporary resonance of one of the most influential bands that there has ever been.
Central to the reputation and perhaps mythology of The Clash was of course the power of the band as a live act. Those who managed to see the group in concert often recall their gigs as moments of personal epiphany that altered their political outlook or inspired them to form a band of their own. In a Northern Irish context, however, the reputation of The Clash would largely hinge, ironically, on people not getting to see the band play live. In October 1977, the group were scheduled to break what often felt like the cultural boycott of Belfast by playing the city’s Ulster Hall. On the day of the gig, however, the concert was cancelled for reasons that remain disputed and sparking chaotic scenes that are often recounted as amounting to a ‘riot’. The legendary Clash gig that did not take place remains central to the stories and myths that make up the popular musical history of the Northern Irish capital. It might be said then that Belfast represents an appropriate – if, perhaps, at first glance unlikely – setting in which to reflect on what The Clash meant and indeed what they continue to mean three decades on from their acrimonious and much lamented demise.
Contributors to the event will include:
Professor David Hesmondhalgh (University of Leeds, author of Why Music Matters)
Chris Salewicz (author of Redemption Song: The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer)
Adrian Boot (photographer who took the iconic shots of The Clash touring Belfast)
Call for Papers
Proposals are invited on any issue relevant to The Clash. Papers may be set in any spatial context (not just Belfast) or in none.
Possible themes for the symposium might include but are not limited to:
- The gender politics of the band
- The Clash and Englishness
- The politics of popular music
- Representations of London in the band’s work
- Did punk really die the day The Clash signed to CBS?
- The ongoing ‘canonisation’ of the band
- The band’s adoption of musical genres beyond the narrow range of punk, especially reggae and hip hop
- The Clash and racial politics
- The contemporary resonance of The Clash in an age of austerity and riot.
Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to Colin Coulter at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is Monday 17 March 2014. Registration for the symposium will open in the early summer of 2014.
A Riot of Our Own is organised jointly by the Department of Sociology, the National University of Ireland Maynooth and the School of Sociology and Applied Social Studies, the University of Ulster.
A Riot of Our Own is supported by the Oh Yeah Music Centre Belfast and by Strummerville. The symposium will be raising funds for Strummerville: The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music. Strummerville are not involved in the organisation of this event.
Interdisciplinary Conference, Princeton University, 13 April 2014
Princeton University will be hosting an interdisciplinary conference celebrating the music, art, and culture of Pink Floyd, one of the most successful bands of all times. The first-ever academic conference to focus entirely on the band will feature Grammy-award-winner and Pink Floyd producer/engineer James Guthrie, Pink Floyd scholar Shaugn O’Donnell (CUNY Graduate Center), and English Professor Nigel Smith (Princeton University), alongside lecture-concerts by Princeton graduate students Gilad Cohen, Dave Molk, and Troy Herion. In addition to lectures and discussions, the conference will present world premieres of compositions and arrangements inspired by Pink Floyd music, as well as playing of James Guthrie’s surround mixes of Pink Floyd’s music.
Please visit our website for more information and registration: http://pinkfloydconference.princeton.edu/
We look forward to seeing you at Princeton.
Gilad Cohen and Dave Molk
Organizers, Pink Floyd Conference
Princeton University Department of Music
Voting for the positions of IASPM-US treasurer and secretary has opened. IASPM-US members who have not received a ballot via e-mail should contact email@example.com to verify their membership and obtain one. This election will close on February 11th at 5pm, PST. Any responses received after that time will not be counted.
Popular Music Study Group of the American Musicological Society 2014 Junior Faculty Symposium University of Richmond, Richmond, VA June 18 – 20, 2014 Application Deadline: February 25, 2014 In response to many members’ call for more substantial career development programs, the Popular Music Study Group of the American Musicological Society will host a developmental symposium […]
The executive committee of IASPM-US is currently seeking nominations to fill the following officer positions: Treasurer Secretary For a list of officer duties, please see the IASPM Bylaws, Sections 8 and 9. Officer terms are two years, and commence at IASPM’s annual conference, this year taking place March 13-16, 2014 at University of North Carolina—Chapel […]
Last year was one in which retro ruled my musical life, from David Bowie reappearing on the public stage with his birthday record drop on the internet (a year prior to Beyoncé using the same tactic), to the release of Savages debut album—in which lead singer Jehnny Beth’s voice howls, rips, and seduces listeners as […]
Favorite Tracks Janelle Monáe- Q.U.E.E.N. The lyrics alone make Q.U.E.E.N. one of my favorite jams from 2013. Janelle Monáe has created a lyrical mantra for the marginalized, with verses such as “Even if it makes others uncomfortable I will love who I am,” and from her powerful flow at the end: “You can take my […]