Kalefa Sanneh’s “The Rap Against Rockism” which appeared in the New York Times in 2004 is a Pop Feminist foundational text.

Although Sanneh goes way beyond gender, the pop/rock division as evidenced by the opening anecdote of Ashlee Simpson’s lipsynching fiasco on Saturday Night Live is, at least in part, informed by latent (or active) misogynist underpinnings.

Sanneh picks up on the gendered binary shaping up in rock cricitism noting,

“Rockism isn’t unrelated to older, more familiar prejudices – that’s part of why it’s so powerful, and so worth arguing about. The pop star, the disco diva, the lip-syncher, the “awesomely bad” hit maker: could it really be a coincidence that rockist complaints often pit straight white men against the rest of the world? Like the anti-disco backlash of 25 years ago, the current rockist consensus seems to reflect not just an idea of how music should be made but also an idea about who should be making it.”

I strongly recommend you all take a look at this article. It contains a lot of truth that has reformed my inner rockist to the popist I am today (popism being a love of all popular music– including rock).

My love of pop music theory stems from a shared belief with preeminent rock scholar Simon Frith that “the academic study of pop and rock music is rooted in sociology, not musicology”, and that the prevailing shape of rock ‘n’ roll mythology becomes evidence of the American exceptionalist’s claim on nationalism.

And, as Lawrence Greenberg points out, the use-value of a rock ‘n’ roll narrative “depends upon the overdetermined relations between the music and a variety of other social, cultural, economic, sexual and discursive practices” where the “official” American identity is constructed. The trivialization of women or feminized genres in the crafting of this discourse is important to a woman’s location, not in music, but in the American narrative itself– not to mention the location of all identities within the transnational reach of pop.

Greenberg, Firth, and Sanneh’s writings can be found in Simon Firth’s fantastic anthology, On Record. Get it.

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