popular music proposal


1. Write a short proposal for your final project (450-750 words, 4 points). Revisit and keep in mind the instructions for the final project, an annotated critical playlist, in the syllabus (p. 6). Your proposal should include the following elements:

  • Clearly identify your playlist’s theme. This can be one of our broader course themes, such as: community, identity, the political economy of music, etc. It can also be a slightly more specific theme: race, gender, subcultures, streaming, cultural de-differentiation, independent and major labels, the politics of a specific genre, etc.
  • Explain what makes your playlist’s theme relevant and interesting. You can take inspiration from our course readings here. For instance, if your theme is identity, remember that several readings discuss the important role of popular music in communities’ or individuals’ expression of identity.
  • Give two or three examples of ideas, sub-themes, or perspectives you intend to explore in your playlist. For instance, if your theme is popular music and gender, will you include a range of songs that illustrate or express different perspectives on gender (e.g., a song that conveys traditional ideals of masculinity, a song that protests everyday sexism, a song dedicated to women’s empowerment…)? If your theme is the role of streaming platforms in popular music, will you include a range of songs that help you shed light on streaming’s contradictory place in the contemporary music business (e.g., a song by an artist who has found success on Spotify, a song by an artist demanding better compensation of musicians, a song characteristic of SoundCloud’s importance in rap…)? You do not need to choose specific songs yet, and you do not need to have a full list of themes. Give the reader a sense of the direction your project is taking.

Overall, your project proposal should integrate key concepts from at least two of our readings that will help you in your work on this project. These may include future readings from later in the semester if, for instance, your project engages economic or technological questions; I’m happy to direct you towards those readings if you are interested.

Answer two questions of your choice out of the following three (250-450 words and 3 points each). Be precise in your selection and discussion of readings’ key concepts. Do not simply repeat what you wrote in your reading response, live performance response, or in your short proposal. Instead, make clear how key concepts from the readings relate specifically to the questions posed:

2. Several course readings engage with themes of resistance against dominant power structures, discrimination, and more. Compare where two readings of your choice (out of Adorno, Bannister, Hebdige, Lipsitz, and Ramos) locate potential (or difficulties) for resistance.

3. Several course readings discuss identity and how it is constituted and/or negotiated in musical practice, in listening, and more. Compare how two readings of your choice (out of Bannister, Hebdige, Cohen, Gilroy, Lipsitz, Gaunt, Rivera-Rideau & Torres-Leschnik, and Ramos) approach the topic of identity. Whose key ideas do you find more convincing/useful?

4. Processes of cultural de-differentiation are central to Rojek’s understanding of pop music and pop culture. After summarizing what Rojek means by cultural de-differentation, discuss its implications for the study of popular music. How have scholars of popular music explored processes of cultural de-differentiation? How have they had to adapt their ideas because of processes of cultural de-differentiation? Strong answers will include examples from at least two different readings. These can include chapters of Rojek’s textbook, but also other course readings.

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