Thursday, October 15, 2009

British Female Singers

We are looking at artists such as Amy Winehouse, Estelle, Adele, Duffy, and Leona Lewis and how they assert their British identities in their music and how that might hinder or help them in the American music industry. We are also looking at what it is about their music, such as the content and lyrics, that lends to their success in this particular culture. Questions such as how they were able to so successfully crossover, how they maintained or changed their images in that crossover, and the kinds of perceptions people have about their music.

Stephanie Singleton & Danielle Johnson

The evolution of ska: genre crossover and race in ska music

Looking at the history of ska music, I will outline ska's origins in Jamaica and follow it to Two Tone ska in the UK, as well as Third Wave or Ska Punk in the US. This evolution of ska will indicate several levels of crossover in genres, as well as a history that is strongly tied to race and the movement to resolve many race issues. The songs featured in my mixtape project will be an array of ska music that will show a chronological evolution of the music and the changes it experienced over time since the 1920's (it's origins in Jamaica; the incorporation of reggae, rock, punk, etc; interracial bands; common racial issues as subjects for songs; ska inspired rock/reggae/punk bands, etc.) Some important ska artists that I may include:
Prince Buster
Duke Reid
The Wailers
Desmond Dekker
The (English) Beat
The Specials
The Toasters
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
The Pietasters
Reel Big Fish
Streetlight Manifesto
Save Ferris
Mustard Plug
Rx Bandits
No Doubt

Hip-hop Vs. Rap Music

For our mix tape project, we would like to explore the differences and some similarities between the music of “conscious” hip-hop artists vs. “non-conscious” hip-hop artists from the 90s to present day. Which, in turn, divides Hip-hop and Rap music. We will define our idea of each term. In doing this, we will examine the effect their music has on the social, cultural, and political views of society and vice versa. We will do this by analyzing the lyrical content of the music and the historical background of the artists. Common, Lauryn Hill, Lil’ Wayne, Lil’ Mama, Will.I.Am, and Soulja Boy are some examples of artists we will use to support our analysis. Although rhythmically very similar, they are separated by their lyrical content and their targeted audience. In other words, the difference between musical talent and profitability. We will relate this to the concept covered in class of the idea that rock music is an art, whereas pop music is more superficial and plastic.

(Tamir M. & Priscilla Q.)

Female Figures in Queer Culture

With this project we are hoping to highlight a number of strong female artists that have had major impacts on and within the queer community. Also we are addressing why these women have acquired such a following as opposed to their other female counterparts. We will be focusing on: Madonna, Cher, Lady GaGa, and Janet Jackson. What was it about these women and their music that really sought to challenge normative society? In what ways did their lyrics, concerts, and public perception help to define a generation of LGBT people?

Tim Thompson/Joshua Carter

Gender Stereotypes in Disney Music

For our mixtape project we have decided to examine gender stereotypes in Disney music. We have chosen to focus on how gender stereotypes are portrayed in the songs associated with the eight definitive Disney princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan. We will discuss our findings from the princess music in chronological order, showing how both femininity and masculinity have progressed through time. We will also address how the changing social context affects the music of each princess. The following is a list of songs we have chosen to investigate and analyze:

• “Some Day My Prince Will Come” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
• “So This Is Love” from Cinderella
• “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella
• “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty
• “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid
• “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid
• “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast
• “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast
• “Something There” from Beauty and the Beast
• “A Whole New World” from Aladdin
• “One Jump Ahead” from Aladdin
• “Just Around the Riverbend” from Pocahontas
• “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas
• “Reflection” from Mulan
• “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan
• “A Girl Worth Fighting For” from Mulan

It's A Girl Thing

Our project will delve into the emergence of girl bands in the 1990's and how their presence established female empowerment in a male dominated field. The popularity of female groups such as TLC, The Spice Girls, Destinys Child and Roit Grrrl gave females from the early teens to the late 20s a sense of independence and hope for equality among the sexes. These groups were lyrically independent from their predecessors as they freely spoke of issues of domestic violence and intolerance of mistreatment. Our investigations will demonstate how music has evolved to include a larger female presence and how the empowerment movement has socially influenced the nation.

Kimberly McGrath and Sierra Kelly

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gender and J-Pop

Our mixtape project will explore the gender and sexuality issues of Japanese pop, also known as "J-Pop." J-pop has several prominent female artists and groups who have asserted stereotypical views of femininity but there have been others who have transgressed certain ideas of female gender roles in Japanese culture. Such artists include Ayumi Hamasaki and SPEED. However, for the purposes of this project, it is important to define gender within the cultural context of Japan; this imperative because while some aspects of "J-Poppers" may appear to be gender-bending in American culture, they are accurate portrayals of Japanese socially constructed norms of gender and sexuality.

Ginny Driscoll and Elvira Tran

“Where has all the good music gone: Death of the Group and the rise of the Individual”By Glenn Phillips, Qunique Wilson, and Anika Halloway

It appears the 1960’s gave birth to soul, and R&B groups. Our project will discuss the disappearance of these groups over the past four decades, and have been replaced by pop groups and now solo artists. We want to address the role of crossing over which has contributed to the demise of “the group”.

Soul/ R&B→ R&B→Pop→ solo pop careers

Soul Music - Gender, Perfomance, and Content

Our project seeks to explore Soul music of the late 1950s into the 60s, particularly Motown soul, and to examine issues of gender and how that has affected performance styles and music content. We will then compare the 60s to subgenres of Soul: Psychedelic Soul and Neo Soul, which emerged in the late 60s and early 90s, respectively. Lastly, we will comment on how these genres made soul more equal, gender-wise, and have allowed for more freedom of expression in terms of performance and song topics. Our project will explore artists such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Betty Davis, The Undisputed Truth, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, D'Angelo, and others.

By Tomi Ogunwumiju and Mersedes Sweeney

Gender & Sexuality in Dancehall Reggae

Our project seeks to explore the perception of gender and sexuality in Dancehall, a typically male dominated sub-genre of Reggae.  How does this genre express gender and sexuality through its lyrics, language, performance, and music videos?  We will explore artists such as TOK, Vybez Kartel, Tanya Stephens, and the like. 

~Keturah Carr, Amanda Oakes, & Tashima Lambert

cross-genre collaborations of the 21st century

We want to look at cross-genre collaborations of the 21st century with a focus on popular music/top 40. In this category, we will analyze musicians from different genres who collaborate together for social, economical, political, cultural gains. The economic analysis will be achieved by observing the audience and the fan base of the artists, their fame, market production, and supply and demand. We'll also observe the historical, social, and cultural context of their songs -- and the influence it has on the 21st century -- by looking at music and lyrics, music videos, performance venues, etc. Some artists include David Guetta/Akon, Jay Z/Linkin Park, Jay Sean/Lil' Wayne, etc.

--Tiffany Hope & Sheetal Patel

Celtic Folk Revival

Gillian Douple and Kelly Camp

We plan to analyze the revival of Celtic folk songs, particularly Irish drinking songs, that have been written prior to the 18th century. These songs have then been covered by bands such as the Chieftans, who adhered to traditional means and began the revival movement, and the Dropkick Murphys, who have changed the presentation by applying certain punk techniques. Other notable Irish bands such as Flogging Molly have certain songs that resemble folk drinking songs but are original and were created in the modern era.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Squeaky Clean?!

Challenging Social Perceptions of Country Music
By Sarah Elaine Hart and Grant Johnson

Country music has a reputation for being more innocuous and wholesome than rock or rap, yet this is not always reflected in the genre's most popular songs. Our project will examine the messages and meaning found in the lyrics and music videos of popular country songs. Our analysis will focus on songs that reference and even celebrate unwholesome topics such as teen pregnancy, premarital sex, drug abuse, and threesomes. Songs we will look at include "Indian Summer" by Brooks and Dunn, "As Good as I once was" by Toby Keith and "Getting You Home" by Chris Young. By analyzing songs from the Billboard Top 40 country chart over the past decade, we will determine whether or not country music is less misogynistic and overall "cleaner" than other music genres, as is popularly believed.

Music Used in Product Placement

Age, Class, Race and Gender in Commercials from 1990-2009

By Ashby Stancill and Elizabeth Manley

Our mixtape project will explore age, race, gender and class in commercial marketing. We will not be including jingles created to promote a product, but music from the past and present used in commercials. For example, iPod commercials use popular songs like “Jerk It Out” by the Caesars in their advertising campaigns to reach out to the 18-25 age group. Another example is the Swifer commercials featuring “Baby Come Back,” a song covered by several bands including No Mercy and Hall & Oates. This commercial is marketed toward busy, 35+ year old housewives. We will also explore the thematic editing done by advertisers since they will often take a well known song and edit it to emphasize a particular message. Covers and genre origins will also be explored for each song.

Family Dynamics in Bands By: Asia Johnson & Jordan Adams

Topic: Family Dynamics in Bands

We want to compare the differences found between the Jonas Brothers and The Jackson 5. We will do this by exploring topics such as; race, lyrical content, genre, decades, audience, and emphasis on different members of each group. As, for the family dynamic aspect we want to look at the way the groups were founded. For members of The Jackson 5 they were forced to play music to make money. They grew up poor and their father was abusive and they ended up breaking up. The Jonas Brothers play their music for fun because they grew up in a middle class neighborhood.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

U2: What a Beautiful Night

Not an avid U2 fan, I had my doubts going into the show. Would I enjoy the performance of a band with which I was not familiar? Would I recognize any of the songs? What exactly did a 360° tour entail? Bono and U2 eliminated all these doubts with an incredible performance that gave tangible evidence to their reputation of a Hall-of-Fame group.

As U2 made its entrance, the crowd stood to its feet, welcoming the band in its first visit to Charlottesville. The stage was quite the scene. Walking into Scott Stadium, I was taken aback by the monstrous “Claw” (see picture below). I surely thought that this Transformers-like structure would obstruct our view of the stage and the band. A large circular megatron was the centerpiece of this massive set-up, and as I soon discovered, it gave meaning behind the naming of the “360°” tour.

No matter where you were sitting in the stadium, you felt the band was performing right in front of you. The screen flashed shots of the band from all angles throughout the performance. At one point, the megatron extended into a beehive-like shape where colors filled every corner of the stadium (see pictures below).

Aside from the visual aspects, I was impressed by the band’s vocals and instrumentals. U2 is an example of the typical rock band. The male-dominated group consisted of Bono as the lead singer and guitarist, The Edge as guitarist and keyboardist, Adam Mullen as the bassist, and Larry Mullen as the drummer. I noticed that they held their guitars the “cool” way; they had longer straps, and their guitars were positioned lower on their bodies. Male bonding was evident through the interactions of the band members. They rocked out with each other for every song, and it seemed as though they were just a group of friends doing what they love best. Though Bono is seen as the leading group member, there was a sense of mutual respect among all the members. This was shown during a humbling moment towards the end of the concert when Bono thanked his bandmates for “letting me be in your band.”

Though I couldn’t name most of the set list, I did recognize more songs than I had originally thought, including “Beautiful Day” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I could definitely tell I wasn’t alone in my unfamiliarity with a majority of the set list. I overheard an older gentleman comment, “ Were these kids even alive when these songs came out?” I noticed, however, that whenever a song that I knew came on, the crowd was in full gear with both college-aged and older fans swaying and singing along. This may be an instance of crossing over. There were certain songs that have seemed to more readily cross over from the rock charts to the pop charts, such as “Stuck in a Moment,” and consequently reached across a wider range of demographics.

Another major aspect of the show was its political messages. Bono and U2 have been known for their active involvement in addressing issues of poverty and social injustice. During their song “Walk On,” images of Burma’s opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi were shown on the screen and members of Amnesty International marched onto the stage (see pictures below). There was a very strong sense of purpose behind their music by the way in which they use their songs as a means of voicing the world’s injustices and advocating human rights.

From the mesmerizing visual effects to the goosebump-inducing vocals and instrumentals, U2 performed a spectacular show. Whether you were a diehard fan or not, when the show came to an end, you just wanted more. And thankfully, U2 responded to the crowd’s call for an encore through the illumination of the dark Stadium by the thousands of cell phones (see picture below). A fitting end to a beautiful night.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Me Too: A Student at U2's 360° Tour

Opening show Muse came onstage with a burst of light and the loud crashing of chords. Band members of the alternative, “space age rock” group Matthew Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard seemed to rely on reverberations and electronics more than technical skill. Muse favored scale-like melodies and a background of power chords that lead’s singer Bellamy’s voice could not quite conquer (he specialized in Radiohead-like wailing with more articulation). The light-show special effects were on the megatron were a little off-putting; it was as if the band had no merit without zooming green grids and color manipulation.

When U2 finally came on stage, the entire crowd leapt to its feet. Even non-U2 supporters can admit the sheer energy of their fans. Guitar and keyboard player The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr all made dramatic entrances to much fanfare, but Bono made his debut to the most yelling of all.

However, the initial screaming and excitement was followed by some awkward and obligatory head-bobbing when U2 launched immediately into their new songs. The older songs actually initiated some reaction. When “Elevation” was finally played, there came the sweet sound of fifty-five thousand people singing a note out of their range. At the opening strains of “Vertigo,” the crowd thrashed around wildly, and at “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” everyone shrieked (both before, during, and after singing the first two verses). But when “Stuck in a Moment” came on, the entire stadium got lost in the sad peacefulness of nostalgia, and I actually saw one woman press her hands to her heart after the line, “Don’t say that later will be better.” When set to the simple scrambling of three notes, that line was like kryptonite to otherwise stoic listeners.

Unlike Muse, U2 didn’t feel the need for the lightshow, but they did use their claw-like structure to its full capacity. It transformed into a tye-dyed spider, ritzy Las Vegas opulence, and a ghostly pearly white, among many, many more—but what was most shocking was that the megatron expanded slowly downward. Honeycomb-esque holes formed so that the megatron was a longer, trellis-like incarnation of its earlier self.

Politics, it seemed, was a major theme for U2. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” yelled Bono at one point, and that we hope for “an America that is big enough to fit the whole world.” He repeated “a non-violent revolution” several times in a softer voice. The crowd quieted down when Amnesty International members fanned out onstage; the stadium full of people was at a loss as to whether it should cheer or not. Whenever Bono slipped in references to Charlottesville or Virginia or Wahoos, the crowd knew to cheer, but U2’s emphasis on politics took away some of the comfortability that the crowd had previously taken pleasure in.

The crowd fought for its two encores with the waving of cell phones (the stadium looked like a glowing plant swaying underwater) and more screaming. Three people wrapped in the Irish flag hiked it up and waved it ecstatically until at long last U2 came back on. These two encores consisted of one U2 favorite each: “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You.”

After the second encore, the crowd filtered out of the stadium in droves, many still chattering about the megatron, some commenting on the evolution of Bono’s voice into a tired echo. It was the chorus of the crowd favorite “Beautiful Day” that three blonde girls were humming as they negotiated the exit, “sky falls, you feel like it’s a beautiful day.” The stadium was still a-glow behind me as the crowd left, still singing.

-Gillian Douple

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Concert Report

Concert Report

This past weekend, I had the chance to go to Eden’s Crunkfest, an afternoon long concert featuring many of today’s hottest artists. The lineup included Soulja Boy, Pleasure P, Jeremih, Young Jeezy, and Lil Wayne. I was especially excited to see Lil Wayne, whose reputation has ignited over the course of the past year. Of course, the person making that bold declaration was Lil Wayne himself, who headlined a lineup of hip-hop hit makers on the night. The concert only half-filled the St. Paul arena with 7,400 fans (mostly high school students) made the shows name laughable, but so were many other things about the show.

By the time Wayne, the dreadlocked New Orleans superstar delivered the all-bravado song "We Steady Mobbin" a half-hour into his nearly two-hour set, it was clear the little guy was at least the greatest performer of the night. Big whoop, though. Openers Young Jeezy, Soulja Boy, Pleasure P and Jeremih amounted to two hours of vapid, radio-oriented, money-worshiping rap and R&B music. These guys should have also opened Nas's "Hip-Hop Is Dead" tour to help prove the point. For one thing, the ratio of pre-recorded vocals to live vocals during the first three acts' set was about 4 to 1, with pinup rapper Soulja Boy going even higher. To be fair to Soulja Boy though: would you want to go out on stage every night and say the jaw-dropping lines in "Kiss Me Through the Phone"? Upgrading the musicianship with a live band, Young Jeezy was still a letdown in the charisma department, demonstrating why Lil Wayne (who once opened for him here) has passed him up. Jeezy is just one of the flattest rappers in the business. It was Jeezy who seemed absent as he dryly, vacantly rushed through such hits as "Put On" and "I Luv It.

Wayne, a k a Weezy, didn't exactly raise the social value with his opening fire-starters, "A Milli" and "Got Money." And he pretty well avoided the use of brain cells a few songs later with the martian code, "Phone Home." But Weezy at least proved he's a dynamic performer, one with an adventurous streak. He proved it as he bounced around the stage wildly during most of the show. He proved it as he breathlessly tore through "Tie My Hands" and "Shoot Me Down" late in the set. He proved it simply by having the smarts to take the stage wearing a NC ball cap. He also let his Young Money Entertainment protégés such as Shanell and Birdman take over the stage too often, but at least they were better entertainers than the better-known openers.

Arlene's Grocery Alternative Music

I watched a concert online via Arlene's Grocery Tuesday September 29. The band consisted of two young white males. The vocalist also played the drums while the other performer played a keyboard. I'm not entirely sure what genre of music they played; I’d have to call it alternative. The stage was dark with the exception of Christmas lights that wrapped around the keyboard frame and over to the drums, which I thought was sort of cool.

When I first tuned in they were playing a rock song that I did not catch the name of. However, the following song consisted of an offbeat piano, drums and an occasional violin. The vocalist was singing in a whining voice that could catch the audience’s attention without being hard on the ears.

The band performed their own songs as well as a song called ‘Dedicated to Noah’ that they claimed someone else wrote. The Dedicated to Noah song was about a guy named Noah who dreams of a lavish lifestyle but is stuck in a 9-5 job with a boss that he hates. The song material was very relatable. The song started off slow with just the piano, after about a minute the drums came in for a solo. Since the vocalist also played the piano during any intense drum measures he would stop singing in order to focus only on the drums.

During the performance of songs there was relatively no audience interaction. However in between songs, the band addressed the audience as if they were friends, even thanking an audience member by name for buying them drinks.
The last song they performed was titled Amy. It starts off with a happy melody played out on the keyboard. Amy is a pen pal, who writes a guy letters and sends him porn which was really odd. The song was barely a verse long, most of it consisting of the singer repeating “A-M-Y and I…” The audience was very receptive of the band as many people shouted encore after the song was over.

This bands performance reminded me of our discussion in class about the emergence of Rock as a genre of music directed towards white middle class youth with themes about partying, dating, and material possessions. While listening to the song Dedicated to Noah, I couldn’t help but think back to the movie we began watching in class about the music industry focusing on the youth in recent times. I’m assuming by the age of the performers and the content of the song Noah was a young man who had typical 20 year old issues and couldn’t bear the weight of having a mediocre job and no money. The song was relatable however it lacked heartfelt emotions.