Musicians and Critics: The Posthumous Mediation of Resistance

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Taylor PRICE, University of Toronto, Canada
Musicians uphold and challenge values in society through the themes they sing about, the styles of music they play and record, and the things they stand for as individuals. For genres of rock, hip-hop, punk and folk, music critics, as expert evaluators of music, value subversion as a principle of artistic legitimacy and authenticity (see Regev 1994; Koreman 2014:510 for examples from rock and hip-hop respectively). But what happens to this subversive character once the artist dies? Cultural experts exercise their ability to set the terms of evaluation of and engagement with art (van Dijk 1997:23; Adorno 1976[1962]:146-151) but systematic analysis of the ways cultural experts contribute to the ongoing posthumous careers of artists is lacking. This project aims to engage these concerns by considering the ways the political and subversive ideals of musicians shift in the wake of their death. By drawing upon album reviews from major American and Canadian popular music publications, the analysis focuses on the patterns of the evaluation of musical works while musicians are alive and comparing them to reviews of posthumous releases. In doing so, this project sheds light on how the messages of resistance embedded in musical works are remembered, carried forward and fetishized.