Alderman Stacks

EGMT 1510: The Politics of Popular Music


Why did it take a white artist like Elvis covering a song like “Hound Dog” to make it a hit, and why did his performance of the song on television ignite such controversy? Who decided holding a “Disco Demolition Night” between the two halves of a 1979 Chicago White Sox/Detroit Tigers doubleheader was a good promotional idea, and why did it turn into a riot? What made Ronald Reagan praise Bruce Springsteen at a 1984 campaign stop, and why did Springsteen tell a concert audience two days later that Reagan must not have understood his songs? Why did a conservative pundit dismiss Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” as “paranoi[d]…Millennial groupthink,” and what does that reaction have to do with the song and its video’s content? The answers to these questions tell us that popular music is more than just a collection of artistic works and cultural commodities. In “The Politics of Pop Music,” you will examine pop music as an art form, a social movement, and a business. In doing so, you will consider how and what studying aesthetic products such as pop songs, albums, videos, and performances can tell us about the historical moment in which they were created and, in turn, the world they helped create.