Reading Rock and Roll
Considering the work of such artists as Madonna, George Clinton, U2, Elvis Costello, and Nirvana, the contributors deftly combine the rigors of scholarship with the energy of rock journalism to provide an analysis at once critical, contextualized, and enthusiastic. While a number of scholars have recently turned their attention to rock and pop music, most of their work has focused on providing sweeping cultural contexts for its popularity rather than exploring the music itself. Now, in Reading Rock and Roll, Kevin Dettmar and William Richey have gathered a wealth of erudite, original, and clever writings that perform close readings of rock music often with surprising results.
The authors in this volume view rock and roll as having had affinities with postmodernism from its inception. With its mongrel pedigree drawing on blues, folk, R and B, and bluegrass and its relation to mass media and high-tech modes of production, rock music has been self-conscious and full of irony from the beginning. These essays regularly call attention to the allusiveness and intertextuality of rock and roll, whether it is Kurt Cobain undermining the Beatles, M. C. Hammer stealing from Rick James's "Super Freak," or U2's use of Johnny Cash's legendary voice.
From a careful examination of the roles of addictions and female sexuality in the remakings of Courtney Love and Madonna, to the politics of George Clinton's uses and abuses of language, to the referencing of Elvis Costello in two recent novels and the use of 1970s rock in several recent film soundtracks, these essays are as varied as the artists they consider. Informal and theoretically informed, Reading Rock and Roll is an important investigation of the music that more than any other has defined our century.