Death Metal and Music Criticism: Analysis at the Limits

Abstract

Michelle Phillipov challenges the tendency of popular music studies to focus on questions of a political nature. The first half of the book is a thorough critique of ‘The Rise of Political Criticism’ in popular music studies with three individual chapters dedicated to case studies of punk, hip-hop, and electronic dance music (EDM). Although she does not completely reject the importance of politics in certain musical styles, she proposes that musicological inquiry that concentrates on a narrow range of popular music styles correlates with the emergence of ‘fan scholars’ who have influenced the trend to political discourse. This debate corresponds with previous work by Joanna Zylinska (The Ethics of Cultural Studies (London: Continuum, 2005)): both have suggested that scholars have acted unethically by overemphasizing the political aspects of popular music, or even by emphasizing their own politics in their investigations.

 

Content

Death Metal and Music Criticism: Analysis at the Limits. By Michelle Phillipov
Death Metal and Music Criticism: Analysis at the Limits. By Michelle Phillipov. pp. xx + 158. (Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2012. 㿝.95. ISBN 978-0-7391-6461-7.)
Robert Upton
– Author Affiliations

University of Nottingham
In this welcome new volume, Michelle Phillipov challenges the tendency of popular music studies to focus on questions of a political nature. The first half of the book is a thorough critique of ‘The Rise of Political Criticism’ in popular music studies with three individual chapters dedicated to case studies of punk, hip-hop, and electronic dance music (EDM). Although she does not completely reject the importance of politics in certain musical styles, she proposes that musicological inquiry that concentrates on a narrow range of popular music styles correlates with the emergence of ‘fan scholars’ who have influenced the trend to political discourse. This debate corresponds with previous work by Joanna Zylinska (The Ethics of Cultural Studies (London: Continuum, 2005)): both have suggested that scholars have acted unethically by overemphasizing the political aspects of popular music, or even by emphasizing their own politics in their investigations. Phillipov invites us to change the coordinates of criticism by bringing questions of pleasure to the fore. Some popular music styles have been excluded from the newly configured popular music canon owing to the ‘overriding assumption that music should in some way address and resist social inequality … [or] be readily connected to progressive politics’ (p. 68). By demonstrating how a politics-based musicological framework limits our comprehension of death metal, Phillipov poses a more compelling question: what else has popular musicology (dis)missed?

Although the presence of ‘death metal’ in the title of the book may deter some non-specialists, Part I of the book is an insightful and focused critique of popular musicology. Contesting scholarly claims that heavy metal music is Neanderthal, reactionary, and misogynist, Phillipov offers a …

http://ml.oxfordjournals.org/content/95/2/313.extract

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