‘Is It Because I’m Black?’: The Music Industry, Image, and Politics in the Careers of Syl and Syleena Johnson

Throughout June 2016, U.S. Studies Online will be publishing a series of posts to mark African American Music Appreciation Month. In the fifth and final post, Glen Whitcroft compares the similarities between Syl Johnson and Syleena Johnson’s music and careers. Looking back over my false dreams that I once knew, … Continue reading

Configuring The Dream Factory: Prince Fans and Destabilisation of the Album in the Digital Age

The speed with which ‘Prince’s ‘Vault’ of unreleased recordings was drilled into after his untimely death felt shocking to many. The existence of ‘The Vault’, a locked room within Prince’s Paisley Park recording complex, has been well known for decades and is believed to contain thousands of unreleased Prince recordings, as well as unseen music videos. However, the promise of authorising material that fans have been making their own for a considerable amount of time has refuelled discussion. Continue reading

Prince, Seventh-Day Adventism and the Apocalyptic Threat of the 1980s

In the light of his recent death, it is important to note how Prince’s music contributed to public discourse about religious norms and eschatological hopes. Prince’s most successful period as a recording artist came during the 1980s, and his lyrics throughout this decade reflect a contemporary escalation in discussions of the apocalyptic. Continue reading

“Money, That’s What I Want”: Who Benefitted from the Crossover of African American Musicians in the 1960s?

Throughout the twentieth century, the American music industry was plagued by issues of race, segregation and inequality; much like America itself. As the century progressed, music became a significant indicator of race relations and a willingness within much of the United States to racially integrate. This is exemplified through the growing ability for African American musicians to crossover to mainstream audiences. Scholar, Phillip Harper defines the term ‘crossover’ as an act’s achievement of commercial success due to its appeal across racial boundaries Continue reading

Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’: A Complex and Intersectional Exploration of Racial and Gendered Identity

Much of Beyoncé’s career has been defined by an image that has spoken largely to notions of the form of ‘girl power’ and independence that we associate with the emergence of postfeminist popular culture in the 1990s. Largely conceptualised as a ‘non-political’ feminist discourse, manifestations of postfeminism in popular culture have been characterised by notions of choice, individualism and the re-commodification of femininity. Continue reading

The Transatlantic Impact of civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome”

“We Shall Overcome” bridges the civil rights movements in the United States and Northern Ireland, says Glen Whitcroft, but does this overlook the diversity in Northern Ireland protest history? Continue reading

The legacy of Black Power Visual Culture in 1990s Hip Hop

Artists such as KRS-One, Public Enemy and Chuck D. position themselves as heirs to the legacy of the Panthers and Malcolm X by creatively updating the “media-conscious iconography of sixties black radicalism for a 1990s constituency”, says Hannah Jeffery. Continue reading

The Promise and Disappointment of 1920’s Paris for “Ebony Venus” Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker’s successful Parisian career is often cited as proof that France was a “colour-blind” nation in the 1920s, says Bethan Hughes, but this overlooks how Baker’s blackness was intrinsic to her success due to French perceptions of black sexuality. Continue reading

R&B entertainers didn’t take too long to get involved in the civil rights movement

Glen Whitcroft re-evaluates the financial and musical legacy of some of America’s most beloved and commercially successful African American entertainers, such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone. Continue reading