The Revolution Will Be Spotified
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This paper analyzes the way musicians and genres of music are used as rhetorically effective modes of resistance during the current political and social climate in the West to break down barriers culturally and break through systems of power. I argue that not only are artists using their music to spread messages of resistance to their audiences, but musicians implement specific rhetorical strategies in the spaces and genres available to them. I will take an interdisciplinary approach that combines cultural rhetorics, popular culture studies, communication studies, and ethnomusicology to investigate the way musicians send messages of resistance to different audiences and listeners. First, I will use Huckin, Andrus, and Clary-Lemon’s concept of critical discourse analysis to analyze the way music lyrics convey meaning and cue the audience to certain resistant messages in different ways. Second, Royster and Kirsch’s concept of social circulation will be utilized to tap into the ways technology and online social spaces are interrogated as complex rhetorical spaces that are multidimensional and add new levels of activism for musicians. Through these approaches I will argue that music is not simply sound or a component of popular culture. Music is John Blacking’s “humanly organized sound” due to its ability to respond to cultures and create and fuel resistance. This paper examines the interplay between song lyrics, rhetorical concepts, like kairos and visual rhetoric, and the way musicians use social media, plus streaming services like Spotify, to create and circulate messages of resistance through popular music. I will focus on four mainstream genres, pop, rap and hip-hop, rock and alternative, and country to reveal how artists in these genres use the rhetorical strategies available in the genre to reach their audience, while also navigating the power systems and structures at play. Music does not simply move from the musician to listeners anymore. Instead, the continuous feedback loop through social media, popular culture, and digital music services like Spotify create a conversation that is continuous and ongoing between musicians and listeners. The way these conversations are carried out in the 21st Century break down barriers constructed in the music industry and allow musicians to be even more resistant than in the past thanks in part to the use of new technologies. The production and circulation of music in online spaces is important because of the way meaning is interpreted, distributed, and shared in these spaces and I aim to reveal how. This paper offers examples of contemporary artists like Muse, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Childish Gambino, Carrie Underwood, and Hayley Kiyoko as artists using their music to break down barriers and resist the spaces that historically have confined them. Due to technology and the way music can act as a mode of resistance in the 21st Century, especially in politically tense moments, I argue revolutions are not only televised, but Spotified.