Popular Music


Resisting songs: negative dialectics in pop

Terry Bloomfield

But there isn't Al. If Al were there he would be giving a private performance to Chris Roberts as patron: an odd conception in the present-day world. In fact Al Green sings in a domain that is public although the musical commodity of the disc or tape turns it into a potentially solitary experience. In his comment Roberts has been captured by the Romantic understanding of the song: that its essence is (artistic) interiority made exterior. He is not alone in his fantasy of access to the pop singer. It constitutes the prevailing, if unformulated, view – a considerable irony in the postmodern world of late capitalism. The past few decades have witnessed the development of a global light-entertainment industry whose cultural objects partake in an increasingly closed circle of signification through pop videos, television advertising, soap operas and the tabloids. This (hyper)reality coexists today with the pursuit of the ever more soulful vocal, as if in a doomed attempt to crack open the reified commodity, by dint of the singer's passion to force something human across the gulf between exchange value and use value.