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Torpedoing the authorship of popular music: a reading of Gorillaz' ‘Feel Good Inc.’

LARS ECKSTEINa1

a1 Englisches Seminar, Universität Tübingen, Wilhelmstr. 50, D-72074 Tübingen, Germany E-mail: lars.eckstein@uni-tuebingen.de

Abstract

This article addresses problems of authorship and creative authority in popular music, in particular in view of a pervasive split between modes of aesthetic production (involving modernist assemblage, multiple authorship, and the late capitalist logic of major label policies) and modes of aesthetic reception (which tend to take popular music as the organic output of individual performers). While rock musicians have attempted to come to terms with this phenomenon by either performing a ‘Romantic’ sense of authenticity (basically by importing folk values to the production process) or ‘Modernist authenticity’ (by highlighting experimentation and alienation), Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, creators of Gorillaz, found a third way which ingeniously allows them to do both. By creating a virtual rock band, and by hiding their own media personalities behind those of their virtual alter egos, they brought themselves into a position which allows them to produce ‘sincere’ popular music which ‘playfully’ stages the absurdities of major label music business while very successfully operating within its very confines.