The Poetry Of Pop

Hardcover | March 28, 2017

byAdam Bradley

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A trailblazing exploration of the poetic power of popular songs, from Tin Pan Alley to the Beatles to Beyoncé and beyond.

Encompassing a century of recorded music, this pathbreaking book reveals the poetic artistry of popular songs. Pop songs are music first. They also comprise the most widely disseminated poetic expression of our time. Adam Bradley traces the song lyric across musical genres from early twentieth-century Delta blues to mid-century rock 'n’ roll to today’s hits. George and Ira Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm.” The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” These songs are united in their exacting attention to the craft of language and sound. Bradley shows that pop music is a poetry that must be heard more than read, uncovering the rhythms, rhymes, and metaphors expressed in the singing voice. At once a work of musical interpretation, cultural analysis, literary criticism, and personal storytelling, this book illustrates how words and music come together to produce compelling poetry, often where we least expect it.

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From the Publisher

A trailblazing exploration of the poetic power of popular songs, from Tin Pan Alley to the Beatles to Beyoncé and beyond. Encompassing a century of recorded music, this pathbreaking book reveals the poetic artistry of popular songs. Pop songs are music first. They also comprise the most widely disseminated poetic expression of our time...

Adam Bradley is professor of English and founding director of the Laboratory for Race & Pop Culture (RAP Lab) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the author of Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:424 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 1.13 inPublished:March 28, 2017Publisher:Yale University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0300165021

ISBN - 13:9780300165029

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From the Author

Why study the poetry of pop music?   You could go a lifetime without thinking about why pop songs do the things they do with words and music. Many of us do. But if you’re the kind of person who takes pleasure in figuring out how things work, then the poetry of pop is for you. We should aim to take pop seriously without being too serious about it. That’s why the goal of my book is to preserve the pleasure of pop while training our attention on the words that inhabit the melodies and the melodies that inhabit the words.   Is all pop music poetry?   All pop is poetry, but not all pop songs are good poems. Usually when you hear a pop artist—say, Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen—labeled a poet it’s meant as an honorific. That’s not how I’m using the term. Song lyrics are poetry simply because they are made of much the same stuff as page-born poems and respond to many of the same habits of appreciation and analysis.   Who are the most under-appreciated pop musician poets?   Some songwriters write lyrics that can masquerade convincingly as poems for the page. You can sit down with some Joni Mitchell lyrics, some Stevie Wonder lyrics and be quite satisfied. The revelation for me in writing this book has been in how much I’ve come to appreciate the craft of those song lyrics that are more dependent on their music—say, the little bit of difference that makes the incessant repetition at the end of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” not just tolerable but sublime. Sometimes the originality and skill of a lyric’s poetry is only apparent in performance. Praise for The Anthology of Rap: "An English major's hip-hop bible, an impossible fusion of street cred and book learning. . . . Reading [it] was the most fun I've had with a book in many months."—Sam Anderson, New York Magazine "As ambitious and intelligent as anyone might want, and more enjoyable than anyone might think. . . . If you want to hear how the latter part of the twentieth century sounded, you can't do better than this book."—Kevin Young, Bookforum "[The] editors of The Anthology of Rap supply a much needed injection of energy and enthusiasm into our analysis of hip-hop's lyricism."—Quentin B. Huff, PopMatters