Breaking voices : voice, subjectivity and fragmentation in popular music
Four case studies from 'mainstream' popular music are used to explore the voice as a primary site for the construction of meaning in popular music, both as a vehicle for language and as an 'object' outside of or alongside language. The first chapter argues that the extensive use of overdubbing technology by the Carpenters forms part of their relationship with the 'geno-song', and that the cyborgian voice which emerges from such use of technology disrupts human-centred psychoanalytic models of subjective development. Finally, different recordings of 'Superstar' are analysed to show how different recordings of a song negotiate ideas of 'presence'. The second chapter outlines various sexually queer subjects presented by Madonna, and argues that the process of constant transformation challenges hegemonic Western notions of a unified 'self'. The chapter also argues that musical factors have underpinned her visual transformations, and that her vocality has suggested her maturation as an artist and challenged the ideology of 'voice' as a stable signifier of identity. A chapter on Eminem explores his simultaneous use of three distinct characters to play out different aspects of his own identity, and how his work represents and constructs masculinity. Specifically, the chapter argues that the use of language as a system does not easily parallel the masculinist content of the lyrics, but can instead be aligned with traditionally 'feminine' or feminising modes of writing. Moreover, according to a traditional gendered musical semiotics, the interface between language and music does not underline 'masculinity' in normative ways. The final chapter considers how ideas of 'self' and Other are negotiated in Elvis Impersonation. In particular, a model for understanding vocal impersonation is offered, using Freud's model of the ideal ego and Baudrillard's orders of simulacra. Finally, the chapter explores the representation and construction of masculinities in various examples of Elvis Impersonation.