The British Pop Dandy: Masculinity, Popular Music and Culture, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The British Pop Dandy

Masculinity, Popular Music and Culture, 1st Edition

By Stan Hawkins


244 pages

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Who are pop dandies? Why are stars like David Bowie, Jarvis Cocker, Pete Doherty and Robbie Williams so dandified? Taking up a wide range of British pop stars, Hawkins seeks to find out why so many have cast themselves in roles that often take style to absurd extremes. In this study, male pop artists are mapped against a cultural and historical background through a genealogy of personalities, such as Oscar Wilde, W.H. Auden, Andy Warhol, Noël Coward, Derek Jarmen, David Beckham and countless others. A critical analysis of issues and approaches to musical performance through masculinity becomes the focal point of this fascinating study. Ranging from the sixties to beyond the twentieth century, The British Pop Dandy considers the construction of the male pop icon through the spectacle of videos, live concerts and films. Why do we derive pleasure from the performing body, and how is entertainment linked to categories of gender and sexuality? The author insists that pop performances can be understood through human characteristics that relate to the particulars of dandyism, camp and glamour, and this he theorizes through the work of Charles Baudelaire. One of the political objectives of the dandy is to liberate himself through a denial of the structures that assume fixed identity. Not least, it is acts of queering in pop music that characterize entire generations of male artists in the UK. Setting out to discover what distinguishes the British pop dandy, Hawkins considers the role of music and performance in the articulation of hyperbolic display. It is argued that the recorded voice is a construction that idealizes self-representation, and absorbs the listener's attention. Particularly, camp address in singing practice is taken up in conjunction with a discussion of intimacy, which forms part of the strategy of the performer. In a range of songs and videos selected for music analysis, Hawkins points to the uniqueness of the voice as it expresses a transgressive quality that often comes across 'put-on', naive and vulnerable. To this end, vocal performativity is considered part of music's discursive disciplining through some of the greatest pop tracks, videos, concerts and films of our time. It is also argued that shifting signs of masculinity can be understood through musical process and style. While musicological in its main focus, this study is interdisciplinary and sets out to open new modes of thinking on the complex issues surrounding how masculinity, music and culture have developed in the UK.


'In this analytic tour de force, Stan Hawkins uses the historical figure of the dandy to open up a remarkable range of insights into the aesthetics of popular music. Necessary reading for anyone who's ever wondered what made British pop so, well, British!' Simon Frith, University of Edinburgh, UK ’[Hawkins's] subject is relevant and fascinating, providing a means by which masculine display and subjectivity might be understood … Hawkins provides a range of identities and strategies of identity that say much not only about the British pop dandy, but about Anglo-American pop culture itself, and provides a means of theorising identity that is only becoming ever-more relevant to the field.’ International Association for the Study of Popular Music ’As part of Ashgate's commendable Popular and Folk Music series, Stan Hawkins' The British Pop Dandy is a study of a wide-ranging number of British male pop artists from the late 1960s to the present, including acts as varied as David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Robert Smith and Robert Palmer, who have donned the dandy persona as an important part of their public and performative identity. … Hawkins provides a stimulating and detailed analysis of the way recent British male pop stars' identities have been constructed and read…’ Musicology Australia ’As with so many other books on popular music that appear only to treat very particular subjects, this one simultaneously offers much in the way of general methodological approaches and so deserves to be read even if one’s scholarly interest in popular music is not gender, or ’pop’ music (as opposed to ’rock’). … a complex and sophisticated treatment of the subject…. It is precisely studies such as this, ones which move away from discussing gender and sexuality in broad strokes towards a more nuanced categorisation that cuts across conventional gender binaries, that are needed in popular music studies.’ Popular Music ’… The British Pop Dandy is an impr

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Oh so dandy! The force of peculiarity; Pop subjectivities: poise and spectacle; Virtual insanity or the 'real thing'?; With a twist of the straight: dandyism and gender revolt; Singing the body fantastic: corporeality and the voice; Jack-a-Dandy: masking, virtuosity, and mannerism; Conclusion: 'let the boys all sing and the boys all shout…'; Discography; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Stan Hawkins is professor at the Department of Musicology, University of Oslo, and adjunct professor at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway,

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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