Year

2001

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculty of Arts

Abstract

The world of commercial popular music has been dominated by patriarchal representations of women and interpretations of female performance. This is certainly true even with the commercial success of female musical stars like Madonna and Alanis Morissette in the global marketplace. This thesis argues that women are still understood in terms of patriarchal categories and stereotypes within the mainstream music press. The femme fatale, androgyne, the little girl, the mother figure and the temperamental diva are all contemporary icons of feminine performance both visually and sonically. In particular this thesis analyses the popular music print media and the w a y the music critic's voice continues to mobilise the musical subject as masculine in character.

However, it is also argued that the identities of the feminine, feminist and musical female subject are negotiated through contradictory social discourses which provide alternative spaces for the interpretation of women's musical performances. The singer's voice, depending upon the meanings attached to the singer's vocal style and lyrical perspective, can be identified with many different subject positions including outspoken rebel, commercial siren seductress and/or creative individualist. Furthermore, different groups and individuals apply, to their reading of female musical stars, various criteria on which to judge and interpret the musical celebrity text. Ten female performer are examined through media representations and internet fan talk to analyse the contradictions, inconsistencies and power of dominant and competing narratives in the media to position, undermine and celebrate the performances of popular musical women.

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