Reconfiguring authenticity: Eurythmics and the aesthetics of new pop | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1751-4193
  • E-ISSN: 1751-4207

Abstract

This article looks at how the British pop culture of the 1980s changed the way authenticity was conceptualized in popular music. I will argue that ‘new pop’ and the televisual aesthetic of MTV challenged the division between British and American codes of authenticity. This distinction is marked by the use of the term rock in America, to describe popular music of generalizable importance, of which authenticity is the key talisman. By contrast, in United Kingdom, pop is less of a pejorative term, and the preference for authentic modes of address is tempered by the playful sensibility of the carnivalesque. As a barometer of this, I will be focusing on the work of the British duo Eurythmics, whose creative output spanned the decade, and for whom MTV was pivotal in breaking the American market. In particular, I will suggest that the band’s propensity to bend genre as well as gender, positioned North American ‘rock’ as a contingent discourse: a free-floating signifier around which competing notions of authenticity coalesce. In this direction, the terms rock and pop can also be read against discourses linked to both sexuality and national identity. Indeed, the Britishness of Eurythmics and the camp sensibility of their music videos are central to how rock authenticity is re-positioned as a more plural construct. Emblematic of this paradox of authenticity is both the duality of Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox’s identity as Eurythmics and the diversity of their musical output. Encoded in this are some very specific strategies for listening that draw upon the legacy of British Art schools in the 1950s and the Independent Group. Revisiting this legacy is pivotal therefore in understanding how 1980s pop music culture reverberates in the twenty-first century. The pertinence of the work is underscored by the induction of Eurythmics into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022.

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2023-06-26
2024-03-02
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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): 1980s; British; camp; gender; genre; MTV; music video; rock
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