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Review of "She's So Fine: Reflections on Whiteness, Femininity, Adolescence and Class in 1960s Music" by Laurie Stras

Yamagata, Sayo

Laurie Stras's edited volume She's So Fine: Reflections on Whiteness, Femininity, Adolescence and Class in 1960s Music is a welcome addition to the recent scholarship on music by female musicians of the 1960s that attends to the complexity of the women and girls who performed and listened to this music in the United States and the United Kingdom. So unexplored is this area of inquiry from a musicological standpoint that, in her introduction, Stras appropriately envisions She's So Fine to be the "beginning of a re-evaluation-with emphasis on value-of the very premises of 1950s and 1960s pop". By extension, Stras's ambitions for the book not only necessitate an interrogation of the merits of the popular music canon, but also call for a reconsideration of the standard criteria for assigning and naturalizing value wherever it calcifies. The pop music of women musicians in the 1960s has, critically and in general popular thought, been denigrated for its polish and mass appeal. Celebrated volumes on rock history such as The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, (2001) or Robert Palmer's Rock and Roll: An Unruly History (1995) have participated in the dismissal of girl groups by crediting their success to the complex labor force of producers and song-writers "behind" the musicians. Stras observes that "Pop and its attendant girlspace, with their alleged emphasis on conformity and concomitant lack of authenticity, have been noted as a phenomenon, but one that always seems to operate as a foil to prove rock's ultimate superior cultural worth" . The most troubling problem posed by these gendered constructions of '60s genres is not so much that popular music is consistently gendered "female"-for as Stras observes, pop music was indeed a space dominated by teenage girls who represented the target audience but that this feminization simultaneously becomes a marker of conformity, lack, or devaluation. Clearly, the diminished social status of adolescent girls in Western culture is one explanation for the motivations behind this discursive and political suppression of '60s girl pop and the heterogeneity of the girl singers in question. She s So Fine, therefore, is a valuable feminist work because it resonates as the unequivocal rejoinder to all of the pejorative connotations that justifY the reduction and dismissal of the category of "girl" from androcentric histories of popular culture.

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Title
Current Musicology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Music
Publisher
Columbia University
Published Here
April 9, 2014
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