In 2019, after this post was published, Ryan Adams was accused of engaging in a pattern of manipulative behavior including verbal, emotional, and sexual harassment. You can read more of this coverage here. (Updated, October 26, 2022)
The release of Ryan Adams’ cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 resulted in a media frenzy about which album is “better” and who deserves credit for the “depth and complexity” that many say Adams brought to Swift’s poppier original. Some reviews argue Adams “vindicated” Taylor Swift as an artist; others argue that emotional depth was already present in Swift’s songwriting and reviews of Adams’ cover operate under gendered understandings of emotions and legitimacy in pop music. Many publications that reviewed Adams’ version did not review Swift’s original. Ironically, the albums will be competing for a Grammy this year, and many think Adams will take it over Swift. Sociological studies of popular music show how gender affects who gets credit for creativity in the industry.
Research finds that male musicians, regardless of genre, are more likely to receive critical recognition and be “consecrated” into the popular music canon. Women are less likely to be seen as “legitimate” artists and are more often judged on their emotional authenticity and connections with “more” legitimate, male artists. Further, newspapers and music critics are more likely to cover music written and produced by male artists.
- Vaughn Schmutz and Alison Faupel. 2010. “Gender and Cultural Consecration in Popular Music.” Social Forces 89(2): 685-707
- Vaughn Schmutz. 2009. “Social and Symbolic Boundaries in Newspaper Coverage of Music, 1955–2005: Gender and Genre in the US, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.” Poetics 37(4): 298-314
Style doesn’t stem from the artist’s creative mind alone. Musical genres are gendered, as well as raced and classed. Industry norms require women and men to adopt different styles depending on the music genre in which they work. For example, women are more often expected to be sexual and/or emotional in their presentation of self and their music.
- Patti Lynne Donze. 2011. “Popular Music, Identity, and Sexualization: A Latent Class Analysis of Artist Types.” Poetics 39: 44-63.
- Diana Miller. 2014. “Symbolic Capital and Gender: Evidence from Two Cultural Fields.” Cultural Sociology 8(4): 462–482.
For more on gender in culture industries, check out this Discovery on fashion design.
MrPopularSentiment — October 2, 2015
I don't normally listen to the radio, but I was on a roadtrip recently and we were listening to a Sirius classic rock channel. After a little while, it occurred to me that I couldn't recall any female artists being played. Just in case I was falling for confirmation bias, I started writing down the artists as they came on. It took almost four hours before Joan Jett finally broke the male-only streak.
There is no reason for a classic rock station to go for so long without a single female voice. Janis Joplin? Stevie Nicks? Ann and Nancy Wilson? It's not like rock music is without women rockers, so why on earth did it take so long for the station to air a single female voice?
Liz Boyle — October 5, 2015
"Research finds that male musicians, regardless of genre, are more likely to receive critical recognition and be “consecrated” into the popular music canon."
No kidding. How is it possible for The Pretenders to be completely ignored on the Rolling Stones top 500 songs list? And, there are a total of *four* songs with female vocalists in the Rolling Stone top 50--Aretha Franklin, R-E-S-P-E-C-T (ironically); The Ronettes, Be My Baby; Tina Turner, Ain't No Mountain High Enough; and Martha and the Vandellas, Dancing in the Streets. You hit a chord here, Jacqui (pun intended).
kafkette — October 7, 2015
does anyone who writes this stuff actually know anything about his or her chosen subject at all? music has always had the least discrimination issues of any of the arts. yes, there was always some. i could write you a treatise, but i'm tired. the thing is i could write you a treatise. whoever wrote this junk couldnt, because she has done no research whatever and has simply applied today's most common outraged framework. ie:
patti smith is reviewed/patti smythe is not reviewed
abovenoted oofus whose name i forget is reviewed/ justin bieber is not reviewed
& so on, & so on, & so on. for nearly the last half century—since rock & roll began to be taken seriously as an art form—that is how its worked.
Taylor Swift V Ryan Adams: Who Wore It Better? | BroadBlogs — October 16, 2015
[…] Frost over at There’s Research on That! says male musicians typically get more critical recognition and are seen as more legitimate […]