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Gender and Critical Evaluation in Popular Music

Gender and the Media: Women’s Places

ISBN: 978-1-78754-330-0, eISBN: 978-1-78754-329-4

ISSN: 1529-2126

Publication date: 12 November 2018


Previous research suggests that women receive less critical attention and acclaim in popular music. The authors expect that gender differences in the amount and content of media discourse about popular musicians occur because music critics draw on the cultural frame of gender as a primary tool for critical evaluation. In order to explore the role of gender as a frame through which aesthetic content is evaluated, the authors conduct detailed content analyses of 53 critical reviews of two versions of the popular album 1989 – the original released by Taylor Swift in 2014 and a cover version released by Ryan Adams less than a year later. Despite Swift’s greater popularity and prominence, the authors find that reviews of her version of the album are more likely to focus on her gender and sexuality; less likely to describe her as emotionally authentic; and more likely to use popular aesthetic criteria in evaluating her music. By contrast, Ryan Adams was more likely to be seen by critics as emotionally authentic and to be described using high art aesthetic criteria and intellectualizing discourse. The authors address the implications of the findings for persistent gender gaps in many artistic fields.



Schmutz, V., Pollock, S.H. and Bendickson, J.S. (2018), "Gender and Critical Evaluation in Popular Music", Segal, M.T. and Demos, V. (Ed.) Gender and the Media: Women’s Places (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 26), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 197-216.



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