The Role of Pop Music and Pop Singers in the Construction of a Singer's Identity in Three Early Adolescent Females

By Clements-Cortes, Amy | The Canadian Music Educator, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

The Role of Pop Music and Pop Singers in the Construction of a Singer's Identity in Three Early Adolescent Females


Clements-Cortes, Amy, The Canadian Music Educator


The Canadian Music Educator/ Musicien éducateur au Canada has recently established 'Peer Review Corner' as a regular feature of our journal. Authors wishing to have articles submitted to a panel for review may send them to Dr. Lee Willingham [lwilllingham@wlu.ca] with that request. This initiative within our own publication fills a void for Canadian scholars who wish to submit their writing to peer juries, and disseminate it to a Canadian audience. If you wish to serve as a reviewer, please contact Dr. Willingham.

The prevalence of music in today's society is enormous. Not only do we actively choose to listen to music by turning on the radio, or listening to a favourite CD, but we are exposed to music in many public places including shopping malls, waiting rooms, restaurants, etcetera. Willis (1990) acknowledges that popular music is always listened to within specific social settings and locations, and operates as a background to a variety of activities ranging from dancing in clubs, to surviving the workday, to defeating boredom in the home.

According to Roberts and Christenson (2001) pre-adolescents (11-14) and adolescents (15-18) listen to music between three and four hours a day; and by grade 11, girls typically listen to 30 minutes more music a day than boys. The music industry is keenly aware of this fact, and produces and markets music specifically to this audience. "Teen pop" is a thriving form of music that is defined by Vannini and Myers (2002) as the genre of music that is the most popular with teenage audiences, and is produced, targeted, and consumed by both pre-adolescents and adolescents. It is not a stretch then to see that extended exposure to, and consumption of, music will have an impact and influence on adolescents.

Regardless of the role of popular culture in shaping our identities, consumer culture and cultural activities such as buying clothes, and selecting the food we eat are identity resources pointing to particular lifestyle choices a person makes. Essentially, identity and consumption have become linked together. Fisher (2002) acknowledges that music, movies, and fashion serve as key informants of identity in today's society, and "Even at the origin of modern western capitalism, identity and status were contested and re-made through consumption choices" (p. 18). He goes on to explain that traditionally what we consumed was determined by our identity; however in today's culture of consumerism, the pattern has become reversed, and consumption determines and defines our identity. Stryker and Burke (2000) (identity theorists), argue that an individual consists of a group of identities, each of which is based on occupying a particular role.

According to Roe (1999), since the 1950's music has played an essential role in the process of identity construction in youth. Music and its texts represent a scheme of significance that consumers may use to delineate their self-concepts as well as personal and social identities. Adolescents are a consumer group that may be particularly influenced by pop music and are apt to appropriate the texts of this music, and the meanings they derive from it, to define themselves. Musicians and aspiring musicians, specifically singers, are likely to be even more influenced or affected in different ways than non-musicians by the music they choose to sing, perform, and study, as well as by their favourite singers, and the images and lifestyles projected by those singers.

This paper seeks to explore how early adolescent female singers use popular music, both the songs and images of their favourite singers, to construct their identities as "musical performers or singers." This theme will be explored by drawing on the literature in the area and personal conversations with three twelve-year-old female vocal students. For the purposes of this paper, Levy-Warren's (1996) classification of early adolescence as those persons aged 10-14 will be employed. (The real names of the students quoted in this paper have been changed. …

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