Summer’s Gone: Late Style and Popular Music

Graham, Stephen. 2019. Summer’s Gone: Late Style and Popular Music. Journal of the Royal Musical Association, ISSN 0269-0403 [Article] (Forthcoming)

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Abstract or Description

The Beach Boys' 2012 album, That's Why God Made The Radio, is typically nostalgic, filled with seemingly sunny reminiscences and retreads that hark back to the 1960s. And yet other parts of the album look back in a more critical fashion, exploring unresolved melancholy through a rich musical language. What makes this even more complicated is the fact that it’s possible to hear these two ‘sides’ of the album differently, for the retreads to feel like eerie simulations and the melancholy parts to align with earlier, similarly complicated Beach Boys music. This ambivalence embodies the album’s dual relationship with what I describe as the primary strains of late style; Goethian serenity and Adornian intransigence. In exploring this contention and in applying late style to other examples of popular music, notably David Bowie’s 2016 album, Blackstar, I argue that the late style lens helps to shed new light on popular music’s increasingly complicated knots of nostalgia, aging and death.

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6 December 2019Accepted

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Date Deposited:

15 Jan 2020 09:39

Last Modified:

13 Jun 2021 23:23

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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