Cfp: The Oxford Handbook of Pop Music

Call for Chapter Proposals, The Oxford Handbook of Pop Music, edited by Eric Weisbard

Proposals now due: August 15, 2023

Pop music, by definition, is commercial music: motivated by profit more than artistry, seeking a mainstream appeal that forbids fussiness about aesthetic absolutes. This resistance to firm definition has affected music writing. Jazz criticism, rock criticism, and rap criticism reflected genre communities debating standards. Popular music studies preferred scenes, subcultures, and other margins that at times crashed the charts. Sound studies almost left music behind altogether. There is no precise field of pop studies to glean from. Nevertheless, for 20-plus years now the Pop Conference has featured hundreds of writers pursuing pop across numerous topics and methods. And a phrase has circulated, “poptimism,” disposed to correct for the biases of “rockism.” The Oxford Handbook of Pop Music will build upon these significant beginnings. 

Pop’s apparently safe center has often provided entry for outsiders to sanctioned taste. Non-white performers, women and LGBTQ+ artists, immigrants and amateurs: pop welcomed them all to the spotlight. Pop-centered perspectives resurrect vaudeville and blackface minstrelsy rather than folklore. They connect to performance studies emphasizing particularities of identity; scholarship on the mass culture commercial sphere as a social realm no less than the club scene; efforts within musicology to analyze beyond notated texts; global accounts of K-Pop and reggaeton; memoirs of loving a boy band, succumbing to disco, shining on TikTok.

The Oxford Handbook of Pop Music aims to formally connect these different approaches, welcoming academics from a range of disciplines plus working critics and independent scholars. Ideally, the volume will reflect a global cohort of writers thinking about pop from outside Anglo-American paradigms. Your chapter of 6 – 10,000 words can anticipate or distill a book project. No attempt need be made to be comprehensive, just suggestive of how a specific topic helps us see something larger about pop music in general. More than with most Oxford Handbooks, the question of scholarly language itself will be an aspect under consideration here. Write freely and gleefully. 

Some working organizational sections, all of which are likely to change, including these examples.

Section One: Pop Emerges. The early evolution of pop, as part of the growth of blackface theater and syncopated music into mass media and celebrity culture

Section Two: Pop Forms.  Power ballads, Top 40 radio, music videos, karaoke, Eurovision, and other cultural realms that pop has established as very much its own

Section Three: Pop as Music. Tin Pan Alley, Motown, Swedish, and K-Pop song factories; pop formats; collective authorship and auteurism

Section Four: Intersections of Identity. Global notions of Blackness and Latinidad; public or coded female and LGBTQ+ sexuality; immigrant boundary crossing; fanship

Section Five: Icons. Examples of the divas, kings, and queens of pop, and other phenoms whose imprint becomes as much a question for decoding as their work itself

Section Six: 21st Century Pop. YouTube, TikTok, streaming, new production approaches, the global shift to bestselling pop in languages Spanish and Korean, and other recent shifts

Deadlines: Please send your proposals, to, by August 15. They can be up to 750 words, longer than normal, to address: 1) the focused topic you want to explore, 2) your methods and reference points, and 3) how you see this chapter furthering our sense of that slippery topic, pop music.  Include a short bio as well. There will be opportunities beyond this summer to write chapters, but this batch of assignments gives authors first dibs and should make clearer what needs coverage moving forward.