There’s Something Happening Here: Changing Religious Attitudes in Popular Music Culture Since 2000

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Title: There’s Something Happening Here: Changing Religious Attitudes in Popular Music Culture Since 2000
Author: Devlin, Andrew
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2010
Abstract: My thesis, “There’s Something Happening Here: Changing Religious Attitudes in Popular Music Culture Since 2000” focuses on a cultural analysis of some of today’s leading artists in popular music and the cultural shifts around their work. The paper argues that technological advances since 2000 have profoundly affected the religious life of music fans around the world. On one hand, advances such as mp3 technology and filesharing services have enabled music to spread across borders faster than ever before, dealing a serious blow to the content control of the music industry. On the other hand, technological advances have led to an increasingly mediated life threatened constantly by information overload. This has led to a generation of music fans desperate to find the “real.” My work focuses on three artists who have established themselves in this vein, judged mostly by their drawing power in live performance and interaction with some of these new technologies. The first chapter provides a close examination of the rapper Nas and his 1994 album, Illmatic. Through close lyrical analysis, it works to show the ways in which Nas establishes his authenticity as an original hip-hop artist and give insight into his overall message, which relies heavily on notions of authenticity, rebelliousness towards corrupt power, and the celebration of the present. The second chapter details some of the changes in the music industry since Illmatic was released, especially the advent of mp3 technology and its affect on music communities, before dealing more closely with two artists closely related to this change: M.I.A. and Radiohead. M.I.A. establishes herself as “real” largely through her story as a self-made woman and political activist from Sri Lanka. Her exotic sound and confident attitude have made her an international celebrity, largely through Internet buzz. Her ideals closely mirror those of the rapper Nas. Radiohead followed a similar path in terms of Internet buzz, but established authenticity through a series of breakthrough original albums full of new sounds that fit the moment perfectly. While their ideals are similar, Radiohead’s lyrical content and sound is darker in fighting against the sterilized life of the Internet age. After looking closely at these three artists, the paper closes with a brief discussion on how advertisers today have taken advantage of this shift in religious attitudes. It shows the ways in which a number of different brands work to associate themselves with the same ideals present in the artists’ work. They do so through heavy advertising at live music festivals and ad campaigns geared around authenticity and self-expression in the face of a mediated life. Finally, the paper suggests possible counterarguments to this new discussion of musical culture which is inevitably informed by socioeconomics and a debatable connection between lyrical content and cultural practice.
Subject: Popular music -- 2001-2010
Subject: Popular music -- Religious aspects
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Devlin, Andrew. "There’s Something Happening Here: Changing Religious Attitudes in Popular Music Culture Since 2000". 2010. Available electronically from

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