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The Poetry of Pop

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From Tin Pan Alley to the Beatles to Beyoncé, "Mr. Bradley skillfully breaks down a century of standards and pop songs into their elements to reveal the interaction of craft and art in composition and performance.” (The Wall Street Journal) Encompassing a century of recorded music, this pathbreaking book reveals the poetic artistry of popular songs. Pop songs are music fir From Tin Pan Alley to the Beatles to Beyoncé, "Mr. Bradley skillfully breaks down a century of standards and pop songs into their elements to reveal the interaction of craft and art in composition and performance.” (The Wall Street Journal) Encompassing a century of recorded music, this pathbreaking book reveals the poetic artistry of popular songs. Pop songs are music first. They also comprise the most widely disseminated poetic expression of our time. Adam Bradley traces the song lyric across musical genres from early twentieth-century Delta blues to mid-century rock 'n’ roll to today’s hits. George and Ira Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm.” The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” These songs are united in their exacting attention to the craft of language and sound. Bradley shows that pop music is a poetry that must be heard more than read, uncovering the rhythms, rhymes, and metaphors expressed in the singing voice. At once a work of musical interpretation, cultural analysis, literary criticism, and personal storytelling, this book illustrates how words and music come together to produce compelling poetry, often where we least expect it.


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From Tin Pan Alley to the Beatles to Beyoncé, "Mr. Bradley skillfully breaks down a century of standards and pop songs into their elements to reveal the interaction of craft and art in composition and performance.” (The Wall Street Journal) Encompassing a century of recorded music, this pathbreaking book reveals the poetic artistry of popular songs. Pop songs are music fir From Tin Pan Alley to the Beatles to Beyoncé, "Mr. Bradley skillfully breaks down a century of standards and pop songs into their elements to reveal the interaction of craft and art in composition and performance.” (The Wall Street Journal) Encompassing a century of recorded music, this pathbreaking book reveals the poetic artistry of popular songs. Pop songs are music first. They also comprise the most widely disseminated poetic expression of our time. Adam Bradley traces the song lyric across musical genres from early twentieth-century Delta blues to mid-century rock 'n’ roll to today’s hits. George and Ira Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm.” The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” These songs are united in their exacting attention to the craft of language and sound. Bradley shows that pop music is a poetry that must be heard more than read, uncovering the rhythms, rhymes, and metaphors expressed in the singing voice. At once a work of musical interpretation, cultural analysis, literary criticism, and personal storytelling, this book illustrates how words and music come together to produce compelling poetry, often where we least expect it.

30 review for The Poetry of Pop

  1. 5 out of 5

    Always Pouting

    This books takes pop music and compares it to poetry, going into the similarities and differences, and then talks about the different active ways of listening to pop music to get a better understanding of the feelings that listening to music creates. Talking about visceral things like our reactions to music is really hard to do and I'm impressed by how well Bradley does it especially when he talks about the effect of rhythm or rhyme or imagery in pop music. It was an interesting read and I agree This books takes pop music and compares it to poetry, going into the similarities and differences, and then talks about the different active ways of listening to pop music to get a better understanding of the feelings that listening to music creates. Talking about visceral things like our reactions to music is really hard to do and I'm impressed by how well Bradley does it especially when he talks about the effect of rhythm or rhyme or imagery in pop music. It was an interesting read and I agreed with a lot of the things he said, he made some very good points about why pop music is popular and about the blurry distinction between poetry and lyricism and music. The conclusion chapter was a little weak compared to the rest of the book but the book is well written and goes into a lot of detail and I think it's totally worth reading if you're interested in the academic side of writing especially poetry.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jack Wolfe

    "The Poetry of Pop" sets out to be the most ambitious fusion of popular music criticism and literary close reading since... Well, 2010, when a little known scholar sometimes called "The Wolf" submitted a Denison Honors project comparing straightedge lifestyles and hardcore punk music to religious subcultures in colonial America. (It featured a chapter called "Paradise City." Deal with it.) Adam Bradley certainly has "The Wolf" beat when it comes to breadth of musical knowledge, familiarity with t "The Poetry of Pop" sets out to be the most ambitious fusion of popular music criticism and literary close reading since... Well, 2010, when a little known scholar sometimes called "The Wolf" submitted a Denison Honors project comparing straightedge lifestyles and hardcore punk music to religious subcultures in colonial America. (It featured a chapter called "Paradise City." Deal with it.) Adam Bradley certainly has "The Wolf" beat when it comes to breadth of musical knowledge, familiarity with the conventions of poetry, scope of research, and his cool, clean writing style. (Though "The Wolf" can correctly identify Lee Ranaldo-- and not Kim Gordon!-- as the singer in Sonic Youth's "Skip Tracer.") But in terms of fashioning a coherent argument and drawing some kind of conclusion about the subject at hand, well, let's just say "The Wolf" at least gave us the takeaway that viewing the Puritans as freaks, rather than our ideological forbears, allows us to both assess their ideas fairly and reconsider our country's supposedly Christian tradition. Bradley is clearly brilliant-- he's one of the few music writers I've read who can approximate with words what certain songs actually SOUND like-- but he's also a sincere fan of pop music. His book is always playful, even when he's talking about "scansion" and "antanaclasis." He shows a willingness to interrogate any and all kinds of pop-- from 40's country to contemporary trap hits. This "wide-ranging" quality unfortunately means that a sense of "forward motion" can be difficult to locate. There are nine chapters in the book, split into three parts, but the same points are made from paragraph to paragraph. We'll read for a while about the importance of lyrics, and then stumble into a section where suddenly only the melody counts, then go back to the importance of lyrics... Till we're left wondering what the hell "the poetry of pop" even means. I'll grant that such confusion is part of Bradley's point. He wants us to expand our idea of pop, and he wants us to understand that reading pop as poetry doesn't just mean situating Bob Dylan next to Paul Valery. But there's a point here where I was wondering, well, what's the point? (This never happened when "The Wolf" carefully broke down the lyrics to "Out of Step"!) "The Poetry of Pop" is often exciting, and always full of good cheer, but I don't think it's quite the revelation it thinks it is. It synthesizes a bunch of works on songwriting and artists' memoirs into a charmingly personal but occasionally aimless thesis. Sorta like David Byrne's "How Music Works" (which "The Poetry of Pop" frequently cites), but with far fewer moments to really make you go "Aha." I couldn't have written it in college, or now.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Writer embroiders the terms of literary criticism on popular music. Perhaps this book will be a reference for individuals trying to find support for term papers. This reader felt the work lacking in the vitality that is at the core of popular music, the very thing that makes it "pop." Tried very hard to like this ambitious work. I appreciate it, but I was not fond of it. I question how much this work contributes to criticism.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    DNF. I didn't enjoy this. The subject matter had the potential to be interesting, but it was written like a thesis.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    This is a great read for anyone who loves pop music, its structure (no, it's not all freeform), and the process of songwriting. Bradley examines current and classic pop songs and their lyrics in the same careful, analytical manner of a literature and poetics. In other words, there is both rhyme and reason to why melodies soar, how hooks become earworms, and why bridges are carefully placed. He cites several very familiar songs (and some that were very new to me) and deconstucts them to assess st This is a great read for anyone who loves pop music, its structure (no, it's not all freeform), and the process of songwriting. Bradley examines current and classic pop songs and their lyrics in the same careful, analytical manner of a literature and poetics. In other words, there is both rhyme and reason to why melodies soar, how hooks become earworms, and why bridges are carefully placed. He cites several very familiar songs (and some that were very new to me) and deconstucts them to assess style, language, listenability. A lengthy appendix lists quirks and minutiae by category. At times it's very academic but overall is wonderfully appealing for music lovers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Astonishingly thorough, refreshingly uninterested in bogus genre distinctions. Though, isn’t the line that follows “Sugar,/Honey, honey,” in “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies “You are my candy, girl” (and not “You are my candy girl”)? Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Parts of this were super interesting and even fun but it got a little bogged down in the academic model of repeating its core argument each time it presented new evidence that my eyes glazed over a bit.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    turns out to be a really interesting read and it makes you listen to music ( with lyrics) a bit differently both during and after reading it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kellye Donnelly

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Ruppersburg

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rory Harden

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    810.820 B8111 2017

  14. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christian Tjoa

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Scott

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nikita A

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dianna Cohen

  25. 4 out of 5

    Don Royster

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rodolfo Vitangcol

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

  28. 4 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ray

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carly Krewitsky

    This book was really interesting! I learned a lot about pop music. I learned that some singers prefer to write the melody to a song before they write the lyrics, while other singers do it the other way around. I like the various quotes from singers. This book is really scholarly and I wish it wasn't so scholarly. Adam Bradley is sometimes snarky or downright insulting. He has very strong opinions at times which I don't always agree with. I love pop music and I love listening to music. Adam Bradl This book was really interesting! I learned a lot about pop music. I learned that some singers prefer to write the melody to a song before they write the lyrics, while other singers do it the other way around. I like the various quotes from singers. This book is really scholarly and I wish it wasn't so scholarly. Adam Bradley is sometimes snarky or downright insulting. He has very strong opinions at times which I don't always agree with. I love pop music and I love listening to music. Adam Bradley writes about The Beatles and The Rolling Stones a lot. He writes about pop, rock, R&B, rap, country, and more!

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