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Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music

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NPR Best Books of 2017 In this sweeping history of popular music in the United States, NPR’s acclaimed music critic examines how popular music shapes fundamental American ideas and beliefs, allowing us to communicate difficult emotions and truths about our most fraught social issues, most notably sex and race. In Good Booty, Ann Powers explores how popular music became Ameri NPR Best Books of 2017 In this sweeping history of popular music in the United States, NPR’s acclaimed music critic examines how popular music shapes fundamental American ideas and beliefs, allowing us to communicate difficult emotions and truths about our most fraught social issues, most notably sex and race. In Good Booty, Ann Powers explores how popular music became America’s primary erotic art form. Powers takes us from nineteenth-century New Orleans through dance-crazed Jazz Age New York to the teen scream years of mid-twentieth century rock-and-roll to the cutting-edge adventures of today’s web-based pop stars. Drawing on her deep knowledge and insights on gender and sexuality, Powers recounts stories of forbidden lovers, wild shimmy-shakers, orgasmic gospel singers, countercultural perverts, soft-rock sensitivos, punk Puritans, and the cyborg known as Britney Spears to illuminate how eroticism—not merely sex, but love, bodily freedom, and liberating joy—became entwined within the rhythms and melodies of American song. This cohesion, she reveals, touches the heart of America's anxieties and hopes about race, feminism, marriage, youth, and freedom. In a survey that spans more than a century of music, Powers both heralds little known artists such as Florence Mills, a contemporary of Josephine Baker, and gospel queen Dorothy Love Coates, and sheds new light on artists we think we know well, from the Beatles and Jim Morrison to Madonna and Beyoncé. In telling the history of how American popular music and sexuality intersect—a magnum opus over two decades in the making—Powers offers new insights into our nation psyche and our soul.


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NPR Best Books of 2017 In this sweeping history of popular music in the United States, NPR’s acclaimed music critic examines how popular music shapes fundamental American ideas and beliefs, allowing us to communicate difficult emotions and truths about our most fraught social issues, most notably sex and race. In Good Booty, Ann Powers explores how popular music became Ameri NPR Best Books of 2017 In this sweeping history of popular music in the United States, NPR’s acclaimed music critic examines how popular music shapes fundamental American ideas and beliefs, allowing us to communicate difficult emotions and truths about our most fraught social issues, most notably sex and race. In Good Booty, Ann Powers explores how popular music became America’s primary erotic art form. Powers takes us from nineteenth-century New Orleans through dance-crazed Jazz Age New York to the teen scream years of mid-twentieth century rock-and-roll to the cutting-edge adventures of today’s web-based pop stars. Drawing on her deep knowledge and insights on gender and sexuality, Powers recounts stories of forbidden lovers, wild shimmy-shakers, orgasmic gospel singers, countercultural perverts, soft-rock sensitivos, punk Puritans, and the cyborg known as Britney Spears to illuminate how eroticism—not merely sex, but love, bodily freedom, and liberating joy—became entwined within the rhythms and melodies of American song. This cohesion, she reveals, touches the heart of America's anxieties and hopes about race, feminism, marriage, youth, and freedom. In a survey that spans more than a century of music, Powers both heralds little known artists such as Florence Mills, a contemporary of Josephine Baker, and gospel queen Dorothy Love Coates, and sheds new light on artists we think we know well, from the Beatles and Jim Morrison to Madonna and Beyoncé. In telling the history of how American popular music and sexuality intersect—a magnum opus over two decades in the making—Powers offers new insights into our nation psyche and our soul.

30 review for Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    A good history of pop music, from its roots in nineteenth-century New Orleans to today's web-based superstars. Powers's thesis: pop music and sexuality are inextricably intertwined, the former serving as a conduit of the latter. Powers shows how music has adjusted to adhere to the sexual norms of various time periods in the United States. She mentions the role of gender and race in appropriate sections as well. I most appreciated when Powers linked the history of pop music to issues of gender, ra A good history of pop music, from its roots in nineteenth-century New Orleans to today's web-based superstars. Powers's thesis: pop music and sexuality are inextricably intertwined, the former serving as a conduit of the latter. Powers shows how music has adjusted to adhere to the sexual norms of various time periods in the United States. She mentions the role of gender and race in appropriate sections as well. I most appreciated when Powers linked the history of pop music to issues of gender, race, LGBTQ+ individuals, etc. That said, I wish she had taken a stronger stance throughout the book by more explicitly labeling or commenting on problematic historical trends, such as the cultural appropriation of African-American music (cough, Elvis) and how female pop stars suffered under patriarchal expectations of their artistry and lives (see this book for more). I also feel that her overall thesis about sexuality and pop music could have used more oomph. Why does sexuality in pop matter? What does pop music say about American culture more broadly? What do we take away from all of this? Powers begins to examine these questions, and I wanted even more argument as opposed to relaying facts. Would recommend this to those enthusiastic about pop music history. As Ariana Grande and BlackPink's biggest fan on the planet, I look forward to seeing how pop can grow even bolder, fiercer, and more feminist.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Full disclosure: I won a free copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. As you’d guess from the cover, this book is a look at sex in popular music, both its depiction and its practice by the various artists and fans through the ages. The book's purpose is not to titillate, but to educate. Even if you ignore the mentions of sex, it's a fascinating look at the history of American popular music in general. While I like to consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the history of rock and roll, I l Full disclosure: I won a free copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. As you’d guess from the cover, this book is a look at sex in popular music, both its depiction and its practice by the various artists and fans through the ages. The book's purpose is not to titillate, but to educate. Even if you ignore the mentions of sex, it's a fascinating look at the history of American popular music in general. While I like to consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the history of rock and roll, I learned all sorts of details about its roots that were new to me. Honestly, as I write this, I’m still digesting it all. The back cover calls the book, “A profound exploration of how popular music became America’s primary erotic art form,” and promises that it, “... offers new insights into our national psyche and our soul.” It definitely delivers on that promise. This is one of the best books about music I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended!

  3. 4 out of 5

    K

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is really great and will definitely form a crucial part of my teaching for years to come. I'm stingy with my 5-star reviews, and I explain the reasons for it not being a perfect book below. I devoured this book in record time, and there is a good reason for this. Powers has produced a truly sweeping piece of criticism and – dare I say it – musicology of race, sex, and popular music. Some of her insights show a truly remarkable synthesis of criticism and scholarship that demonstrates why the This is really great and will definitely form a crucial part of my teaching for years to come. I'm stingy with my 5-star reviews, and I explain the reasons for it not being a perfect book below. I devoured this book in record time, and there is a good reason for this. Powers has produced a truly sweeping piece of criticism and – dare I say it – musicology of race, sex, and popular music. Some of her insights show a truly remarkable synthesis of criticism and scholarship that demonstrates why the humanities needs to embrace public cultural critics. Powers has helped to make NPR a cutting edge forum for music programming and criticism for a few years now. For those of you who have enjoyed her essays on everything from Bruce Springsteen (surprisingly missing from this book) to Prince, this book shows off just how lucky we are to have her. Something that I noticed as I made my way through the book was its relationship to binaries, nearly all of them invoked in the book's title. When it comes to love, gender, sex, and sexuality, Powers writes with incredible dexterity to trouble the boundaries and binaries that threaten to overpower everything else when talking about popular music history. My one criticism comes from my perspective as a scholar. Her discussion of race, while mostly on point, left me wondering about the dangers of posing the story of popular music in the U.S. through a mostly black and white matrix of power relations. Surely, there are other racial and ethnic groups who have exerted a strong influence in U.S. pop music. As I write this review, "Despacito" is about to break the record for most consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard chart. The song is clearly about sex, and yet, if a curious listener tried to find the roots of the song's success in this book, they would be missing decades of Latinx, Caribbean, and Latin American musical influences. Other major immigrant groups are also missing (south Asians, for example), but it seems to me that this is a larger problem of North American pop music criticism in general. I come at this as someone who grew up in a place with a huge Mexican American population and performed in a music program that largely relegated anything that didn't fit the black/white paradigm to exotic reductions. I care about it because I have seen the problem replicated in my own scholarly societies. I wonder if the marginal status of Americans who trouble the black/white binary in mainstream pop music histories comes from the fact that the tradition of American music history has largely been written largely in those terms for decades now. That really is my only quibble with the book. My discomfort isn't about Powers but rather N. American pop music criticism and scholarship in general. Overall, this book is a tour de force of criticism and new insights. Her fluid use of feminist and cyborg theory in the last chapter truly took my breath away. It made me want to sit down and talk with her about Queen Bey, virality, and vocaloids for hours. This book is written with a startling amount of compassion for all of the figures she treats, even those whose unconventional attitudes about sex and bodies would otherwise receive the scorn by today's standards. At this moment of racially charged divisiveness, that kind of sensitivity is more needed than ever, especially over a form of expressive culture that so many people think is either too important (i.e., too personal) or not important enough to receive scholarly treatment. So thank you, Ann Powers. I'll treasure both the audio and physical copies of this book in my possession.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    This is another re-read, but a great and fun one because this was the first time I revisited it. Using the frame of different eras in popular music, journalist and critic Ann Powers paints a fantastic and arousing look at the ways in which music rebelled against what was "not allowed" in proper society, by forcing us to contemplate how to get down while getting down. From the carefully orchestrated dances performed under the eyes of slave masters by those enslaved peoples in New Orleans (pushing This is another re-read, but a great and fun one because this was the first time I revisited it. Using the frame of different eras in popular music, journalist and critic Ann Powers paints a fantastic and arousing look at the ways in which music rebelled against what was "not allowed" in proper society, by forcing us to contemplate how to get down while getting down. From the carefully orchestrated dances performed under the eyes of slave masters by those enslaved peoples in New Orleans (pushing back against the system that kept them in chains except when they took to the public dancing place) to the transgressions of Mae West, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Madonna against polite society (not to mention Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison), Powers highlights the ways in which America was shaped by erotically charged music to think more about how different we all are and why that's okay (unless of course you're a social conservative, then you're horrified by what's going on around you). This is a fun read, and a very important one in light of current discussions regarding race, sex, gender, and so on.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phil Overeem

    Though she occasionally does not do the full research and lapses into mere rehash in patches, I love Powers' ideas, and the thrust (so to speak) behind the book. I'd love to assign it to college freshmen. Though she occasionally does not do the full research and lapses into mere rehash in patches, I love Powers' ideas, and the thrust (so to speak) behind the book. I'd love to assign it to college freshmen.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adam C Lewis

    I loved this book. Great music writers unveil new truths and Ann does that over and over here. The continual intertwining of sexuality and pop music is a fascinating subject and this book kept me hooked the whole time. Definitely get on this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Almost didn’t finish this one. I appreciate the amount of research that went into this book but the prose itself was so dry that I found it difficult to read for more than a few pages at a time. Powers packs in so much information without giving much thought to what it means to her personally which I found to be extremely frustrating—I didn’t expect for this book to read like a Wikipedia page. I wanted for Powers to explore more of what music means to her and to society as it continues to evolve Almost didn’t finish this one. I appreciate the amount of research that went into this book but the prose itself was so dry that I found it difficult to read for more than a few pages at a time. Powers packs in so much information without giving much thought to what it means to her personally which I found to be extremely frustrating—I didn’t expect for this book to read like a Wikipedia page. I wanted for Powers to explore more of what music means to her and to society as it continues to evolve, but unfortunately, you are given mostly facts and (some) prose that is frustratingly deadpan.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    I wanted to enjoy this. There was so much interesting thoughts put forth. But none of it is contextualized. So when I come across a neat new piece of information, I’m left considering why this is important for myself, since the author did not do so, and wondering if the claim is backed up by more than a single quote from someone. Disappointing, for sure.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    Both a history and a series of arguments about American popular music, this book offers fans a lot to chew on. I reviewed Good Booty for The Current. Both a history and a series of arguments about American popular music, this book offers fans a lot to chew on. I reviewed Good Booty for The Current.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Jane

    This was so well-researched. I love the topic! I especially loved the part about disco, as this was like a hot topic in my little high control religious upbringing. Might make a playlist based on this...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy Gideon

    3.75/5 stars Never realized just how much of American music has its roots in African music and traditions. Author also makes some interesting observations of sex found in all genres of music. Made me want to read more books on the history of music.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    It started kinda slow, but picked up. I didn't appreciate the disconnected and sterile tone of the book. I wanted the author's passion and opinion to seep through. moreover - the sexism and racism of the past was quite downplayed and that of today was stated simply as fact - descriptions of gangrape without condemnation. Strange and unnerving. It was interesting to see the progression of dance and culture along with music. It started kinda slow, but picked up. I didn't appreciate the disconnected and sterile tone of the book. I wanted the author's passion and opinion to seep through. moreover - the sexism and racism of the past was quite downplayed and that of today was stated simply as fact - descriptions of gangrape without condemnation. Strange and unnerving. It was interesting to see the progression of dance and culture along with music.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carter K Delloro

    Interesting observations lacking a cohesive message. A solid overview of the topics in the subtitle that made me think differently about some familiar material and introduced me to new material, but in the end left me wanting a bit more in terms of its intellectual conclusions. Still, I'd recommend it for other passionate music lovers like me. Interesting observations lacking a cohesive message. A solid overview of the topics in the subtitle that made me think differently about some familiar material and introduced me to new material, but in the end left me wanting a bit more in terms of its intellectual conclusions. Still, I'd recommend it for other passionate music lovers like me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam Crawley

    Anyone who heard Rock Around the Clock at age 12 at the carnival knew something was up! Powers goes DEEP into the groove. American music captures everyone and we all know it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Ordaz

    Ann Powers delivers an entertaining, ambitious, and well-researched survey of American pop music through the thought-provoking lens of sex and sexuality. From the get-go, the exhaustive research required of the task is evident. Powers incorporates absorbing quotes lifted from interviews, music criticism, and sociology, the last of which proves to be especially illuminating because of its cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural implications. At times, Powers diverges on tangents, but these passages fe Ann Powers delivers an entertaining, ambitious, and well-researched survey of American pop music through the thought-provoking lens of sex and sexuality. From the get-go, the exhaustive research required of the task is evident. Powers incorporates absorbing quotes lifted from interviews, music criticism, and sociology, the last of which proves to be especially illuminating because of its cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural implications. At times, Powers diverges on tangents, but these passages feel like pleasant excursions that never stray too far from her thematic "trailhead": that music is an integral medium through which sexuality is presented, performed, and perceived. I do think there was more to be said about hip-hop, particularly of its birth in the Bronx and the East/West turf war of '90s gangsta rap, as well as the conservative media outcry against it. I also wish Powers had examined what became of alternative rock in the 2000s onward and the rising dominance of music streaming. But, nonetheless, this book exposed me to music scenes I was unfamiliar with and made me consider the music I love in new ways, which is exactly why I had wanted to read it. An academic could have easily turned this book into a stuffy, stodgy read, but as one of today's most essential music critics, Powers captures the X-rated sex and the romantic sensuality living in American music.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jehnie

    I adore this book - well-researched, nuanced, a new approach - but I don't have the time to give it the attention it deserves. I'm putting it aside for now, but I will definitely come back to it. Finally had time to come back and finish the book. I think the first half is more successful than the second. I'm not convinced by some of the arguments she makes about the 1980s and beyond in music. Overall though, a good resource. I adore this book - well-researched, nuanced, a new approach - but I don't have the time to give it the attention it deserves. I'm putting it aside for now, but I will definitely come back to it. Finally had time to come back and finish the book. I think the first half is more successful than the second. I'm not convinced by some of the arguments she makes about the 1980s and beyond in music. Overall though, a good resource.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    Very broad overview of American popular music through the lens of diversity and desire. Too much of a survey course for me, but good if you are a teenager just finding out about everything, I bet.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Artie

    Interesting and informative but a little too ambitious. The most useful thing for me was learning about some 1950s gospel groups.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Monica St. Dennis

    This was a well-researched history, and surprisingly readable for how scholarly it is. I just didn't like it. I would definitely recommend it to people who care about music more than I do. This was a well-researched history, and surprisingly readable for how scholarly it is. I just didn't like it. I would definitely recommend it to people who care about music more than I do.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Philip Cherny

    With such an ambitious historical breadth that spans from the 19th-century to present day, Powers’ narrative inevitably feels at times broad and sweeping, jumping through eras of American popular music often without feeling conclusive. She readily admits in the introduction that she excludes a lot of musical history, even entire genres, from of this already dense history. However, she occasionally muddles the narrative even further by citing examples outside of their chronological order or geogr With such an ambitious historical breadth that spans from the 19th-century to present day, Powers’ narrative inevitably feels at times broad and sweeping, jumping through eras of American popular music often without feeling conclusive. She readily admits in the introduction that she excludes a lot of musical history, even entire genres, from of this already dense history. However, she occasionally muddles the narrative even further by citing examples outside of their chronological order or geographical context. This kind of obfuscating patch-working seemed most evident to me in her coverage of the early 20th century and in her section on the 1990s. That aside, I did find her overall narrative engaging in the very least, and even fascinating at moments when she edifies me in obscure details of America’s rich music history, such as the appropriation (or what she calls “cultural miscegenation”) of black slave or Creole dance and music in early American popular music, and how sexual desire, myths of the exotic, and miscegenation fantasies played a role in propelling these influences. For her central thesis, she espouses sexuality and its social history as the central cultural frame through which we should examine the history of American music, supported by an ancillary claim that depictions of race and race relations are woven into the fabric of music’s sexual framework. I can get on board with this kind of reading since music necessarily remains a deeply bodily experience (cerebral conceptual considerations aside.) That being said, while she doesn’t overtly exclude other kinds of readings from the table, part of me suspects that Ann Powers is a bit guilty of making an error analogous to Sigmund Freud’s tendancy to explain every human action in terms of ubiquitous sexuality. It is a somewhat compelling way to view humanity, but I suspect nothing in life is ever so cut-and-dried to be viewed from only one lense. Powers’ focus is not so much on the music itself (e.g. the formal quality of rhythms, sound, instrumentation, etc.), but its social and political context, and its performative aspects. She does do this occasionally, as when she discusses the introduction of auto-tuning vocalization from Atlanta strip club culture into hip-hop, but I wish she would have spoken more at length about how the formal qualities of musical trends intersect with its sociological aspects. My desire to read more on this aspect of music might speak to my biases in musical taste that emphasize sounds, sonic textures, and rhythm over song-writing (i.e. lyrics and melody), which perhaps explains my predilections towards jazz, electronic, and “experimental” or “avant-garde” (for lack of better term). Ann Powers may have ignored these important elements in part because they did not quite resonate with mainstream culture, and in part because they arguably seemed to have culminated more across the Atlantic in alternative scenes such as trip-hop, shoegaze, industrial, etc. However, I suspect she eschews developments in American music history such as instrumental jazz primarily because they figure as too “abstract” to register as overtly erotic (although one could dispute this claim) and thus do not fit as easily within her project of discussing music as a primarily sexual medium. Much easier to cite a music performer’s presentation of the body or the sexual innuendos in their lyrics than to preach some esoteric music theory about how tonality elicits something physiological analogue to sexual arousal in the listener’s brain…Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that sexual arousal and something like an “out-of-body” experience triggered in music both share the capacity to push one to an aesthetic experience too broad and abstract to be directed towards a specific goal (e.g. sex), and that one might also expand this to experiences elicited in spirituality or drugs? I guess to sum up, I’d say I found the book on the whole to be a great, fun, informative read, but I wouldn’t go into it expecting much more than a cultural analysis of America’s musical history.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    Here is a book that spells out how American music came about: By dancing and shaking your body to the beat that moves life along. And Ann Powers’ deft ability to pull you along through a LOT of music and social history presents this great American story brilliantly. The outrageousness of Little Richard and his driving piano ripping up the J&M Studio with “Tutti Frutti” in 1955 New Orleans marks the beginning of modern pop and rock; on this rockcrit godfather Nik Cohn and others, including myself, Here is a book that spells out how American music came about: By dancing and shaking your body to the beat that moves life along. And Ann Powers’ deft ability to pull you along through a LOT of music and social history presents this great American story brilliantly. The outrageousness of Little Richard and his driving piano ripping up the J&M Studio with “Tutti Frutti” in 1955 New Orleans marks the beginning of modern pop and rock; on this rockcrit godfather Nik Cohn and others, including myself, agree. But author Ann Powers attests that whole shebang of “American” blues/jazz/rock evolution goes back to NOLA, via slaves, mixed societies, Creole songs, Candios, Calinda dancing and the misty musical tales of Congo Square, which Powers calls, “The strange Eden of the American musical consciousness.” Powers also fills in the swampy scenery that only comes down to us through titillated white observers who mythologized the New Orleans antebellum lifestyles though popular magazines and books. And Powers imparts how LA native Beyonce with “Lemonade” worked to reclaim the Creole dress and attitude, even while bashing windshields in videos when her man Jay Z wronged her. The spirit of “Tutti Frutti” and its intended refrain of “Good Booty” propels the book. Little Richard’s loud, shaking struggle with unholy stardom helped change public attitudes toward subject of sex in the quickly evolving postwar society. Originally an overtly pornographic song, the nonsense vocals that stand in for “Tutti Frutti” still carry the power make you dance and, “causes the listener to recognize herself as the observer who reads sex even into the clean versions,” Powers writes. Powers leads us through an America deflowering as the Victorian taboos began to go by the wayside in the late 1800s, and dancing emerged as expressive outlet for a healthy body to become the “syncopated and hip-shaking revolution” of the 1920s, powered by the hot jazz and deft stepping of the ‘hootchie-kootchie,” the shimmy, the Charleston and the tango seen by their promoters as helping people to “locate, free and recharge their sexual fire.” Powers also dives deeply into how the vaudeville emergence of “Little Egypt” shimmy sisters — and later stage stars Bee Palmer, Gilda Gray and Mae West — attracted audiences to the spectacle and thrills of flesh and syncopation. Though dance superstar Irene Castle supposedly looked down upon these below-the-belt practitioners, she did a lot to popularize dynamic, sophisticated choreography that communicated “the ideal of intimacy grounded in propriety and mutual respect,” that still hung on to the suggestive themes that throngs enjoyed in performance. After Powers is done connecting the dots between the music and the emergence of “coupledom” — the reinvention of marriage as an idealized sexual outlet where all desires are supposed to met — this period in American history makes more sense. There are also many sung and unsung heroes of American music along the way that Powers wants you to meet: Earl “Snake Hips” Tucker, the infamous “Latin Lover” Maurice Mouvet, Mamie Smith, Ethel Waters, Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Fanny Brice, and the groundbreaking pixie singer-actor Florence Mills of “Shuffle Along,” revered by all but who died before her act could be recorded or filmed. Thomas A. Dorsey, the blues urchin cum choirmaster from Atlanta who melded the erotic with the holy by writing both the dirty blues “It’s Tight Like That” and the seminal (forgive me) gospel hymn “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” that when taken together and voiced by the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Dorothy Love Coates, Rosetta Tharp and many other stars of the day, invented the gospel movement, sprang into the lively (pre-Beatle-esque) all-male vocal quartets that made Sam Cooke a star, which was admired by Elvis in Memphis and was soon to be copied by Ray Charles, James Brown and Etta James as they powered rhythm and blues and later rock anthems, to find that “sex organ known as the soul.” Powers guides us through doo-wop, the impossibly young but seemingly necessary transition from the smooth glibness of the Mills Brothers vocal style to the more rhythmic and danceable nonsense lyrics of the Platters and Drifters and Frankie Lyman. Then there’s the dreamy recreation of the sexual awkwardness of the newly minted teenager and her idols, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and others. The rock ’n’ roll “Blackboard Jungle” and the rebel stance of James Dean and Sal Mineo also contribute. The Beatles appear to have gone the Buddy Holly route, while the Rolling Stones definitely went the bad-boy route. “Adolescents” now had not only choices of hit records and other teen commerce, but also identities shown in the movies and on civic-hall stages, that could be copied in the hallways and parking lots of high schools and junior highs. “Going steady” was invented to tamp down the desires of teen girls pursuing their idols. “Rock ’n’ roll created a metaphorical free space in which teenagers could scream their inner chaos as well as their emerging desires,” Powers writes. The history of rock further intertwines with the sexual revolution in the swinging 60s and 70s, from folky child Bob Dylan to marijuana, LSD, free love and Haight-Ashbury hippiedom dissolving into the androgynous Hendrix-inspired soft-porn space-age revolution later exemplified by Lou Reed, David Bowie and Queen. Powers also delves into psychological studies of the time and general-circulation publications’ embracing of a society shedding the old ways for anything more swinging than the last thing while Blacks and women were stomping against oppression and for their rights (to the rock ’n’ soul beat, of course). The story of what became rock ’n’ roll moves quickly in Powers’ work, but every sentence imparts a lot of hard-won scholarship and writing chops. And she throws in a lot of scenes that even had this grizzled rockcrit scratching his head and going, “Gee, how did I miss that?” like “The Kiss Letter,” a historical treasure in the form of a 13-year-old’s 1956 letter to her friends at camp describing the chaos and wonder of making out with Elvis in a closet between Atlanta shows. And Powers brings into focus the 1968 convergence of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin at the New York club, The Scene, ending up in a pile onstage at a Chambers Brothers gig. That “ultimate threesome,” Powers says, brought out the identity issues that led to the 70s: “The age of porn, heavy metal, disco, and the sounds of sex rang out everywhere.” Led Zeppelin’s explicit shows, the groupie system, funk (which she rightly describes as “psychedelic soul”), the “Joy of Sex” and other liberating books, the sensitive male as well as the emergence of personalities as sprawling and different as Alice Cooper and Elton John. Every star was dipping into the new sex thing, from the obvious James Brown “Sex Machine” to the Eagles’ “I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight.” Powers also takes you inside the beginnings of gender-bending discos of New York that led to “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Will Survive” and “YMCA,” before tumbling into the tragedy of HIV and AIDS, and when punk turned sex into a stage joke, a negation of expectations taking over your life and keeping you in line. Lots of good detail here, too. Madonna and Prince brought sex back into music in a big way through the fantasy door, as well as Michael Jackson (who was much less frank about his fantasies). Powers weaves this MTV-era swirl into some good chapters explaining the rise of strains of rap, hip-hop, hardcore, indie rock, new wave and grunge, mixed with the scourge of crack cocaine and the cyberfantasies of Britney Spears, Janet Jackson and other “prefab pop” as well as the emergence of power singers Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Then there is Beyonce, who seemingly puts it all together, not just backwards in heels but also crafts avatars strong enough to take on the tenuous, shifting social media outlets and the emergence of “interactive” strip clubs. It’s a fascinating read and as I began this review I realized I had to read it again. Published in 2017, “Good Booty” seems very prescient about the coming wave of MeToo, Black Lives Matter protests. And God love her, Trump is not mentioned. If you want to know everything about the whys and hows of American music, you must read “Good Booty.” And she met Prince!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

    It took a long time for me to finish listening to the audiobook version of “Good Booty,” and the majority of the explanation is personal, as opposed to anything about the book. Powers tells many fascinating stories about the history of music as it relates to sex, gender, race, sexuality, and more (because the lens is placed upon white-dominated western culture, inevitably Christianity is relevant as well). In ways that are good and bad, the book reads a bit like an unending list of facts, quotes It took a long time for me to finish listening to the audiobook version of “Good Booty,” and the majority of the explanation is personal, as opposed to anything about the book. Powers tells many fascinating stories about the history of music as it relates to sex, gender, race, sexuality, and more (because the lens is placed upon white-dominated western culture, inevitably Christianity is relevant as well). In ways that are good and bad, the book reads a bit like an unending list of facts, quotes, and anecdotes which can be overwhelming. I don’t remember many of the stories about people that I hadn’t heard about before which doesn’t accomplish what you really set out to do by reading a book. I think deeper examination of the text would be valuable, though (if I tried to relisten over a shorter time period, and if I don’t play the book in the background while doing other things). Additionally, from what I could identify by ear, Powers mostly presents the facts and lets them speak for themselves. I believe the main ideas she set out to address come through: throughout history, people considered on the fringes of society because they were pushed there have been at the forefront of popular music culture, at least that which is most compelling and enduring. Culture and popular music drove progress independently and interdependently. Over time, music became an overt venue for wrestling over culture, values, and the direction of the future. This seems to be representative of the successes of grassroots pushes for human rights and progress and the power of music to touch upon what it means to be a person. My favorite part of the book began with the section covering the 1970s through the modern day, perhaps because I began to recognize most of the names but also because it uncovers the roots that explain the state of music, sex, gender, and race today. Being born in the mid-90s, I could read a whole book about the 90s, 00s, and now the 2010s so I would’ve enjoyed a longer section about those eras. Unrelated to the main message of the book, but the fact that Britney Spears’s conservatorship was worthy of mention and significance in a book published in 2017, before the cultural ubiquity of #FreeBritney, is meaningful, and if Powers knew then what we know now, I think she’d have some more to say. Overall, this is a solid read, but may be more helpful and enjoyable to someone who takes to it with a scholarly approach. To understand a little better how far music has come as a means of artistic expression, especially for groups of people that experience overlapping levels of discrimination and subjugation, I’m more excited to watch as the future unfolds and to read the forthcoming examinations of the impact of artists, performers, and entertainers like Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, Meghan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, and more, in addition to the subsequent generations we haven’t met yet. I’d be interested to read about the potential impact streaming has had on this subject. I appreciate more the fact that people who haven’t traditionally been “marketable” or appreciated for their creative contributions have a platform to share their work with anyone who will listen.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    It's nothing less than taking a fresh look at American pop music history through the lenses mentioned in that subtitle, and is at least half remarkable and always intriguing. The remarkable parts start for me with the second chapter, on the dances of the first 20 years of the 20th century, with great insights into the sexuality being expressed in ways we never thought were available to our grandparents (or your great-grandparents - remember, I'm old) generation. Then Powers really blows me away It's nothing less than taking a fresh look at American pop music history through the lenses mentioned in that subtitle, and is at least half remarkable and always intriguing. The remarkable parts start for me with the second chapter, on the dances of the first 20 years of the 20th century, with great insights into the sexuality being expressed in ways we never thought were available to our grandparents (or your great-grandparents - remember, I'm old) generation. Then Powers really blows me away with a chapter on the Gospel developments of the 30s through the 50s, and the connections between divine and bodily sublimity. She's very good as well on the 50s rock'n'roll history, and comes up with fresh insights into Hendrix, Joplin, and the Doors. Her early chapter on the earliest interracial cross-cultural fertilization (both consensual and raped) of American music is really good as well. Once she hits the 70s, Powers seems to be racing to the finish line, coming up with often fresh insights into the ways different musics reacted to the open sexuality of the 70s, the AIDS fears of the 80s, the fierce liberations of the 90s, and what she pins as a cyborg sexuality in the 00s. I was alternately nodding my head in wonderment and shaking my head thinking that was too narrow a viewpoint in those chapters, which did, after all, cover times I actually paid attention to the music she was covering. Powers never comes across as dogmatic - she wrestles with dichotomies within her opinions, and gives the music the thoughtful coverage it deserves. And, she puts it all into much bigger contexts than most music writers have done - the book is a history of music's place in the culture, and while there are obviously plenty of other ways to view that place than through the prism of sex, I would argue that Powers makes a clear case for considering the complexity of historical and contemporary reaction to music itself through that prism. And, yeah, she provides a good beat, and I want to dance to this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Houle

    If you want to take a careening view of American music and how sexuality infuses it, Ann Powers (who works for NPR in the States) has written a book about that subject in Good Booty. It’s an admittedly challenging, academic read — the same sort of read that was difficult for me to parse in film studies courses back in my university days, where I was tasked with reading feminist scholars who didn’t make too much sense to me, admittedly. (This had less to do with the subject matter, perhaps, than If you want to take a careening view of American music and how sexuality infuses it, Ann Powers (who works for NPR in the States) has written a book about that subject in Good Booty. It’s an admittedly challenging, academic read — the same sort of read that was difficult for me to parse in film studies courses back in my university days, where I was tasked with reading feminist scholars who didn’t make too much sense to me, admittedly. (This had less to do with the subject matter, perhaps, than the distancing, clinical choice of language in academia.) The reason the book is a hard read is partially because there’s a very broad scope with the book, which makes it hard to put a finger on just what its about, and partially due to its academic tone. Scrolling from New Orleans in the nineteenth century all the way to Beyoncé in the twenty-first, Good Booty is an examination of race, gender and sexuality, and how that applies to various strands of music across multiple genres in multiple periods. Power locates her subjects by place and by date. I guess her overarching theme is that pop has been influenced by its surroundings, but the waters are muddied a bit because the book doesn’t start with the invention of rock ’n’ roll — which is synonymous with the birth of pop culture as a force in my mindset. Read more here: https://medium.com/@zachary_houle/a-r...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Louis

    I listened to this book on mp3. Sadly there was an accompanying audio disk but I suppose the copyrights would have broken the bank. I wasn't sure what to expect out of this book. But it goes way back to old New Orleans to talk about the racial caste system (quadroons, etc.) that existed then and how this influenced dance and music. In a way, the erotic nature of popular dance as it came into prominence in the early 20th century in particular is concomitant with the erotic language of music. I ha I listened to this book on mp3. Sadly there was an accompanying audio disk but I suppose the copyrights would have broken the bank. I wasn't sure what to expect out of this book. But it goes way back to old New Orleans to talk about the racial caste system (quadroons, etc.) that existed then and how this influenced dance and music. In a way, the erotic nature of popular dance as it came into prominence in the early 20th century in particular is concomitant with the erotic language of music. I had not paid attention to moans and other such sounds in music, but they sometimes were effects used to mimic sex. As the story progresses to more modern times, the nature of queerness as expressed in music is also touched upon. The use of persona in performance is another intriguing aspect of how sexuality is presented. The book takes a decade by decade approach as we enter into the 2nd half of the 20th century. The discussion of the music in whatever time period is intertwined with social commentary. Pertinent academic and popular critics are cited. I never found any part of this book to be dull. Even when I was unfamiliar with an artist, I tried to absorb as much information as possible for future research if I found them interesting. Of course a book such as this has to be selective in its coverage. The author acknowledges this in the quite-long prologue. Well worth reading as a cultural and sexual history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    This book was ambitious - maybe too much so. I'm trying to console myself with the fact that it was probably written for a slightly broader audience than the pop-music obsessives I usually discuss this stuff with, but I can't shake the feeling that there were a lot of missed opportunities to explore some of its subjects in much greater depth. The decision to focus each chapter (which frequently span several decades) on a specific "theme" that everything is organized around seriously harms the wh This book was ambitious - maybe too much so. I'm trying to console myself with the fact that it was probably written for a slightly broader audience than the pop-music obsessives I usually discuss this stuff with, but I can't shake the feeling that there were a lot of missed opportunities to explore some of its subjects in much greater depth. The decision to focus each chapter (which frequently span several decades) on a specific "theme" that everything is organized around seriously harms the whole project - the chapter on the 80s-90s and the following one on 2000-present feel particularly skewed towards their respective focal points. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the reason why certain key movements and artists are completely (or almost completely) glossed over; how can you cover musical sexuality in the 80s while confining the dominance of hair metal bands to a single sentence in parentheses? And (much as I don't like him as an artist) surely Drake, not mentioned once in the book, has had as much influence on recent hip-hop sexuality as Beyonce? I won't deny that it could be a fun read at times and that I learned something from it, and hey, it does do some great work on specific parts of musical history - I just can't shake the feeling that this book could have been so much more.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mysh

    This is one of those big ideas that you know is a stretch to stitch together but, finally, there's just enough material to maybe make it happen, like sucking your stomach in and hoping that button doesn't pop off. The overall concept being the way music has shaped sex? The way sex has shaped music? The threesome that is people, sex, music. I can't decide if the button popped off or not, but I do know I learned some things? However, I wonder if Powers had any input from Black critics or historians This is one of those big ideas that you know is a stretch to stitch together but, finally, there's just enough material to maybe make it happen, like sucking your stomach in and hoping that button doesn't pop off. The overall concept being the way music has shaped sex? The way sex has shaped music? The threesome that is people, sex, music. I can't decide if the button popped off or not, but I do know I learned some things? However, I wonder if Powers had any input from Black critics or historians in her work. It felt like I was reading through an automatic filter with her being a white woman and then she'd talk about white artists trying to imitate black artists while being a white woman trying to talk about black artists and it was a bit like how much can I trust in these observations... Especially, when talking about the past that no one remembers, whatever race you are. I'm not sure how much research can make up for that. I enjoyed the last chapter the most because of my interest in how "irl" and internet respond to each other, plus Britney Spears deserves a whole academia series on her entire life and career.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Arredondo

    I had so much fun reading this book. Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music.....anything music history I am all on board for. I collect music history books, I avidly read music history books, I cherish music history books. Just the cover alone had me somewhat sold. That title....eye catching to say the least. American music...the popular stuff...pop and rock-n-roll. There is so much great history there...so much wonderful content that can be used. Powers absol I had so much fun reading this book. Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music.....anything music history I am all on board for. I collect music history books, I avidly read music history books, I cherish music history books. Just the cover alone had me somewhat sold. That title....eye catching to say the least. American music...the popular stuff...pop and rock-n-roll. There is so much great history there...so much wonderful content that can be used. Powers absolutely does that and does it well. Well researched information but FUN!! Most times we get non-fiction and it's bogged down with tons of facts...statistics...info that we don't really care for. In this book we get that in a way that makes it enjoyable to read...gives a yearning to want to know more. I literally plugged my ipod into my laptop and created a playlist of great songs during and after this book. Talk about music inspiration. Highly entertaining. I absolutely recommend. Thanks as always to the wonderful people of goodreads for my free copy of this book. I received. I read. I reviewed this book voluntarily and honestly.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    I really wanted to love this one, but had very mixed reactions to it. On the one hand, some of the material was really interesting and new to me (definitely fun, for instance, reading about the rise and underlying significance of doo-wop, via songs that I know well). But overall, Powers tried to cover too much historical ground for a single book. The result was that it often felt like a shallow listing of events, rather than the in-depth discussion I was expecting. Given the sub-title, I had bee I really wanted to love this one, but had very mixed reactions to it. On the one hand, some of the material was really interesting and new to me (definitely fun, for instance, reading about the rise and underlying significance of doo-wop, via songs that I know well). But overall, Powers tried to cover too much historical ground for a single book. The result was that it often felt like a shallow listing of events, rather than the in-depth discussion I was expecting. Given the sub-title, I had been eager to dive into this one for gender- and race-based perspectives on representation in popular music, dynamics of the music industry, etc. There was some exploration of these themes, but on a fairly shallow level -- occasionally noting the presence of a problematic practice and then moving on the next topic without deeper discussion. In the end, this one left me wanting more information, rather than feeling like I had learned much. Definitely curious to seek out books written in a similar vein (exploration of social issues/forces via popular music) -- if anyone has recommendations, let me know!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike Balsom

    It's a no-brainer, the link between sex and popular music, but that doesn't make this any less of an engaging and informative read. Ann Powers digs deep to discover the roots of the link between to two, taking us back to 1800s New Orleans and forward to Beyonce and Nicki Minaj in 2016. Along the way she stops at the beginning of gospel and jazz, introducing us to classic early gems such as "That Da Da Strain" and "It's Tight Like That". You will find yourself digging up recordings of those numbe It's a no-brainer, the link between sex and popular music, but that doesn't make this any less of an engaging and informative read. Ann Powers digs deep to discover the roots of the link between to two, taking us back to 1800s New Orleans and forward to Beyonce and Nicki Minaj in 2016. Along the way she stops at the beginning of gospel and jazz, introducing us to classic early gems such as "That Da Da Strain" and "It's Tight Like That". You will find yourself digging up recordings of those numbers to go along with your reading. We all know that Elvis sold sex as much as he sold records, but Powers puts an intellectual spin on how and why he got to that point in his career. Lieber and Stoller, the Brill Building writers, Motown, the 27-troika of Joplin/Hendrix/Morrison, glam rock, heavy metal, disco, porn and grunge are all evaluated for their purveyors documented and reflected our sex lives, and the AIDS crisis is looked at with sympathetic eyes. This is a well-researched tome that is deeply researched and prepared with an evident love for the subject matter.

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