Given the recent spotlight on Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance, I thought why not remind folks that our recently published The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015) presents research and findings in relation to expanded critical approaches to popular music, in the context of, and as prompted by the need to evolve new approaches to, the arena concert. Its one of the first academic texts to tackle this subject and proposes that the arena concert represents a sizeable aspect of the near-future of popular music consumption and live music cultures, and that methodologies associated with popular musicology are effectively “stress tested” by this relatively new paradigm. Blended and recalibrated critical approaches are deemed necessary in order to assemble a critical apparatus capable of engaging with such enormous events. The question of creativity now stretches across many artistic disciplines and practices (dance, music, lighting, video design, sound mixing, social media, expectations management, merchandise, event creation), which all contribute to the arena concert experience.
As well as co-editor, I wrote a chapter that tackles Beyoncé’s Celebrity Feminism and Performances of Female Empowerment in the Arena Concert. It is concerned with performances of female empowerment by pop and R and B stars, who use it as part of their brand including Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Pink and Nicki Minaj. I argue that Beyoncé’s engagement was considerably more pronounced. The oscillation between spectacle and intimacy which appears to be the foundation of a successful arena concert, as combined with themes of empowerment, has become part of the expected package for many star female artists in performance. It examines Beyoncé and her 2013-2014 arena concert tour, The Mrs Carter Show, to explore the ways in which she employs the tropes of what appear to be female empowerment and celebrity feminism in order to maintain and develop her position in popular music and pop culture more widely. It considers her attempts to promote her status as celebrity feminist through her arena concerts and assesses how Beyoncé calls on her fans to use her music and imagery to engage with what can be read as a rather simplistic notion of female empowerment.
Of course theres much more to be said given her recent performances. Thats in my forthcoming book…Fairclough, K (2016) Beyoncé: Celebrity, Feminism and Pop Culture. London, I.B Tauris