Kirsty Fairclough is Associate Dean: Research and Innovation in the School of Arts and Media at the University of Salford, UK and Chair of the University Women’s Voice Network.

She has published widely on popular culture and am the co-editor of The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop (Routledge), The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment (Bloomsbury) and Music/Video: Forms, Aesthetics, Media. New York, (Bloomsbury) and author of the forthcoming Beyoncé: Celebrity Feminism and Popular Culture (I.B Tauris) and co-author of American Cinema: A Contemporary Introduction (Palgrave).

Her work has been published in Senses of Cinema, Feminist Media Studies, SERIES and Celebrity Studies journals and she has made several television and radio appearances.

Kirsty has lectured internationally on popular culture, feminism and representations of women most notably at The Royal College of Music, Stockholm, The University of Copenhagen, Second City, Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, Middle Tennessee State University, Unisinos Brazil and Bucknell University, Pennsylvania.

She has significant experience in international partnership development, particularly in North America and developed the Salford Popular Culture Conference series with international partner universities, including I’ll See You Again in 25 Years, Twin Peaks and Generations of Cult Television: A Two Day International Conference (University of Salford, May 2015) and Mad Men: The Conference (Middle Tennessee State University, May 2016) and Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince, a three day international academic conference hosted by the School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK and the Department of Recording Industry, Middle Tennessee State University, USA.

It was a pleasure to speak at Celebrity Culture Club at the AllBright, Mayfair on Women, music and celebrity. The evening interrogated women’s status in the music industry from a variety of perspectives. In essence, the panel discussed the ways in which pop music culture circulates representations of women that both shape and reflect their role in pop culture. At both ends of the spectrum it is a site for some of the most regressive gender tropes and some of the most excitingly resistant, norm-shattering responses to them.

I shared the stage with the following fabulous women:

Ayse Hassan, the bassist for Mercury Prize shortlisted, all-female post-punk band, Savages. She makes music in collaborations Kite Base and 180db and solo as ESYA.
Maxie Gedge does Communications for PRS Foundation, the UK’s leading funder for new music and talent development. She is the Director of the record label Gravy, and the drummer for both angry pop girl group Graceland and Current Bond. She has an MMus in Sonic Arts, has worked for festivals, venues and talent development organisations, programmed hundreds of new music shows, and promotes and DJs at queer dance parties.
Carla Marie Williams, Songwriter on Beyonce’s Grammy winning album Lemonade
Chair: Dr Hannah Yelin Senior Lecturer in Media and Culture, Oxford Brookes University.

International Prince scholarship continues apace with the BATDANCE symposium at Spelman College, Atlanta. At the end of the month I’ll be presenting on the the evolution of the Batman soundtrack album, the eleventh full-length studio album by Prince, and the first and only soundtrack album by Prince for a movie in which he was not involved as an actor. With a number of Purple Reign scholars speaking at the conference, we will be building on our international network with a view to further developments.

As fellow Prince scholar and BATDANCE organiser De Angela Duff puts so incisively….

“Prince was an innovator in multiple spheres of the arts. Prince was also interdisciplinarity, entrepreneurship, and invention incarnate. He was at the forefront of recording, lighting, and stage technology. Roger Linn’s Linn LM-1 Drum Machine, the first drum machine to use digital samples of acoustic drums, is intrinsically tied to and essentially synonymous with Prince and the “Minneapolis sound” that he is known for. Prince, an early and avid adopter of the internet, conversed directly with his fans in AOL private chatrooms way before Twitter or Facebook. In 1994, before Beyonce’s visual albums, he released his music in an interactive form, even going so far as to entitle it, Interactive. He was also on the forefront of entrepreneurship, building his own 55,000 square feet media complex for audio studio recordings, film and video shoots, band and tour rehearsals that he rented out to others during its inception in 1987. After he initially left Warner Bros. in 1996, he also constantly tested several, music distribution models involving old and new media. Prince worked with Van Jones to create and fund the organizations, #YesWeCode and Green For All. Also, before diversity became a ubiquitous term, Prince’s roster of band members and staff consisted of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. On top of that, Prince was a silent philanthropist donating to many organizations including educational ones such as the Harvest Network of Schools, Harlem Children’s Zone, and Eau Claire Promise Zone to name a few. “

Further details on the symposium can be found here:

About

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Following the success of the Prince From Minneapolis Symposium and in the next stage of the development of what we are now terming “Princecology”,  EYE NO Prince Lovesexy Symposium will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Prince’s tenth album, Lovesexy at NYU Tandon on June 1st and 2nd 2018.

The symposium will consist of a reception, an opening keynote with Prince collaborators Cat Glover, Dr. Fink & Ingrid Chavez, and a screening on Friday, June 1st to launch the event.  A full-day of 4 panels will follow on Saturday, June 2nd with a closing keynote with Prince’s cousin, Charles “Chazz” Smith.

Professor Mike Alleyne and I will present Glam Slammed: Visual Identity In Prince’s Lovesexy. The paper will explore  the ways in which Lovesexy signalled the beginning of a period where Prince wrestled with moral and spiritual questions. We will consider how the central tenet of the album, the battle between God (good) and evil (the Devil, personified as “Spooky Electric”), which largely seems to be an internalised moral struggle, is introduced early in the album. “Lovesexy” as a conceptual framework is never made fully clear, but it seems to be a state of spiritual contentment that fuses a love of God and a connection with humanity via sexuality. The paper will explore the visual presentation of such themes through an analysis of the album cover, music videos, and art direction as part of the evolution of Prince’s visual identity and will consider Lovesexy’s visual style as Prince’s personal mythos.
The paper also explores the controversies surround the Lovesexy album cover. It references the historical roles and functions of the album cover, Prince’s status as a visual icon on his cover art, and comparative perspectives on his nine preceding album covers. Moreover, the analysis incorporates the mainstream cover norms at the time of Lovesexy’s release, photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino’s collaborative approach to the project with Prince, and ways in which negative critical response to the resulting art contributed to its relative commercial failure. The assessment interrogates multiple possible readings of the cover and its implications for Prince’s visual presentation on later releases. Lovesexy is one of Prince’s career high’s, a landmark album that displays an artist at the peak of his creative powers using philosophical constructs both visually and aurally in a way rarely seen in the mainstream. Thirty years since its release, it sounds and looks more exciting than ever.

http://lovesexy.polishedsolid.com/glam_slammed/

The momentum building around the analysis of Prince’s life and work is reflective of the academic interest from scholars in a range of disciplines across the world. Plans are emerging to bring this work together and will be shared soon.

The EYE NO SYMPOSIUM WEBSITE with more info bios and abstracts can be found here:
http://lovesexy.polishedsolid.com

 

 

 

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I am soon to head to Minneapolis in my capacity as a consultant and speaker at the Prince From Minneapolis Symposium.

The event will take place in the city that Prince was proud to hail from. Continuing to live and work there, he put the city firmly on the map of the music industry through the Minneapolis Sound. Until his unexpected death on April 21, 2016, he hosted parties for local fans at his Paisley Park studio. Prince is probably the only global megastar who has remained so embedded in the cultural life of his hometown.

The symposium will investigate Prince’s unique relation to Minneapolis and Minnesota. It will ask what demographic, cultural, and economic conditions were in place for Prince to emerge as a musical genius? How was a new sound born from a small African American population in a largely white and segregated state? Why did Prince stay there? How did he reinvent the aesthetics and politics of blackness? How did he simultaneously cross over to white and international audiences? How did Minnesotans, both queer and straight, react to Prince’s ambivalent black male sexuality? How is Minneapolis represented in Purple Rain? How do we interpret his spiritual explorations? What kind of utopia did Paisley Park embody? What was Prince’s mode of operation in the studio? How did the Minneapolis sound affect hiphop, jazz, rock, and electronic dance music? Why do music tourists flock to this city from Europe and Australia?

Appreciating Prince’s cultural impact will provide a window on fundamental questions in US and Minnesotan society. At a time when the political achievements of the 1960s are under threat, we hope understanding where Prince comes from will make some room for reimagining social change.

​I am proud to join an interdisciplinary team of scholars, artists, and music industry professionals with a passion for studying Prince’s significance to the world of music and to the Twin Cities.

Organising team

As well as a range of diverse academic papers, we have a number of sessions taking place that will engage fans, the local community and the music industry including from some of Prince’s closest collaborators including Dr Fink, Mayte Garcia and Shelby J.

 

 

Our opening keynote is by Jeff Chang in discussion with Daphne Brooks,

Jeff Chang is Social Historian at the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Stanford University
who has written extensively on the intersection of race, art, and civil rights, and the socio-political forces that guided the hip-hop generation. As a speaker, he brings fresh energy and sweep to the essential American story, offering an invaluable interpretation at a time when race defines the national conversation. His latest book, We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, questions why we keep talking about diversity even as American society is resegregating, both racially and economically.

Daphne A. Brooks is Professor of African American Studies, Theater Studies, American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. She is the author of two books: Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Duke University Press, 2006) and Jeff Buckley’s Grace (Continuum, 2005). She has published numerous articles on the intersectional politics of popular music culture. Brooks is currently working on a three-volume study of black women and popular music culture entitled Subterranean Blues: Black Women Sound Modernity. The first volume in the trilogy, Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Archive, the Critic, and Black Feminist Musicking is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. Brooks is also the author of the liner notes for The Complete Tammi Terrell (Universal A&R, 2010) and Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia (Sony, 2011). In 2017, Brooks served as the chief conference coordinator of the conference “Blackstar Rising and the Purple Reign: Celebrating the Legacies of David Bowie and Prince” at Yale University.

More information on our range of speakers can be found here:

Speakers

The full schedule of papers and events is published here:

Schedule

I am delighted to be presenting work with Professor Mike Alleyne on Prince and visual identity: post-Purple Rain. Mike Alleyne co-organised Purple Reign: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Life and Legacy of Prince The University of Salford, UK with me in May 2017,

Professor Mike Alleyne

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My participation in the symposium is a part of a larger academic and public engagement project on the life and legacy of Prince from the School of Arts and Media at The University of Salford, UK.

More information  will be released soon.

In quite a diversion from my normal academic life, next week I’ll be speaking at the NME Flagship LIFEHACKS event at Islington Metalworks in London. The event, in partnership with The University of Salford and Create Jobs is a series of talks and panels designed to help young people kick-start their careers in the creative industries.

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Hip-hop artist Loyle Carner and Chelsea footballer Eniola Aluko will headline and I’ll be on the “What I wish I knew at 18” panel with Kanya King (founder of the MOBO Awards)  Jonathan Badyal (Head of Communications at Universal Music UK) and Liv Little (Gal-dem), which will focus on giving young adults confidence in terms of starting out in their career, or looking for a career change.

The event sees NME joining forces with youth charity Create Jobs  supported by University of Salford.  The line up is excellent (with a yet to be announced headline gig) consisting of:

Headline – NME In conversation with Loyle Carner & Eniola Aluko (Chelsea FC)

How to effect positive change panel

Alex Manzi (Dreamer’s Disease / Radio 1Xtra)

Paula Akpan (The “I’m Tired” Project / Black Girl Festival)

Paris Lees

Josie Naughton (Help Refugees)

Skills to succeed in a digital age panel

Niran Vinod (Instagram)

Lauren Thomas (General Assembly

Ibrahim Kamara (GUAP)

Lyndon Saunders (University of Salford)

What I wish I knew at 18 panel

Jonathan Badyal (Universal Music UK)

Dr Kirsty Fairclough (University of Salford)

Kanya King (MOBO Awards)

Liv Little (gal-dem)

For tickets and booking information follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nme-lifehacks-islington-metal-works-london-tickets-38271979521

 

 

 

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I  am delighted to announce my involvement, alongside my Purple Reign Conference co-organiser Professor Mike Alleyne, in the upcoming Prince From Minneapolis symposium in April 2018.

Mike and I will act as consultants to the event which will investigate Prince’s unique relation to Minneapolis and Minnesota and will explore what demographic, cultural, and economic conditions were in place for Prince to emerge as a musical genius and examine how was a new sound born from a small African American population in a largely white and segregated state.

Other key questions include:

Why did Prince stay in Minneapolis?

How did he reinvent the aesthetics and politics of blackness? How did he at the same time win over white and international audiences?

How did Minnesotans, both queer and straight, react to Prince’s ambivalent black male sexuality?

How is Minneapolis represented in Purple Rain?

How do we interpret his spiritual explorations? What kind of utopia did Paisley Park embody?

What was Prince’s mode of operation in the studio?

How did the Minneapolis sound affect hiphop, jazz, rock, and electronic dance music?

Why do music tourists flock to this city from Europe and Australia?

Appreciating Prince’s impact will provide a window on fundamental questions in US and Minnesotan society. At a time when the political achievements of the 1960s are under grave threat, we hope understanding where Prince comes from will make some room for reimagining social change.

The Prince From Minneapolis team is an interdisciplinary team of scholars, mostly based at the University of Minnesota.

Arun Saldanha (Department of Geography, Environment, and Society)
Zenzele Isoke (Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies)
Elliot Powell (Department of American Studies)
Sumanth Gopinath (School of Music)
Emma Balazs (Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, Australia)
More information is available here: Prince From Minneapolis

0666-twitter-banner-postI am so pleased to finally share news on The University of Salford’s forthcoming Prince conference, this idea has been bubbling away for a while now and I am thrilled that we are only two months away from its realistion.

Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince is a three day international academic conference hosted by the School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK and the Department of Recording Industry, Middle Tennessee State University, USA.

The conference, taking place between 24th-26th May 2017, will provide fresh perspectives on the creative and commercial dimensions of Prince’s career, re-examining the meanings of his work in the context of his unexpected death.

Purple Reign presents a timely consideration of the cultural impact, iconic status of Prince and his global legacies across many media platforms. It will examine all aspects of his creative output and the ways in which it intersects with video, performance, literature, theatre, film, digital culture, design and fashion.

We will address the issue of Prince’s significant influence and lasting appeal from a number of multi-disciplinary perspectives. We have welcomed scholars form across the globe, covering study fields of popular music and sound, gender and culture, television, film and celebrity studies, visual arts, performance studies, and digital media.

Our keynote address will be delivered by Dez Dickerson, Prince’s guitarist from The Revolution, and Professor Sarah Niblock, co-author of Prince: the Making of a Pop Music Phenomenon.

We have an amazing array of speakers from all over the world, covering a vast range of topics.

HOME will also mark the event by screening the 1986 musical drama Under the Cherry Moon, which Prince directed and starred in, alongside Kristin Scott Thomas and Steven Berkoff.

To close the conference, students from the University’s Music programmes will perform music in homage to Prince to delegates, while art and design students will create branding and exhibit their art for the event.

Click here to book your attendance now.Prince conference registration

For enquiries please contact me on 0161 295 6060, or email purplereignconference@gmail.com.

This conference has been organised in partnership with http://www.mtsu.edu

I’m very pleased to announce the following call for papers:

“Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince”

A two-day international conference hosted by The School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK and the Department of Recording Industry, Middle Tennessee State University, USA 24th- – 26th May 2017 Media City UK, University of Salford, UK.

Convenors:

Dr Mike Alleyne, Dept of Recording Industry, College of Media & Entertainment, Middle Tennessee State University

Dr Kirsty Fairclough, School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK

Tim France, School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK

Proposals are invited for a two-day international conference on the life and legacy of Prince.

This conference aims to provide fresh perspectives on the creative and commercial dimensions of Prince’s career, re-examining the meanings of his work in the context of his unexpected death.

This conference seeks to address the issue of Prince’s significant influence and lasting appeal from a number of multi-disciplinary perspectives.  We welcome proposals from scholars in the fields of popular music studies, sound studies, gender studies, cultural studies, television studies, celebrity studies, film studies, visual arts, performance studies, digital and social media and related disciplines.

The conference presents a timely consideration of the cultural impact, iconic status of Prince and his global legacies across many media platforms. It will examine all aspects of his creative output and the ways in which it intersects with video, performance, literature, theatre, film, digital culture. design and fashion.

Single and panel proposals are invited on, but are not limited to, the following:

Prince as musician.

Prince as songwriter.

Prince and fandom.

Prince and racial representations.

Prince, feminism and gender relations.

Prince as actor.

Prince and performance style.

Prince’s music videos.

Prince and fashion.

Prince as star/celebrity.

Prince’s death.

Prince and media representations.

Prince as enigma.

Submission guidelines:

Deadline for abstracts: 31st January, 2017

Panel proposals should consist of a 500word abstract plus a 100word biography from each participant. Proposals should be sent to: purplereignconference@gmail.com

Individual submissions should consist of 300 word abstracts plus a 100word biography and should be sent to:

purplereignconference@gmail.com

 

 

 

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Fans of R&B superstar Frank Ocean have been whipped into a frenzy. The release of Boys Don’t Cry, the follow-up album to 2012’s critically acclaimed Channel Orange, has been a long time coming. And after a series of cryptic clues hinted that the album was to be released on Friday August 5 turned out to be baseless and no verified release date announced, frustration is high. But Ocean’s methods demonstrate just how far the use of mystery goes in today’s cluttered music market.

Last summer, Ocean promised the new album would be released in 2016. But no hint of a date appeared. On July 2 he posted an image of a punch card littered with missed deadlines for Boys Don’t Cry. The singer songwriter has gently toyed with his fan base since the new album was initially expected to be released in 2015, but its delay has contributed to mass frustration among his fans.
The public commentary by those in the know has exacerbated this frustration. In March 2016, Ocean’s producer Malay said that the album was “maybe a month away”. Artist James Blake worked on the album and has called it “better” than Channel Orange. In February this year new Ocean music was leaked online, supposedly after a secret listening party. The untitled snippets were later removed due to copyright issues.

Given this context, fans and the wider media alike were fixated on Ocean’s website when it began streaming mysterious footage early on August 1. It appeared that all was due to be revealed, the album finally released. But frustration quickly mounted – instead of the expected new tracks viewers were treated to a 48-hour livestream of a warehouse equipped with carpentry workbenches and speakers.

After a number of hours, a person who appeared to be Ocean became visible and proceeded to saw wooden boards into pieces. Later, the individual drilled holes and sliced metal poles. Intermittently, the person stopped work to check their phone. Throughout the footage, instrumental music played and the camera cut to alternate angles. It began to be believed that Ocean’s album would be released on Friday August 5. The day passed and no album appeared. But the enigma that is Frank Ocean was cemented.

Holding the limelight

Ocean is by no means the first to attempt to curate a sense of mystery, but in an age of oversharing, constructing anticipation on this level is difficult to achieve. There are few mainstream artists that can create such a feverish buzz on a mass scale. We see “buzz” being generated around artists through social media so often that it loses its power.

Ocean clearly knows this. Despite driving many crazy, the strategy he is adopting is a way of maintaining integrity and constructing an enigma in a culture that moves at a frenetic pace. The cryptic release strategy has of course created a spike in traffic to his website and his presence across almost all social media platforms has increased. According to Forbes, Ocean saw a near doubling of video views on both YouTube and Vevo – all without actually releasing any new music. Page views on Wikipedia are up more than 300%. On August 4, Ocean was a top trending search on Google, at more than half a million searches.
There are few artists that can find themselves in the spotlight, creating this kind of attention, by doing so little. This is, of course, an ideal position to be in when the long-awaited album finally arrives. His emphasis on a slowed down approach to the construction of the work and the labour involved presents Ocean as an artist who values the quality of the work – as a personal statement – over prolific output. Ocean, who has no official Twitter or Instagram account, has developed a sense of artistic integrity in an era where the concept is increasingly elusive.

This behaviour attracts both admiration and frustration, often in equal measure. Since the video footage was released, fans have dedicated an intense amount of energy to deconstructing its meaning. Images of the singer have been discovered in the code of the website. The footage deconstructed in minute detail – down to the type of saw Ocean held and the type of work for which it is commonly used. Apple employees, whose logo appeared in the video, were reportedly bombarded by eager fans demanding more information.

Frank the enigma

Another star who built his career on curated mystery was Prince, who Ocean has attested to being a fan of. Rarely giving interviews, allowing the music to be its own voice and a dedication to maintaining his privacy, he constructed a shimmering indeterminacy that lasted his entire career.

Yet Prince was famous long before the digital era dawned. In the contemporary social media driven music industry, artists must share and engage to maintain their fan base. Ocean’s careful disengagement with the main form of promotion available to artists presents a rebellious streak which is in keeping with his elegantly elusive music, the complex and knowing sensibility of which belies his entrance into the music industry via the controversial Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future.
Back when he entered the scene, Ocean’s music appeared challenging in a context where R&B was dominated by the slick, polished material of artists such as Chris Brown and Usher. Ocean wrote of familiar topics in the trope of the genre, but also of gay marriage, Islam, suicide and his absent father, topics that mainstream R&B rarely addressed. At the same time, the songs borrowed elements of popular songs from Coldplay and The Eagles, demonstrating the breadth of Ocean’s influences. After Channel Orange was released, Ocean became the epitome of a new R&B, arguably influencing the likes of Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.

Ocean stands for artistic integrity and freedom of expression. He elegantly cultivates an elusive quality that has become his trademark and which has allowed him to remain in the spotlight in an era of over-saturation. Whenever the album is finally released (current rumours suggest November) this protracted period of seeming inactivity has proven that entrance into the inner life of Frank Ocean must be respected. And that, in and of itself, is worth waiting for.

First published by The Conversation UK https://theconversation.com/frank-ocean-is-driving-his-fans-crazy-and-hes-a-genius-for-doing-so-63463