Pop Conference 2016

A melting pot for fans, musicians, scholars, and journalists.

  1. 2016 MoPOP Pop Conference participants shared personal reflections and wrestled with artists' legacies at a special "In Memoriam" panel, organized in tribute to recently passed artists including Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister, and others.

    Photo by Nat Seymour.

  2. Moderator Ann Powers (NPR Music) explored the role of voice in music with singers Merrill Garbus, Valerie June, and k.d. lang at the 2016 Pop Conference keynote panel.

    Photo by Brady Harvey.

  3. Sonic Boom took the winning title against teams from Everyday Music, Spin Cycle, and Easy Street at MoPOP's first-ever Record Store Showdown, where a few of Seattle's independent record stores put their encyclopedic knowledge of music to the test.

    Photo by Brady Harvey.

APRIL 14-17, 2016

The EMP Pop Conference returns with its biggest roster of presentations yet, looking at the ways music lets us hear voices: singers, to be sure, whether virtuosos or idiosyncratic originals, but also other types of vocalizing. How do instrumentalists insert their selves into their music? When the dominant voices in our songs change, what changes with that, from personal identity to collective messages? A switch in voice—from croon to rasp to rap to Auto-Tune—alters everything it reaches.

In dozens of panels, all free to the public (though we strongly recommend advance registration), we’ll explore musical voices across genre and time period: soul singers and rock singers, singers of exotica and Mexi-Cajun blues. Panels on goth-punk wailer Siouxsie Sioux, warbling rapper Future, and pop-rock duo Hall & Oates. Synthetic “vocaloids” and challenges to female decorum. Singing across lines of color. Good bad singing and bad good singing. Vocal coaching. Southern accents.

Read more information below about each session, including the biographies of presenters, and summaries of talks and roundtables!

Eric Weisbard
Pop Conference organizer
University of Alabama

Program Committee Members

Christine Bacareza Balance (University of California, Irvine), María Elena Cepeda (Williams College), Jasen Emmons (EMP Museum), Jack Halberstam (University of Southern California), journalist Jewly Hight, Mark Katz (University of North Carolina),Chris Molanphy (Slate), Charles Mudede (The Stranger), Ann Powers (NPR Music), Zandria Robinson (Rhodes College), Steve Waksman (Smith College)

About the Conference

The conference was held at EMP from 2002–2010, then traveled to UCLA in 2011; NYU in 2012; and simultaneously at USC, NYU, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Tulane University, and EMP in 2013; before returning to EMP as the sole venue in 2014. Three books of conference writing have been published: This Is PopListen Again, and Pop When the World Falls Apart.

Support for the conference is provided by the University of Alabama College of Arts & Sciences, on behalf of the Department of American Studies.

Thank you to our hotel partners: