Pop Conference 2015

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

  1. The 2015 Pop Conference, "“Get Ur Freak On: Music, Weirdness, and Transgression," kicked off with keynote panel "Can Pop Really Be Transgressive? Poptimism and Its Discontents" featuring several panelists. 

    Photo courtesy AJ Dent.

  2. American author, music journalist, and cultural critic Greil Marcus joined the weekend's discussions of pop culture and music scholarship.

    Photo courtesy Nat Seymour.

  3. Local Seattle act TacocaT took part in a showcase of subversive Seattle music performed by some of the region’s most oppositional and talented bands.

    Photo courtesy AJ Dent.

The annual EMP Pop Conference, first held in 2002, mixes together ambitious music writing of every kind, in an attempt to bring academics, critics, musicians, and dedicated fans into a collective conversation.


Our thanks to all who attended the 2015 EMP Pop Conference, with its theme of “Get Ur Freak On: Music, Weirdness, and Transgression.” For those who could not be there, want to enjoy presentations that they missed, or  just hope to share favorites with others, we offer some highlights from the gathering on this page.

More to come!
Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama and Pop Conference Organizer


Get Ur Freak On: Music, Weirdness, and Transgression

Exploding conventions has long put the bomp in pop: the uncontainable desire of those deemed sexually unnatural, racial impostors, gender outlaws, obsessed fans, willful bohemians, or just plain weird. “We feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle,” Edgar Allan Poe wrote in “The Imp of the Perverse.” Music often sanctions transgression, challenges or corrupts the status quo depending on your perspective, gives us Prince in one era (called Imp of the Perverse by a biographer), Miley Cyrus in another, an Iggy Pop then, and an Iggy Azalea now. 

For this year’s Pop Conference, we seek presentations that connect music of any style or period to notions of transgression, perversion, and the weird, such as:

  • histories of the strange from minstrelsy to cabaret, rock and roll to black metal, “Tutti Frutti” to “Super Freak”
  • twistings of form—of the song, the voice, the genre, language; versioning and remixes; sonic markers of the polymorphous
  • queer pop, gender subversion, and the perverse diva
  • transgression, social movements, and culture wars; the role of the state; drugs
  • racialized notions of otherness, margins/difference as center, carnival
  • exploitation–marketing “Blurred Lines,” the limits of dissolute star/fan behavior
  • technology and the estrangement of the human in pop
  • comparative cultural ethnographies of outrageousness
  • fetishization of records, the past, the disease of collecting



The deadline for submissions has passed. Questions? Email Eric.Weisbard@gmail.com.


Individual proposals for 20 minute presentations should be 300 words, with a 75 word bio. For three person (90 minute) or four person (120 minute) panel proposals, include a one-paragraph overview and individual statements of 300 words plus 75 word bio. For roundtables, outline the subject in up to 500 words, include a 75 word bio for each panelist, and specify desired panel length. We welcome unorthodox proposals: ask for submission advice. Please include emails for all participants.

Program Committee Members

Will Hermes (Rolling Stone), Jennifer Lena (Columbia University), Emily Lordi (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Greil Marcus (The Believer), Rashod Ollison (The Virginian-Pilot), Ann Powers (NPR Music), Shana Redmond (University of Southern California), Julianne Escobedo Shepherd (New York University), Travis Stimeling (West Virginia University)

PDF Resources

Call for Proposals

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