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Forever Young: Popular Music and Youth Across the Ages

2020 MoPOP Pop Conference

April 23–26, 2020 Rescheduled most likely for September 27th–30th, 2020

Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle WA


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


$75 General Admission
$60 MoPOP members and students


$40 General Admission
$35 MoPOP members and students

There is no pop music without youth, and no youth without pop music.

Across multiple generations and eras, "the youth" have been regarded as a troublesome, paradigm-shifting force in both music and politics. Music has been the medium of youthful dissent: from traditionally anti-establishment genres like rock, punk, hip-hop, and metal, to the most “bubblegum” expressions of pop (whose value is often sneered at due to its appeal to broad constituencies of girls, queer people, and people of color). This year's Pop Conference is an exploration and celebration of youth across generations, locations, and disparate contexts; listening with intensity to what is behind the urgent call we’ve heard from multiple artists to remain “forever young.” Who gets to have youth? And whose music gets to represent youth, only to be wistfully remembered later, while other youthful sounds are deemed dangerous or stunted?

Panels, presentations, and programs will dive deep into the theme by asking:

  • How are musical expressions of innocence and experience assigned based on an artist’s race, gender, sexuality, class and nationality?
  • How are different musical genres adopted into anti-institutional, anti-nationalist soundtracks of youthful rebellion across the globe?
  • How are our youthful attachments to music limited to the concept of “going through a phase”?
  • How has technology enabled young people to make and distribute music in unexpected ways?
  • What are some of the locations, venues, and scenes in which youth cultures have been given room to flourish?
  • Why do musicians cling to the notion of youth in an effort to remain relevant?

2020 Program Committee Members

Hanif Abdurraqib (writer and cultural critic), Raquel Gutiérrez (writer, performer), Gerrick Kennedy (Los Angeles Times), Summer Kim Lee (Dartmouth College), Iván Ramos (University of Maryland), Robert Rutherford (Museum of Pop Culture), Doreen St. Felix (The New Yorker), Karen Tongson (University of Southern California), J.D. Samson (musician, NYU Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music), RJ Smith (author), and Oliver Wang (CSU Long Beach).

This event is supported by Critical Minded, an initiative to invest in cultural critics of color cofounded by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

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