Pop Conference

A collective conversation between 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 26–29, 2018 AT MoPOP

The annual Pop Conference at MoPOP, 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.

Please contact organizer Eric Weisbard to get involved.


 MoPOP Pop Con Sky Church screen


Call for Proposals

What Difference Does It Make? Music and Gender

2018 MoPOP Pop Conference

April 26-29, 2018, Seattle WA

Popular media in the 21st century is rife with radical differences around gender. Even as audiences cheer on shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, viewers and voters reward toxic masculinity at the box office and the ballot box. Popular music voices and reinforces, or challenges and explodes, assumptions about gender, which itself intersects race, ethnicity, sex, the family, labor, religion and morality. The artists we select in canons, historiography, and the musical moment represent an intimate referendum on the subject. Gender performance has a long history: crooners of the 1930s "pansy craze," the bull daggers of classic blues, pop stars exploiting the feminine ideal from Doris Day to Britney Spears and workingman heroes like Muddy Waters and Bruce Springsteen. Today's gender-fluid groundbreakers, like Anohni and Syd, follow on vaudeville’s Annie Hindle and rocker Little Richard. Musical virtuosity and technique, too, are gendered, from the hypermasculinity of hip hop's "wheels of steel" or rock's technophallic guitar heroics to disco's feminized vocal soarings. And gender frames genre: distinctions of salsa dura and salsa romántica or monga (flaccid) echo in country’s “hardcore” honkytonk and “soft shell” crossover divide.

For this year’s Pop Conference, we invite proposals that look at music and gender across any era or category. These might include:

Feminisms: flappers and later mods, torch singers to dance divas, blues and soul, rockers and riot grrrl, statement songs, audience roles

Queer Pop: trans genealogies, performances of blurred or bounded identity

Masculinity: presentations of power and vulnerability, primitivism and auteurism, sexism as structural force in music and the music industry

Black music: making black women more legible outside traditional frameworks, gender performance and identity in sacred and secular spaces

Genres: white male rock and black male gangsta rap, regional Mexican vs. “tropical” Spanish, synths and gender bending, jazz police, subcultural style 

Globally: K-Pop and new pop paradigms, electronic recording of gendered voices from tango and Um Kulthum on, musical Latinidad   

Instruments and Occupations:  Gender relations, homosocial or otherwise, in bands and studios; authorship and agency from girl groups to Kesha/Dr. Luke

Futurism and New Languages: Afrofuturism, techno, digital, video, and post-human; deconstructions/dissolved frames of feminine and nonbinary artists

Religious and traditional roles: from gospel to mountain performances, producing and interrogating a category, a containment, a way of life

Musical canons and women’s underrepresentation or other gendered valuings; gender in music writing


Proposals are due November 10. Email text and Word files, no PDFs, to conference organizer Eric Weisbard (University of Alabama) at 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 with a 75-word bio. For roundtables, outline the subject in up to 500 words, include a 75-word bio for each panelist, and specify panel length. Add emails for all participants. We welcome unorthodox proposals: ask for submission advice.

Program Committee Members

Regina Bradley, Kennesaw State University; Franklin Bruno (Independent scholar, Nothing Painted Blue/Human Hearts); Ashon Crawley, University of Virginia; Geeta Dayal (Independent journalist and critic); Loren Kajikawa, University of Oregon; Anna Kronzer, MoPOP; Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork; Ann Powers, NPR; Matt Sakakeeny, Tulane University; Deborah Paredez, Columbia University; Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama


 Archive


About the Conference

The conference was held at MoPOP 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 MoPOP in 2013; before returning to MoPOP 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.


Questions? Email Questions? Email Pop_Conference@MoPOP.org

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

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