In the last fifty years,the quest for authenticity, for the real, has become a dominant factor in musical taste whether it be the folklorists search for forgotten. Musicians strive to “keep it real”; listeners condemn “fakes”; but does great music really need to be authentic? Did Elvis sing from the heart. Journal of Popular Music Studies · Volume 20, Issue 2 Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music by Hugh Barker and Taylor Yuval.

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Did Elvis sing from the heart, or was he just acting? Were the Sex Pistols more real than disco? Why do so many musicians base their approach on being authenticand why do music buffs fall for it every time? Along the way, the authors discuss the segregation of music in the South, investigate the predominance of self-absorption in modern pop, reassess the rebellious ridiculousness of rockabilly and disco, and delineate how the quest for authenticity has not only made some music great and some music terrible but also shaped in a fundamental way the development of popular music in our time.

Hardcoverpages. Published February 17th by W. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Faking Itplease sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Sep 14, Paul Bryant rated it liked it Shelves: Nirvana, Leadbelly and the allure of the primeval: In which our authors restate arguments which have now become familiar, having been thoroughly presented in three or four books before.

Which is that folk music is not pure, it’s miscegenated, for every John Henry you got from a sharecropper on your field trip in Missouri you got 6 Bing Crosby or Jimmie Rodgers songs. John Lomax again gets a good kicking for his treatment of Leadbelly.

The authors use the previous books 1. The authors use the previous books with this argument to quote from, they aren’t trying to claim it as their own. But anyway, worth saying again: Then in came Ralph Peer – genius businessman – who invented the whole notion of recording the blues and hillbilly music – and he enforced a strict apartheid.

Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music

Which gave succeeding generations a distorted view. Hence Lomax’s desire to record in prisons like Angola where blacks had lived apart from whites for years except the guards. A completely wrong notion, which many people, including those who passionately cared for the various genres of American music, have shared.

Check out the huge arguments about the white contribution to jazz, for instance. TB Blues – The story of autobiographical song. Exploration of the idea that it’s more authentic to sing about yourself. So from Jimmie Rodgers to John Lennon and onwards. Answers the question – why didn’t blind blues singers muzic songs about being blind? Im confess I had never thought about that before now.

Heartbreak Hotel – the iy and artifice of Elvis Presley. This is about how very weird he was. Authenitcity it in the age of Singer Songwriters. The Monkees were created as a canny gap-in-the-market response to the Beatles’ casting off of their moptop selves see cover of Sgt Pepper and this leads the authors to compare John Lennon with Mike Nesmith, a ludicrous notion if ever there was one.


Lennon’s attempts to write autobiographical songs led him up some blind alleys is screaming “Mama don’t go, daddy come home” more authentic than screaming “well shake it up baby now, twist and shout”? By now I’m beginning to get the notion that all this chat about authenticity is pointless.

Tonight’s the Night – Neil Young and being even yet more real. The authors make a lot authebticity good points in all of this, but they do labour their insights just a little too much. And there’s a sprinkling of ill-phrased howlers too – e. I can’t see that being even slightly true any which way you look at it. Comparison of Neil Young and Billy Joel.

One was real, the other was completely made up. Neil Young’s frequently self-destructive moves to keep it real ending up with his record company suing him for making records that didn’t sound like Neil Young!

I love that, don’t you? Love to Love you Baby: Disco and the mechanization of music. Apparently some people think disco was a low point.

Punk’s Paradoxes of Authenticity. Possibly the best chapter, trying to unravel the complexities of those three-chord wonders whose poster boy was Sid Vicious performing My Way. Was the anyone-can-do-it anti-mystique make-it-real aesthetic able to express anything apart from a list of things they didn’t like because they were FAKE?


Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music – Yuval Taylor, Hugh Barker – Google Books

Were all the punks just the electric three-minute working class version authentocity Holden Caulfield? The authors show the artistic paralysis of John Lydon after the Pistols, making me wonder if there’s any mileage in comparing the purists of any movement, say musical, artistic, political or religious.

Y Tu, Que Has Hecho? Ry cooder and the ubiquitous Buena Vista Social Club, and the quest for authenticity which is the raison d’etre of the “world music” genre so say fo authors, I’m not so sure.

I listen to foreign stuff because it’s different, not because it’s not fake. Well by now I was a bit musicc to tell you the truth. Authenticty hey, these ideas are well worth booting around the football pitch. Mar 22, Individualfrog rated it it was mysic Shelves: As a teenager in the post-Nirvana 90s, I was an eye-witness to the strangling authenticity-above-all ethos of “alternative” music.

I sometimes feel like I’ve spent my life trying to get out of the impossible labyrinth of this ethos. This book, about the “quest for authenticity” in its most natural habitat, the music scene, opens with the death of Kurt Cobain, a tireless promoter of the very catchphrases that were tearing him up inside.

They come up to the point of demolishing the entire idea of “authenticity” altogether, but can’t seem to bring themselves to seal the deal, because jn still want to say that Neil Young’s 70s albums are more “real” than Trans. They show how music has always been syncretic, and black and white musicians before the segregation imposed by record companies played the same repertoire, vor they still imply that Moby and Paul Simon are cultural imperialists.

They trace the genesis and eventual ubiquity of the autobiographical song–mostly unknown before the 20th Century–but put this research to use only to mock Tori Amos and kt “confessional” songwriters that they dislike.

They lay populr a case without quite coming out and saying it that “world music” notions of authenticity are essentially racist, but still call commercial Itt releases like Buena Vista Social Club “watered down”. They love to point out that what white, rock-ish audiences consider authentic-sounding are in fact unpopular with the communities that birthed them–a strange “gotcha” that simply substitutes one arbitrary authenticity criterion for another.

It’s strange to read these two authors building up all this evidence to undermine the entire edifice of music criticism today–as they point out, authenticity is still something by which music of any kind is judged–but gaking to follow through with it, so they can still criticize the artists they dislike Europop, Yes, Fatboy Slim with it.


In any book on popular music, I end up feeling that some band I care about has been neglected–I would love to see The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in here, for example. I suppose I can accept their begging off the topic of hip-hop as being too complicated to fit into this book–it probably does deserve its own volume. But I really do think that the chapter which contrasts the “real” Neil Young to the “fake” Billy Joel would have been much more interesting if they had substituted David Bowie for the latter.

The fact that Joel is relatively critically un-acclaimed stacks the deck; Bowie, both beloved and widely considered “fake”, complicates their whole thesis. Surely in a book about authenticity in rock’n’roll, Bowie deserves thee place, if only to break down why on earth we call him, but not Joey Ramone, inauthentic.

In the most intriguing moments of the book, by breaking down the concept of authenticity, the authors end up chipping away at the very concept of the continuous self. The imperative to “keep it real” and “be yourself” has always been impossible.

How can one be authentic if one is continually changing, moment to moment? All of us, not just the miserably pigeonholed stars they highlight Cobain, Donna Summer, John Lydon, etc.

The insistence on authenticity is essentially an insistence on an illusory stability in a world of flux. To their credit, the authors recognize this. But maybe someday we’ll find a way to let ourselves, and each other, change our minds, adopt new mindsets, try different styles, as unhesitatingly and smoothly as we change our moods.

Jun 09, matt rated it really liked it Recommends it for: An absolutely fascinating and engrossing look at the idea of “authenticity” of popular music a topic that seems more and more absurd upon inspection.

Barker and Taylor’s investigations into the myth-making of early Blues producers and earnest folkies bring a much needed dose of perspective to those who yearn for a more idealized past. Even more interesting was his chapter on the Buena Vista Social Club and the conotations of the classification of “world” music.

The chapter on Punk failed to menti An absolutely fascinating and engrossing look at the idea of “authenticity” of popular music a topic that seems more and more absurd upon inspection. I also found myself wishing they’d get into the semiotics of album covers, presentation of group, etc.

One chapter here draws a loose comparison between Neil Young and Billy Joel.

One can easily argue that just by looking at their demeanor and how they dress one could make assumptions about who is being “more authentic. I couldn’t agree more although I was hoping for something a little more profound besides “sometimes we listen to Abba” from two guys who went to some painstankingly long depths to make a convincing agrument. Aug 23, Lindy rated it it was ok Shelves: I wanted to like this book because Thhe think it’s a fascinating topic.

Unfortunately my expectations were not met. First of all, I agree with almost everything in individualfrog’s review. Second, it’s painfully obvious that the authors’ musical taste doesn’t deviate more than two degrees from the Beatles.