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Thread: Carrie in academic history

  1. #1
    Ultimate Carrie Fan Farawayhills's Avatar
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    Carrie in academic history

    The book has been out for quite some time, so some of you may know it - but it struck me that not everyone might know, and it might be of interest.

    The book is "Country Music, a Cultural and Stylistic History", one of several academic texts on the subject from Oxford University Press. It's written by Jocelyn Neal, who is an Associate Professor at NC University, at Chapel Hill.

    I think that's Carrie, photographed at full volume, on the front cover:
    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon....1MYTJwSPwL.jpg

    And if you look at the table of contents, and scroll right down to the bottom, you'll see she's a featured artist in the last chapter
    https://global.oup.com/academic/prod...lang=en&cc=gb#

  • #2
    Insane Carrie Fan abbeyjones18's Avatar
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    It's a picture of Brad and Carrie during their performance of Remind Me from the 2011 CMAs.

  • #3
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    Thanks for sharing! I always enjoy your posts.

  • #4
    Ultimate Carrie Fan Farawayhills's Avatar
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    I've now had more of a chance to look into some of the Oxford texts, and can summarize a few points of interest

    Jocelyn Neal's book (above) seems to be aimed mainly at College undergraduates, and perhaps High School teachers. It uses several text-book devices, such as chapter summaries, review topics, explanatory side bars, special topic essays and suggestions for further thought. Its 500 pages are pretty comprehensive and balanced.

    Her treatment of Carrie, in the last chapter, seems very fair. She points out Carrie's early story, countering the myth that she came from nowhere via American Idol - though she acknowledges that American Idol did damage her in the eyes of many Country fans because of its Pop associations and immediate lead to a recording deal. She credits Carrie herself with claiming her place in the genre in early interviews, and highlights two things that particularly turned the perceptions in her favour - the inclusion of Randy Travis' neo-traditionalist "I Told You So" on her sophomore album - and her relationship with the Opry. (She also touches on Carrie's association with the return of "twang" in the New Wave re-emphasis on "Roots and Southern Rock" - though she doesn't see Carrie as spearheading that movement. What she does touch on there is the role of "Before He Cheats" as an antidote to the previous Mainstream dominance of artists like Shania Twain and Faith Hill, enabling younger fans to "rediscover their inner Redneck"; and Carrie's association with Brad Paisley, the male leader of this resurgence, who achieves an "astute balance of tradition and modernism".

    She concludes her survey of Carrie with these interesting quotes: "On blogs and website comments...they began referring to her as a "real" country star in comparison to greener pop-crossover artists...In half a decade, Underwood had woven herself into the fabric of contemporary country music and had been transformed - in many fans' eyes - from a representation of artifice to one of authenticity".

    On a personal note, that judgment is particularly gratifying to me, as I'd argued it on the web ever since I first heard her!

  • #5
    Ultimate Carrie Fan Farawayhills's Avatar
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    Another Oxford Text - The Oxford Handbook of Country Music - is aimed at a more specialized audience, mainly graduate research workers, concentrating on theoretical approaches, with summaries of existing work and suggestions for future research. it has fewer references to Carrie, but there are some interesting quotes.

    On the stylistic change of the early 2000s, Mike Dungan, then CEO of Capitol Nashville (Carrie's new label), is quoted as saying "Women, for the most part, were making very, very pop records. We finally pushed the format too far in that direction". He saw that as leading to a decline of the dominance of female diva records on radio, and the rise of Sony, with the Dixie Chicks and Gretchen Wilson. Both proved difficult prospects for retaining Mainstream support in the longer term - and Sony saw "Before He Cheats" as just "hard enough" to please both audiences. But they were careful to keep Carrie's crossover success rooted in Country. Joe Galante is quoted as saying "My experience is that country gets upset when you take a record to top 40 or AC before you take it to them, or if you're working [both formats] on a record simultaneously, but we're not."

    The writers see Carrie as appealing to a widely dispersed "Pop Culture" audience, while always being careful to prioritize her Country identity, "Country music star Carrie Underwood is arguably one of country music's most visible figures, and has been the subject of dozens of mainstream fashion and women's magazines over the last decade, although rarely stepping out of the realm of country music as a profession".

    I would argue that that approach is significant in helping her hold a long-term career - even if departing from it might increase her short term commercial prospects


    On vocal style, they appear to associate Carrie with the "resonant and broad vocals" of Reba McEntire and Martina McBride, in contrast to the "declamatory, chest dominant" vocal style of Natalie Maines and Miranda Lambert.

    I think most fans would agree with that - and probably many particularly appreciate that aspect. I, however, am particularly used to the latter style - which often predominates in the music I've mainly followed. I accept Carrie's particular gift in the more resonant direction - but I would argue that she actually excels in both. For example, "Dirty Laundry" is one I see as primarily declamatory in style, in contrast to, let us say "Mexico". But many of Carrie's songs show both styles - "Something in the Water" being an oft-cited example. Where some particularly remember Carrie's often soaring choruses, I'm often more struck by the slightly deeper, steadily punctuated, declamatory narration she uses to build her story lines. Her gift in today's genre probably lies in a recognizable ability to handle both so well, in different contexts
    txacar, ethelu, Smokyiiis and 2 others like this.

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    Carrie Fans Legend teesharky's Avatar
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    Wow that is awesome! Nice find!
    txacar and Farawayhills like this.

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    Ultimate Carrie Fan Smokyiiis's Avatar
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    What a wonderful find indeed. Would love to have a copy just to be able to read through it in my leisure time!

  • #8
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    Thank you Faraway for sharing those excerpts with us. I always so enjoy hearing your analysis of country music and Carrie in particular.
    "Thank you for that ‘Captain Obvious’ sense of humor because you know what, we not only hit the high notes, you forgot to mention we generally hit the ‘right’ notes as well."
    -Kelly Clarkson to Scott Borchetta about American Idol artists
    Thanks so much Danielle!


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