Voiced Over: Children’s Voices in Popular Music

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Voiced Over: Children’s Voices in Popular Music

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Publication BookChapter
Title Voiced Over: Children’s Voices in Popular Music
Author(s) Sundmark, Björn
Date 2009
Editor(s) Kirstinä, Leena; Drillsma-Milgrom, Barbara
English abstract
Voiced Over: Children’s Voices in Popular Music The voice of the child in popular music is a multi-layered, indeed metamorphic, signifier. Its effect depends on how it is activated and contextualized. In my paper I will explore and interrogate four different uses of the child voice. To begin with, the child’s voice represents innocence or authenticity of expression. By invoking the voice of the child, a song’s message is certified as true; with it the author/performer gets an alibi. At the same time it is a risky operation, since one of the generic conventions of popular music is that it inscribes a young – but not childish – intended reader/listener/consumer. Contemporary popular music apparently caters to the interests of adolescents, while other age groups can still share the participatory illusion of youth. The twenty-somethings and middle aged are allowed prolonged lease of youth, while children/pre-teens are empowered by being allowed to take part in a discourse seemingly directed at an older generation. The sound of the child in popular music echoes of sentimentality or banality. To counter this, the child’s voice is frequently used to express knowingness, usually of sexual matters. Tension is created between innocence and experience – as when a child singer seems to suggest “adult only” activities – or when an adult performer mimics a child’s voice. A third option is to sing about children, but this inevitably positions the singer in the troublesome role of parent. The voice of the child could also be that of the adolescent who positions herself/himself as a child in relation to a mother or father. This position allows the performer to take the position of the child without being childish. Finally, children’s (re)appropriation of popular music is brought up for discussion. The paper thus addresses not only the “place and space of children and childhood in contemporary culture”, but the sound of it as well.
Publisher Enostone
Host/Issue Metamorphoses in Children’s Literature and Culture
Series/Issue Publications of the Finnish institute of children's literature;30
ISBN 978-951-9036-82-3
Pages 325-335
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::Aesthetic subjects::Film
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::Aesthetic subjects::Literature
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/9561 (link to this page)

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