Academic Absurdity of the Week: Heavy, Man, Heavy

Did you know there is an academic journal devoted to the study of heavy metal music? I didn’t either, but of course there is: Metal Music Studies. It’s your one-stop shopping venue for important scholarly analysis of Metallica and Iron Maiden. Also Nickelback.

Here’s one especially precious intersectional offering:

Accept(ing) the other (Metallic[a]) hypermasculine image: Case studies towards an alternative understanding of hypermasculinity in the aesthetics of 1980s heavy metal

Gareth Heritage


Machismo and other thematic representations of masculinity have informed much of the scholarly research into 1980s heavy metal’s aesthetics. Although some studies have provided more substantial insights than others, the discourse has largely been shaped by scholars who criticize 1980s heavy metal because of its (hypermasculine) thematization of sexism and misogyny. However, on closer inspection hypermasculinity manifests itself in 1980s heavy metal’s aesthetics in more ways than simply through sexist and misogynist themes, but these have largely been ignored by the discourse. As a way of bringing 1980s heavy metal’s hypermasculine aesthetic into sharper focus, this article garners a closer look at how hypermasculinity was used as an important idiomatic hallmark. It provides examples of bands, songs and albums with ‘alternative hypermasculine’ aesthetics, and elucidates how other macho themed subtexts were just as important as sexism and misogyny in defining the genre. It also argues for a paradigm shift in how scholars evaluate 1980s heavy metal’s hypermasculine aesthetics in general. This article will be of interest to scholars of critical musicology, cultural studies, decade studies, gender studies, historiography and metal music studies.

Unfortunately individual articles cost $18, so I can’t ascertain whether the journal has yet tackled the crucial question of misogyny and objectifying women in Whitesnake music videos.

And if they ever mess with prog rock. . . Oh wait. Oh no they didn’t! Oh “Yes” (heh) they did, in Rock Music Studies:

Is Progressive Rock Progressive? YES and Pink Floyd as Counterpoint to Adorno

Jerome Melancon & Alexander Carpenter


Theodor Adorno insisted that progress in music depends upon an on-going, radical newness that breaks with convention as it strives towards aesthetic and social autonomy; it is not possible in popular music, which, as a mere cultural commodity, is necessarily formulaic, repetitive and static. There is, however, a genre of rock music that aspires to the high seriousness of art music, that eschews the market demands of the pop single, and that calls itself progressive. Progressive rock, exemplified by YES and Pink Floyd, both accords with and responds to Adorno’s critique of popular music as meaningless and regressive, but also goes beyond what Adorno thought was possible for progressive music. As both musically and politically progressive, prog rock aspires to seriousness, meaning, and truth, challenges the aesthetic rigidity and capitalism of the music industry from within, and makes possible for listeners an awareness of the otherwise masked alienation of everyday life.

I am defeated.

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