What remixes, covers, mash-ups, and parodies say about the perceived legitimacy of music making

Table of contents

Table of Contents


Introduction: Rock This Way, or The Shape of Musical Norms      

Chapter 1 Judge a Song by Its Cover: Cover Songs Between Transformation and Extraction        

Chapter 2 Stir It Up: Remix and the Problem of Genre        

Chapter 3 Monstrous Mash: Mash-Ups and the Epistemology of Difference

Chapter 4 Fight for Your Right to Parody: Parodies and the Cultural Politics of Kindness 

Chapter 5 Feels like the First Time: The Politics and Poetics of Similarity in Soundalikes

Conclusion: Toward a Theory of Ethical Transformative Musical Works   

Data Appendix           



Any and all songs are capable of being remixed. But not all remixes are treated equally. Rock This Way examines transformative musical works—cover songs, remixes, mash-ups, parodies, and soundalike songs—to discover what contemporary American culture sees as legitimate when it comes to making music that builds upon other songs. Through examples of how popular discussion talked about such songs between 2009 and 2018, Mel Stanfill uses a combination of discourse analysis and digital humanities methods to interrogate our broader understanding of transformative works and where they converge at the legal, economic, and cultural ownership levels. 

Rock This Way provides a new way of thinking about what it means to re-create and borrow music, how the racial identity of both the reusing artist and the reused artist matters, and the ways in which the law polices artists and their works. Ultimately, Stanfill demonstrates that the extent to which a work is seen as having new expression or meaning is contingent upon notions of creativity, legitimacy, and law, all of which are shaped by white supremacy.

Mel Stanfill is Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Texts and Technology Program and the Department of English at the University of Central Florida.

Rock This Way provides one of the best and most nuanced discussions of the ethics of creativity I have seen in relation to popular music. The choice of examples is rich and interesting; the lively language is clear, fluent and funny; and the interdisciplinary approach is skillful. This is a fantastic book.”

—Larisa Kingston Mann, Temple University

- Larisa Kingston Mann

Rock This Way is an important project, in which Mel Stanfill adeptly develops distinctions between transformative works such as mash-ups, parodies, and soundalikes, and delivers meaningful insights about their implications for racial justice. The breadth of the book’s research and the smoothness with which Stanfill moves between histories and presents of transforming music is impressive.” 
—Anjali Vats, University of Pittsburgh School of Law

- Anjali Vats

Rock This Way is a fascinating book about musical creativity and the way we think about it. At a time when the artistic and economic implications of digitalization and streaming have made questions of originalism, ownership, and appropriation more complicated than ever, this is a timely and important work.”
—Jack Hamilton, University of Virginia

- Jack Hamilton

"Rock This Way: Cultural Constructions of Musical Legitimacy is a seminal work of original scholarship and a ground-breaking contribution to the subject of musical creativity that will have immense appeal and value to musicians, their fans, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, [ . . . ] , Rock This Way is unreservedly recommended"
--Midwest Book Review

- Midwest Book Review

"Ultimately, they demonstrate how these very influences reinforce structural power imbalances, especially white supremacy. Stanfill concludes their study by advocating for a system that will encourage the creation and distribution of ethical transformative musical works."


Read: Author post on our blog | August 15, 2023