Black popular music and offbeat performance, from Eartha Kitt to Meshell Ndegeocello
Sounding Like a No-No traces a rebellious spirit in post–civil rights black music by focusing on a range of offbeat, eccentric, queer, or slippery performances by leading musicians influenced by the cultural changes brought about by the civil rights, black nationalist, feminist, and LGBTQ movements, who through reinvention created a repertoire of performances that have left a lasting mark on popular music. The book's innovative readings of performers including Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, Stevie Wonder, Eartha Kitt, and Meshell Ndegeocello demonstrate how embodied sound and performance became a means for creativity, transgression, and social critique, a way to reclaim imaginative and corporeal freedom from the social death of slavery and its legacy of racism, to engender new sexualities and desires, to escape the sometimes constrictive codes of respectability and uplift from within the black community, and to make space for new futures for their listeners. The book's perspective on music as a form of black corporeality and identity, creativity, and political engagement will appeal to those in African American studies, popular music studies, queer theory, and black performance studies; general readers will welcome its engaging, accessible, and sometimes playful writing style, including elements of memoir.
Francesca T. Royster is Professor in the Department of English at DePaul University. She is the author of Becoming Cleopatra: The Shifting Image of an Icon.
"Owing to her formidable command of interdisciplinary thought, Royster (DePaul Univ.) brings a thorough understanding of the multiple layers of meaning in music in this excellent, well-written treatise that situates uniquely "different" voices within black popular music as both vibrant and vital to its future. ... Highly Recommended."- S. Schmalenberger, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul MN
"Royster’s reclaiming of eccentricity is a productive move that locates queerness and blackness in alliance against the structures of whiteness and (hetero)normativity. ... Sounding Like a No-No participates in the construction of a black imaginary that embraces its past- Kimberlee Perez, Arizona State University, Tempe
in all its complexities, from violence to resistance, and multiple forms of embodiment and speech."
—QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking