Popular Music & Performance Style

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Students complete a T-Chart to compare different live (recorded) performances of the same song:

  1. The Shirelles, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (1960)
  2. Carole King, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (1971)

Some guiding questions for discussion about each song, as students seek to complete a T-Chart, include:

  • how does the performance style (not) align with the lyrics of the song?
  • what are the musicians wearing? how is their hair styled?
  • how are the musicians moving?
  • how old are the musicians? what race?
  • what job did these musicians have in the industry at the time? before this performance?
  • how much control did they have over this performance?
  • what is the connotation of “girl group”? what is the connotation of “singer-songwriter”?

Uses for this lesson (depending on course need):

  • discussion of timbre as it relates to emotion, authenticity
  • analysis of musical features in conjunction with image, motion, performance style, etc.
  • analysis of how identity affects how musicians can & do operate within music culture, depending on age, race, status/clout, job title, etc.
  • example to discuss agency
  • example of 1960s “girl groups,” particularly those produced by the factory-like systems of the Brill Building & Motown
  • example of the 1960s/1970s singer-songwriter style
  • comparison of how audiences receive(d) girl groups and singer-songwriters

This activity can be completed completely as a class, or in small groups, re-convening to (1) check the T-Chart and/or (2) have a culminating discussion that speaks to your main learning outcome for the lesson. For example: in a lesson that focuses on U.S. music and race, the end discussion could lead to a discussion of the Motown finishing school.

I have most often used this lesson with non-major students, but it was also successful with my 400-level undergraduate students. In all instances, students are able to pick up on precise details about the musical sounds as well as the performance style and contextualize what they see & hear within our larger goals.

Submitted by: Elizabeth Massey

  • Listing ID: 1658
  • Resource Type: Assignment
  • Geographic Area: North America
  • Audience: all undergrad
  • Century: 1900-1999 (20thC)