Publication Date

April 2019


Eric Charry


Music, College of Social Studies


English (United States)


In this study, I investigate contemporary popular music as a case study in collective effervescence. Emile Durkheim, writing in the late 17th and early 18th century, observed the increased isolation of the individual as a result of the societal shifts caused by the rise of industrial capitalism. In his works he specifically describes a decrease in opportunities for individuals to engage in what he refers to as collective effervescence. This leads into my argument that in the absence of formal structures to provide the means for engaging in this collective experience, the consumption of popular music is the primary means through which these experiences are felt. I argue that key developments, such as the rise of the Digital Age and societal circumstances, have led to a new wave of unabashedly political artists making music within what I refer to as the age of Black Lives Matter. I will be turning to the careers of Beyoncé Knowles, Kendrick Lamar, and Janelle Monáe, to place their varying conceptions of a more just society in conversation and help make sense of the ways in which artists are becoming increasingly comfortable taking on the role of political actors.



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