Diane Pecknold

Diane Pecknold is an Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Louisville, where she teaches popular culture and feminist studies. She is the author of The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry and co-editor of A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music.



"The Spectral Cityscapes of Tween Pop"

The city of the adult pop and rock imaginary is a place of heterogeneity, contact, visibility, and re-definition. In music videos as in academic conference calls, the pop/rock urbanist is a modern flâneur, wandering aimlessly through the city’s shifting soundscapes, borrowing, reconfiguring, and synthesizing. Among other elisions, this imaginary obscures the configurations of urbanity and citizenship being circulated in one of the few pop/rock music markets that is currently expanding: tween girls. How is rock city re-imagined for this new audience? How are the concerns about vulnerability, visibility, and sexual availability that have long characterized imagery of women in the city contained? And what do those strategies reveal about the identities on offer to girls in tween music? From the empty streetscapes of Willow Smith’s “21st Century Girl” and Selena Gomez’s “Who Says” to the rurban/suburban periphery haunted by city skylines in Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA,” the urban imaginary in tween music, like other aspects of the genre’s aesthetic, positions the “real” world as distant and girls as marginal to it, reinforcing a tween identity that is as deeply shaped by race and class as by age or gender, even as it proposes, through images of concert-going tweenybopper crowds, that girls can find a place in the city (and the polity) through their membership in the tween audience.