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Reviews and other types of journalism, historically, have played an important role in rock music, including acting as a way of forming communities, artistic standards, and expectations, and creating aesthetic unity for genres and subgenres. For this essay, you will choose an album that represents rock or an adjacent genre, and construct a thorough review that addresses genre, musical characteristics, and context- your analysis will demonstrate knowledge of historical, political, or technological contexts that surrounded your album’s creation.
Late submissions will be subject to the course’s late policy (see the syllabus).
Note that this essay is longer and has multiple steps. Your review should reflect a significant amount of work and preparation on your part. I recommend that you start well in advance.
Due dates for each step are listed in the course calendar and included in the appropriate modules.
Submit three album choices to the “Albums” forum. Albums will be assigned first come, first serve. Albums must be approved. Albums most come from rock or a related genre examined in the course. Spend a significant amount of time researching using UTK libraries, databases, and quality rock journalism, and submit a bibliography to the “Bibliography” forum that includes at least five print/published sources. Two must be scholarly sources, such as peer-reviewed articles, music database entries, or scholarly books. The other sources should be from journalistic sources, biographies, interviews, etc. (see below)*. Recommended databases for scholarly sources include JSTOR, Grove Music, and Oxford Music, which you can access via UTK Libraries (https://libguides.utk.edu/databases (Links to an external site.)). Also utilize the general library search to reveal online-access items. You may use digital versions of published items. *Important note: Websites without a history of print/publication and without a strong editorial tradition are not appropriate for this course. Wikipedia, Britannica, fan blogs, bibliography.com, history.com, and other casual, tertiary source websites are not acceptable as sources.
The following are the accepted “website only” sources allowed in this course, as they constitute recognized rock journalism outlets with a history of publication/editorial oversight outlined above. Websites not included on this list do not count as appropriate sources. Ask if you have any doubts.
Rolling Stone, NME, XXL, Billboard, Paste Magazine, Vanity Fair, and other older magazines that have websites.
Practice journals like Modern Drummer, Guitar Magazine, Bass Player, etc. that have websites.
Critics and reviews in outlets like The Guardian, NY Times, The New Yorker, LA Times, The Atlantic, etc.
Pitchfork, AV Club, Rock and Roll Globe, and Consequence of Sound
Review course material that covers music in module 1. Read “Writing about Music” and “Metal as Discourse” sections (pp. 39 – 51) from Walter’s Running with the Devil (1993). Read over a couple of Rolling Stone or NME articles. These will help you get in the correct mindset to write this review.
Submit your album review.
The review should run 600-750 words.
Structure your responses into paragraphs with topic sentences that flow in a logical order.
You must have in-text citations and a bibliography (see step 2). Use APA or Chicago style (w/footnotes). Review the citation examples under Module 0 for assistance. See examples HERE.
Write an introduction and conclusion, with main points in between. Draw on your album and sources to support your main points.
Submit your assignments using Canvas by 11:59PM on the due date.
Your writing should demonstrate in-depth familiarity with the music as well as thoughtful responses based on the topics (below). Refer to a few key songs, instruments, recording techniques or technology, and historical context as you make your points. Use specifics and appropriate music terminology. Avoid redundant and irrelevant information.
Check your writing carefully for errors in spelling, grammar, and style. Avoid passive voice and overuse of “to be.” Grammar and style errors can significantly diminish your grade. Please consult the University’s Writing Center if you need assistance with these elements.
Your review should address the following prompts. As always, you should make your writing flow. Depending on your album and your responses, some of these topics may overlap with one another.
As an introduction, give a brief overview of the artist you are covering that contextualizes your album’s release. The keyword here is brief; keep the album the central point of your review.
What specific genre(s)/subgenre(s) does the album contain? Name specific sounds and musical traits that inform your assessment. Reference key songs or song sections and refer to your sources/course materials to help support your review. Note: “Rock” and “classic rock” are too broad for this project – use more precise terms (country rock, jazz rock, acid rock, punk rock, disco, reggae, blues, swing…).
Discuss how your album fits within the history of rock and roll: For example (these are suggestions; feel free to think creatively for this prompt): Did the album help establish a new genre? Did a new technology appear on the album that impacted other genres/artists?
Contextualize the album further by relating it to historical events, politics, or subcultures that informed the creation of the album. Search the lyrics, interviews, and the album art for clues.
As a conclusion – What do you think about the album? Which musical moments were most meaningful to you and best embodied the key themes you included in your analysis?