Globalisation, Jamaican Creole, Language Attitudes, Music, Perception, performance, Reggae, singing, Sociolinguistics

Caribbean Queens? Rihanna and Minaj: A Comparison

Preface

We, my colleague Michael Westphal and I, have already worked together on examining Rihanna’s multivocal pop performances. In the course of our research, we got more and more interested in the audience’s reactions towards such performances. We also broadened our perspective in taking another pop persona with Caribbean roots into account: Nicki Minaj. How do these two immensely popular artists, Rihanna and Minaj, construct their Caribbeanness? And how does the audience perceive their performances? We conducted a small scale analysis of their singing styles, visual representation in music videos, and the audience’s perception looking at YouTube comments. At the 7th Biennial International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English we presented our results. Please find our respective abstract below:

biclece limi

Jansen, Lisa & Michael Westphal. 2017. „Caribbean queen? Rihanna and Nicki Minaj’s multivocal pop personas”. 7BICLCE. Universidade de Vigo. 29.09.2017. Vigo, Spain.

Pop music surpasses national and linguistic boundaries (Pennycook 2007). It creates a marketplace of various linguistic resources that artists use in their music performances to create their pop personae (Trudgill 1983, Coupland 2007: 146-176). Performers are mobile, transnational linguistic agents. They do not only physically travel worldwide and spread their multivocality, but their products are distributed and consumed internationally via a multitude of media channels. They transport mobile standard and non-standard varieties into new spaces and make them accessible to a broad audience. Rihanna and Nicki Minaj are globally successful artists with Caribbean roots who combine different musical styles (R’n’B, hip-hop, reggae, pop) and the performance codes associated with that genres (African American English, Jamaican Creole, Standard American English). Rihanna’s recent single Work was praised for reflecting her Barbadian heritage, others dismissed it as lyrical gibberish. Minaj’s Jamaican Creole performances are mostly accepted as authentic although she is originally from Trinidad. These contradicting reactions give insight into language-ideological perspectives and stimulate the need for a thorough linguistic analysis. Which performance codes are used and why? Do they co-occur with specific parts of a song or musical styles? Which features are used to index different varieties?

A morpho-syntactic and accent analysis of Rihanna’s and Minaj’s work reveals that certain parts within a song pattern with the choice of a specific variety. For instance, American English seems to be reserved for sung, not spoken or rapped, parts. The analysis also shows that both artists use Jamaican Creole to perform their Caribbean identity but only command a truncated repertoire (Blommaert 2010: 102-136). The performance is mainly restricted to stereotypical features. The study also scrutinizes different music videos and demonstrates that the Caribbeanness of the music performances is reinforced through visual modalities in an exoticizing and commodifying way. Results show that both artists are transporters of standard and non-standard English varieties. Rihanna’s and Minaj’s playful mix of features within their genres is not only a display of their multifaceted and multivocal identity, but it gives insight into language-ideological processes within the dynamics of global Englishes.

Sources:
Coupland, N. (2007). Style: Language variation and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blommaert, J. (2010). The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pennycook, A. (2006). Global Englishes and transcultural flows. London: Routledge.

Trudgill, P. (1983). Acts of conflicting identity: The sociolinguistics of British pop-song performance. In P. Trudgill (ed.), On dialect: Social and geographical perspectives, 141-160. Oxford: Blackwell.

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Globalisation, Jamaican Creole, Language Attitudes, Music, performance, singing, Sociolinguistics

Reminder: Rihanna’s Multivocal Pop Persona

cambridge rihanna

Source: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/english-today/issue/8DD6C7875691A13A7BC519F78DA3EEB1 (l.) and LiJa (r.)

Rihanna is a globally successful artist with Caribbean roots who combines different musical styles and the performance codes associated with these genres. Her single “Work” attracted great attention and generated considerable media coverage. On the one hand it was praised for displaying her Barbadian heritage, on the other dismissed it as lyrical gibberish. Interested in how Rihanna works her multivocal pop persona in this single, we conducted a morpho-syntactic analysis of the lyrics and investigated the accent of Rihanna’s singing style in this song to discover how she combines different linguistic resources. Furthermore, we analyzed an accompanying music video to show how Rihanna visually represents her pop persona.

Intrigued? Then read our Cambridge blogpost for more information or directly download the full article here.

Sources:

Jansen, Lisa, & Michael Westphal. 2017. Rihanna Works Her Multivocal Pop Persona: A Morpho-syntactic and Accent Analysis of Rihanna’s Singing Style. English Today 33 (2): 46-55. doi: 10.1017/S0266078416000651.

 

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Globalisation, Morphology, Music, Perception, performance, Phonetics, Phonology, Sociolinguistics

Published: Rihanna Works Her Multivocal Pop Persona: A Morpho-syntactic and Accent Analysis of Rihanna’s Singing Style

Pop culture provides rich data that demonstrate the complex interplay of World Englishes

My dear colleague Michael Westphal and I turned our blogpost into a more detailed, refined, and peer-reviewed article for English Today. I am happy to announce that it was published online on February 13th 2017. Below you will find our abstract published on English Today’s First View platform.

Abstract

Singing is a very dynamic and innovative mode of communication through which artists often express themselves with a set of various voices. Today, pop music circulates across national boundaries and English is the main medium of communication in transnational pop culture. In this special context different varieties of English meet at a high density. Rihanna’s single Work is an example of this prevalent multivocality in pop music culture. Her language performance attracted public attention of various sorts as she audibly incorporates several Caribbean English Creole (CEC) features. While some critics describe her lyrics as ‘gibberish’ (cf. Noelliste, 2016), others acknowledge her performance as a ‘reclamation of her Barbadian heritage’ (Gibsone, 2016). The example of Rihanna shows that singers can be transporters of English varieties: she is a Caribbean artist who started a successful career in the US, and whose music today has global reach. Singers, like Rihanna, are thus mobile, transnational linguistic agents. On the one hand, she physically travels the world playing concerts to her audiences. On the other, her persona, music, videos, and further media commodities are part of the global ‘mediascape’ (Appadurai, 1996). In other words, her products easily spread across the globe and are reproduced, transcending national and social boundaries. New technologies (e.g. smart phones, tablets) and applications (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) facilitate as well as accelerate the transnational dissemination of media resources. Moreover, singers show that the linguistic (and cultural) resources as such are mobile. Different language influences are formed into individual linguistic repertoires. Singers often playfully employ certain features to highlight parts of their identity or locate themselves in a particular music genre.

Sources:

 

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