Dialectic of Pop, 57–72


II. Aesthetic Form


Neither class nor mass, then, capture what it is that resonates in the word ‘popular’ when we think about popular recorded music. Instead of understanding the popular as a solely sociological or political-economic category, let us now approach it as an aesthetic form, a form capable of aesthetically qualifying (and therefore distinguishing) popular recorded music.

Like the undomesticated world that it obscurely gestures toward, ‘popular’ suggests several things at once. It takes the form of a constellation of meanings in which folk tradition, the profane, the light, and the grotesque, but also the ordinary, the vulgar, the banal, and the democratic all appear, like stars close enough together to draw lines between them.…