In Writing the Record, Devon Powers explores this shift by focusing on The Village Voice, a key publication in the rise of rock criticism. Revisiting the work of early pop critics such as Richard Goldstein and Robert Christgau, Powers shows how they stood at the front lines of the mass culture debates, challenging old assumptions and hierarchies and offering pioneering political and social critiques of the music. Part of a college-educated generation of journalists, Voice critics explored connections between rock and contemporary intellectual trends such as postmodernism, identity politics, and critical theory. In so doing, they became important forerunners of the academic study of popular culture that would emerge during the 1970s.
Drawing on archival materials, interviews, and insights from media and cultural studies, Powers not only narrates a story that has been long overlooked but also argues that pop music criticism has been an important channel for the expression of public intellectualism. This is a history that is particularly relevant today, given the challenges faced by criticism of all stripes in our current media environment. Powers makes the case for the value of well-informed cultural criticism in an age when it is often suggested that "everyone is a critic."
"This book is sure to create quite a stir, particularly vis-Ã -vis its persuasive claims about Robert Christgau and Richard Goldstein as major figures in postwar intellectual history. Through a focus on The Village Voice, Powers makes it clear that the institutionalization of popular music criticism carried with it some significant claims not only about the music itself, but also about the commentary upon it."—Jeffrey Melnick, author of 9/11 Culture
"A pioneering work. . . . The larger metamorphosis [of rock criticism] Writing The Record describes will be significant as long as there's any such thing as pop culture worth arguing over."—The American Prospect
"Based on interviews and archival material, Writing the Record is an engaging and readable book that makes a compelling argument for the importance of the Village Voice, Goldstein and Christgau in the emergence of serious rock music criticism. Powers also does a wonderful job of situating the characters within the larger contexts of music and journalism history, crucial and cultural studies research and the upheaval of the 1960s."—Journalism History
"Powers tells quite a tale, and it is worth reading for anyone interested in the interaction of pop culture, music, journalism, and commerce."—Spectrum Culture
"For anyone interested in rock music criticism, popular culture, and alternative press history. Recommended."—Choice
"Powers performs an important service in making the case for taking rock critics seriously."—International Journal of Communication
"What makes this book most worth reading, particularly for a university audience, is that [Powers] attempts her own critical evaluation of the 'false divide between journalism and academia, "true" criticism, and "mere" reviewing,' which, she claims, 'at best selectively understands the manifestations and potentials of criticism' and, at worst, 'has resulted in a surprising yet long-lasting dearth of scholarly inquiry into journalistic criticism of all kinds.' . . . [A]n important emerging theoretician."—H-Net Reviews
"Writing the Record provides a good overview of major shifts in the Village Voice's rock criticism, from the early coverage of the folk revival to the establishment of the first regular column devoted to rock, "Pop Eye," and from the embrace of the music's alternative consciousness to a critique of hype and commodification. . . . Writing the Record is a welcome addition to scholarship on rock criticism, an area that has received significantly less attention than performers, genres, and audience of popular music."—Journal of American History
"Writing the Record deals with 'mattering,' looking into how and why pop music, and writing about pop music, matter to people. . . . While Powers's analysis tends to focus on the macro-and micro-politics the Voice writers were embedded in, her final chapter, 'Mattering,' gets at something deeper."—Image Journal
"Powers' study is at its strongest when it delineates the growth of a particular type of music journalist; the pop music critic as public intellectual. . . . This, surprisingly, is a part of popular music history which is hidden in plain sight: the music press, from 1965 through to the later 1990s, were such a prominent part of the cultural landscape that their role in the formation of pop, rock, and their related genres did not need to be discussed. Powers' close analysis of the work of individual journalists is therefore welcome."—The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory