Cover Image: Major Labels

Major Labels

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Member Reviews

An absolutely fantastic overview of the history of popular music. The book hints at the current death of the fixed genre; perhaps that's the follow up in the series. In the meantime, it's a great gift for the music lover in your life. Each chapter goes deep on a genre and provides historical context; I'm a former professional rock critic and even I learned a ton. Not surprisingly given his pedigree, Sanneh's writing is fantastic and the book is an absolute pleasure to read.
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I began reading this book believing the author and I were going to have to agree to disagree. I firmly believe the idea of genres as we know them has expired, and as this book journey began Sanneh spoke to how the idea of genres developed and the tribism that came with it. I didn't disagree with the historical perspective but feared this may become a treatise on why genre can be good in uniting and helping us find common ground.

While the book did explore advantages of genre, it took a much broader dive into how genres change over time - how jazz used to be "popular" music and as it faded from the mainstream "pop" became defined by whatever the mainstream craze drove to the top of the charts. As such, each section's foray into particular genres like R&B, Rock and Pop acknowledges that both the music and the fans in those categories have greatly shifted with time, and no less so during the digital music era. 

I particularly appreciated the granular look at the kind of competition and criticism each era's contemporaries faced, often on the heels of the lineage of their predecessors or successors. Listening to many of the greats who were before my time, yet whose music remains timeless, it's easy to forget who their contemporaries were or how fighting for airtime and concert venues between them sometimes shaped their view of their audience or indeed their sound. As a songwriter and musician myself, I'm struck by examining of how some of those careers were longer than expected or shorter than initially believed. The book examines not only the artists, but also the favoritism of the listeners and reviewers, and how an artist or genre mocked and criticised today can become someone's favorite tomorrow (and vice versa). 

Whether you're a consummate music fan and/or a music creator, there's bound to be some explorations within that you'll enjoy. 

Major Labels
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#Bookstagram #Rock #R&B #Country #Pop #HipHop #Punk #Dance
#Music #History #MusicMakers #KelefaSanneh #MajorLabels #NetGalley #Nonfiction #BookRec #BookReview
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Read if you: Want an entertaining, very opinionated, and rollicking journey through the last 40+ years of music. 

When I learned that Kelefa Sanneh is a black Gen X-er, I was doubly excited for this book. I enjoy reading books about (popular) music history, but so often, the authors are from the Boomer generation (not being anti-Boomer!) ,and give scant attention to pop/rock music post Beatles (and little regard for genres outside that). Sanneh goes beyond the Top 40 to examine country, R&B, EDM, punk, and rap. 

Of course, there will be readers that wish he had focused more on certain genres or artists. That's to be expected with books about entertainment. And there will likely be more sections that keep the reader's interest longer than others. However--this is one of the most balanced and fascinating books on modern music history that I've read in several years. 

Librarians/booksellers: Definitely purchase to round out your music historuy collection. 

Many thanks to Penguin Group and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Well constructed sections, with manic (and very welcome) jumps in topics. 

The primary categorization of the "major labels" works well... nice wordplay to boot!

I was more impressed with how the author eschewed traditional chronological or "talking head" oral histories by jumping around topics. This immediately made me think of the manic conversations I have with fellow music nerds, where one thought spurs another.
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Who doesnt love pop music??! I was excited to see this book and can say that even this reluctant music history reader was able to follow along. Loved it and highly recommend.
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This is an incredible tome that dissects and synthesizes 70 years of popular music in fun, fascinating and often unexpected ways.  There’s insight on every page.
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