Music Persona and Authenticity

In last weeks musicology session, we considered three main ways in which the person singing a song can be identified. These were

  1. The ‘Real’ Person/Performer singing/playing a song: For example David Jones, Reginald Kenneth Dwight, Gordon Sumner, Saul Hudson,
  2. The Performance Persona: The character the performer ‘puts on’ when performing – distinct from the ‘real person’. David Jones = David Bowie, Reginald Kenneth Dwight = Elton John, Gordon Sumner = Sting, Saul Hudson = Slash.
  3. The Protagonist: A character that is portrayed in a song – often no identity outside of song, but sometimes based on ‘real events’.

When we consider the ways in which these areas can interrelate, it leads to questions such as

  • What is the relationship between the ‘real person’ and the persona and protagonist?
  • Is the Protagonist based on real or imagined characters in the singer/songwriters life?
  • How does all of this relate to notions of authenticity?

We then looked at artists such as Bob Dylan, Lady Gaga, John Lennon, David Bowie, Bruce Dickinson and Billy Holiday, and considered how there image and music output resonates with areas 1 – 3 above. Most importantly, we considered how they resonate with notions of authenticity. Are they authentic? Why/Why Not.

Some interesting discussions took place in the class which are too numerous to outline here, but one of the main themes we discussed was the importance of a persona being an ‘extension’ of the ‘real person’ – if it is to be considered authentic!

We finished the session with the following questions and it is these I want you to comment upon and give examples of for next time. Please comment here on this.

  • Read suggested texts by Allan Moore, Edward Cone and Phil Auslanda.
  • Consider and give examples of artists who depict ‘real person’, persona and protagonist – in particular the later. Who are the characters displayed in the text?
  • Give examples of a song where the persona and or protagonist changes mid song
  • Give examples of where the real person is outlined in the persona and or protagonist. Why do you think the artist may do this. Remember the notions of ‘strategic anti essentialism’ we discussed.
  • How does all of this make the music more/less authentic?



About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
This entry was posted in Musicology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Music Persona and Authenticity

  1. The ‘real’ person/ Performer
    50 Cent – Curtis Jackson
    Pink – Alecia Moore

    The Performance Persona
    – One of the artists who has a persona is Marilyn Manson. His real name is Brian Warner and projects himself as the shock rocker which is Marilyn Manson.

    The Protagonist
    – Carrie Underwood (The Bullet) in this song she sings about someone who has been killed after being shot and sings about his family and how the bullet keeps on going as it doesn’t just affect him it affects his whole family years and years after.

    I feel that you can still be authentic even when the song isn’t something the singer has personally gone through but obviously affects them that much for them to either co-write it and put it on their album. When I first started getting into music I used to think if you weren’t writing your own songs then you were not authentic and were being fake. However, now I feel that in some cases you don’t have to have experienced what you write sometimes it can just be something you’re passionate about and just want to get a message across to the listeners. On the other hand there have also been many instances where artists have been pushed to put certain songs on their albums and sometimes its obvious that they have not experienced what they are singing about.


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