Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music

Readers may never see pop music and sex the same way after Ann Powers's treatment of both in her amazingly comprehensive and penetrating treatise Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music.

A music critic for NPR, Powers (Weird Like Us) writes with the passion of a good novelist--bringing historical characters to life--but also with a scholarly intelligence and level of erudition that sets her apart. In Good Booty, she argues that pop music in the United States has always been an expression of eroticism and has evolved through historical eras as sexual mores and race relations have shifted. Her scholarship starts in 19th-century New Orleans with Creole dance styles and advances through the Jazz Age, the birth of modern rock and into the "post-human" pop of the new millennium.

Impressively researched and structured, Good Booty exposes the misogyny and homophobia in the rock scene of the 1960s, but also shows how movements of personal liberation led to greater freedom, changing cultural norms and the androgynous glam stars of the 1980s and beyond. At its core are fundamental questions of identity, sexuality and cultural appropriation. The latter is a particularly tricky issue in regards to race relations, as both black and white music evolved and intertwined through Jim Crow and eras of racial oppression. "The answer shifts and shimmies like rhythm itself, like a body in the throes of pleasure." Music, Powers concludes, is about self-expression and self-possession, about claiming one's body and sexuality in an almost mystic union with beauty. Good Booty deepens one's understanding of both history and beauty, and raises the standard for music writing. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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