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In "This Is America" Race, Gender, and Politics in America's Musical Landscape, Katie Rios argues that prominent American artists and musicians build encoded gestures of resistance into their works and challenge the status quo. These artists offer both an interpretation and a critique of what "This Is America" means. Using Childish Gambino's video for "This Is America" as a starting point, Rios considers how elements including clothing, hairstyles, body movements, gaze, lighting effects, distortion, and word play symbolize American dissonance. From Laurie Anderson's presence in challenging authority and playing with traditional gender roles in her works, to the Black female feminism and social activism of Beyonc , Rhiannon Giddens, and Janelle Mon e, to hip hop as resistance in the age of Trump, to sonic and visual variety in the musical Hamilton, the subjects are as powerful as they are topical. Rios explores the ways in which artists relate to and represent underrepresented groups, especially groups that are not traditionally perceived as having a majority voice. The encoded resistances recur across performances and video recordings so that they begin to become recognizable as repeated acts of resistance directed at injustices based on a number of categories, including race, gender, class, religion, and politics.
About the Author
Katie Rios is associate professor of music history at the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University.