What would the biography of a pop song look like? And what could it tell us about that song’s moment in history—and our own time?
In One-Track Mind: Capitalism, Technology, and the Art of the Pop Song, Fordham history professor Asif Siddiqi, Ph.D., and 15 other writers attempt to answer those questions. They each delve into the history of a song from the past 60-plus years, and their essays, Siddiqi writes, “show the undiminished power of the pop song.” He sees them as “distillations of important flashpoints,” and he hears in them “ghostly echoes that persist undiminished but transform[ed] for succeeding generations.”
The idea for the book blossomed at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus in June 2019. That’s when the University’s O’Connell Initiative on the Global History of Capitalism provided funding for a workshop where Siddiqi and other contributors began to flesh out the cultural reflections they noticed in pop songs across the decades.
“Mmmbop” by Hanson
In 1997, two decades after David Bowie released two versions of “Rebel, Rebel,” a different kind of marketing decision—opening direct lines of communication to fans via fast-growing online spaces—helped the brothers in Hanson turn their hit song “Mmmbop” into a springboard for building a devoted following, which is explored in an essay by Louie Dean Valencia, Ph.D., GSAS ’16.
Through the band’s official website and other online forums, Hanson’s fan engagement allowed the group to survive, Valencia writes. “The boy band singing about the ephemerality of relationships used digital technology to maintain their relationships with their fans—attempting to adapt to the digital era in real time.”