Blackvoice and Adele's Racialized Musical Performance: Blackness, Whiteness, and Discursive Authenticity

In this essay, I use Adele's 2012 Grammy performance as a case study to examine the racialized voice and the meaning of authenticity in cases of vocal racial passing. The juxtaposition of Adele's white appearance with a vocal tone and style that approximates black blues performers prompted enactments of white musical bordering, a rhetorical move to classify vocal performances according to race. I adapt a musicological perspective for critical communication studies to highlight the ways ambiguously raced bordering rhetorics prompt questions about the authenticity of “black” and “white” vocal performance. By approximating (what certain audiences understand to be) black female performance, Adele challenges popular music's racial bordering. Although this transgression is ultimately silenced through her ascribed visual whiteness and relegation to the white female-dominated pop category, this act of passing opens a space for discussion about the raced voice and the bordering practices that surround white musical authenticity.

Full article here.

Communication Currents version here.

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