Freshers’ week is just around the corner so you might be preparing to start your English Lit., History or Maths degree. That’s fine of course. But it all seems a little bit predictable, doesn’t it? Especially as you could be taking a course called Nuthin’ But A G Thang that explores some of the masters of hip-hop, or studying Radiohead lyrics. There’s even a course on Miley Cyrus.
Sure, many will laugh at these courses, but who doesn’t want to chill out in the classroom meditating on the genius of David Bowie? Here’s 10 music-related courses on offer around the world:
Kendrick Lamar: Good Kids, Mad Cities
Where? Georgia Regents University
When Lamar dropped his debut ‘good kid, m.A.A.d. city’, GQ compared him to James Joyce and wrote that the album was basically a ‘black Ulysses: a portrait of the rapper as a young man’. Adam Diehl, a professor at Georgia Regents University, took that idea and ran with it. He’s built an entire English course using the album as a way to examine the role of urban living on the development of young people. “I think Kendrick Lamar is the James Joyce of hip hop,” Diehl has declared. “In the complexity of his storytelling… and in his continuing focus on the city of his upbringing. Hopefully my course will inspire other teachers at all levels to include modern masterpieces in their syllabi.”
Sociology of Miley
Where? Skidmore College, New York
Have you ever pondered the question of how much you can learn from a 21-year-old probably best known for swinging naked on a wrecking ball? Quite a lot, according to Skidmore College’s Carolyn Chernoff who has created a course that studies Miley’s transformation from “Disney tween to twerking machine”. Chernoff believes the pop star is a gateway to the “core issues of intersectionality theory”. No, us neither.
The Theology of Springsteen
Where? Rutgers University, New Jersey
If you want to study a Wrecking Ball of a very different kind then why not take on The Boss? Run by Professor Azzan Yadin-Israel, this is the Bible according to The Boss where you will study his preaching and teachings on the Promised Land. The Good Book here is his discography right through to the more recent Wrecking Ball.
Where? Rutgers University, New Jersey
On Kevin Allred’s Twitter he calls himself a Beyoncé professor. Yes, that may be the coolest title in the world – and if you want to join him to debate Queen Bey, well now you can. That’s because at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University he leads a course called “Politicising Beyonce”. “The biggest misconception is that I’m teaching dance moves,” he says. This isn’t about learning the Single Ladies dance (I mean, you know that already, right?), this is about using her career as a way to explore American race, gender and sexual politics.
English 2169: Jay Z and Kanye West
Where? University of Missouri
”They’re very much like painters and novelists in the 20th century, moving beyond the confines of the art form’s boundaries,” says instructor Andrew Hoberek. Of course, he’s talking about Jay Z and Yeezy. Hoberek’s course simply entitled “Jay-Z and Kanye West” attempts to look at the duo’s rise to the top of the rap game and how they embody the American dream. To date Kanye has not yet dropped in to deliver a lecture – like he did at Harvard last year.
Sociology of Hip-Hop – Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z
Where? Georgetown University
And that’s not the only course which features the Jiggaman. Jay Z has already told us that rap is poetry and it seems like Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson agrees. “Were he alive during the period of ancient Greece,” Dyson argues, Carter “would be regarded as a god in terms of literary and poetic expression.” Whether you believe that or not, this is one of the most popular courses on the Washington D.C. campus.
Where? New York University
If we can forget The Little Drummer Boy for one moment, it’s pretty much indisputable that the one pop star who deserves to be studied is Mr. David Bowie. This course at NYU looks at the worlds of music, fashion, film, performance, art and pop culture. It’s led by Vivien Goldman (who also runs a course about Bob Marley and post-colonial music) and because Bowie brings in so many influences you get to read up on the Beats Movement and the Commedia dell’Arte too.
Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame
Where? University of South Carolina
“Then I thought, ‘Oh, what the hell? Let’s make the whole freaking course about Lady Gaga,” explains Professor Mathieu Deflem who teaches ‘Lady Gaga and the Sociology Of The Fame’. Originally the course was about The Sociology Of The Fame featuring Gaga. From the role of business and marketing to gay culture, sex and gender, there’s no denying there’s a LOT to say. No word on if it gets to the bottom of why someone would create a perfume based on “blood and semen” but hey.
The Beatles, Popular Music and Society
Where? Liverpool Hope University
At Hope University in Liverpool you’ll find the world’s first ever master’s degree related to The Beatles. The curriculum includes cultural discourses surrounding The Beatles, as well as study into post-WWII history and music semiotics. And you get to do it all in their home city.
Critical Inquiry on Radiohead
Where? Pomona College, California
“When I heard OK Computer for the first time, the experience was powerful enough to convert me back into a rabid music fan.” So says Pomona College English Professor Kevin Dettmar. It inspired him so much that he decided to teach a Critical Inquiry course about Radiohead as a way to “test-drive” the idea of writing a book about the band. Students get to discuss Thom’s lyrics, the meanings behind them and how the songs affect listeners. Which reminds me of a terrible Radiohead joke: what did Thom call his English teacher? Comma Police! Right guys?… Guys?
Where? Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU
A PRINCE COURSE TAUGHT BY QUESTLOVE. That really is all you need to know. Unfortunately it’s only for classes as small and intimate as the Purple One himself: only 20 lucky students can enroll.