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Summer term 2022

Contemporary Latin popular music: Looking at the lyrics from a linguistic perspective

Kulturwissenschaften: Vertiefung // Linguistik: Vertiefung

Cultural and Social Studies: Consolidation // Media – Image, Text and Language

6/9 ECTS

Although popular song lyrics are often denied of any poetic and/or aesthetic value, recent research has demonstrated that one of the most criticized music genres – rap – is in fact a sophisticated art form rooted in Western poetic traditions (e.g. Bradley 2009; Caplan 2014). Since songs are at the same time poetic and musical acts, their lyrics submit simultaneously to the requirements of poetic form and musical texture. As a result, the language of songs is rather peculiar and involves alterations at all linguistic levels. Further important factors, which shape the language of popular lyrics, are conventions of a particular music genre, the individual creativity of songwriters, and a unique delivery of each artist.

During this course, we will examine linguistic features of most popular Spanish-language songs belonging to such ‘genres’ as bachata, Latin pop, reggaeton, salsa, and Latin trap. Latin music has been constantly growing in popularity around the world since the ‘Latin boom’ of the early 2000s, and despite (or because of?) being performed predominantly in Spanish, it appeals to wide audiences. We will explore, among others, the verbal means through which Latin music attracts listeners of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The students will be able to choose the lyrics of which songs they would like to analyse.

Winter term 2020/21

The Latin Beat. How Reggaeton Went Mainstream

Kulturwissenschaften: Vertiefung // Linguistik: Vertiefung | 6/9 ECTS

Reggaeton appeared as politically and socially charged underground music in the 1990s in the streets of Puerto Rico. Although the genre rests upon a highly multicultural heritage, it is Black communities who played crucial role in its emergence and development. African aesthetics of reggaeton performance is embodied, among others, in its defining dance perreo. In the early 2010s, the epicentre of reggaeton production moved from Puerto Rico to Colombia, where the genre experienced romantic influences of modern Dominican bachata. Contemporary reggaeton is known for its danceable rhythms, catchy, often sexually explicit lyrics, and ‘exotic’ Latin American/Caribbean imagery. In the last decade, many reggaeton songs have become international hits with billions of streams and YouTube views.
In this course, we will discuss features that allowed reggaeton to cross over into the Latin and US mainstream, paying special attention to the blanqueamiento (whitening) of reggaeton culture. Moreover, we will examine verbal, musical, and visual strategies through which this mostly Spanish-performed genre appeals to wide international audiences. For these purposes we will analyse a number of ‘old school’ and contemporary reggaeton songs and music videos.

Summer term 2020

Contemporary Latin Popular Music: Multilingualism and Multimodality of Performance

Kulturwissenschaften: Vertiefung // Linguistik: Vertiefung | 6/9 ECTS

The course focuses on Latin popular music from 2000 to the present day. Since the phenomenon of Latin music is extremely wide, the course is limited to the genres actively present on the global music market – bachata, Latin pop, Latin trap, reggaeton, and salsa. During the course we will (try to) answer such questions as: What is popular music? What is the difference between popular, pop, and mainstream music? What does the term “international” mean in the context of Latin music? What makes Latin music a global(ly popular) music? What is hybrid music genres? Do “pure” music genres exist in the beginning of the millennium? Moreover, we will explore how different semiotic modes – verbal, visual, and musical – interact in multimodal performance through the example of some popular music acts, e.g. songs, albums, videos, and fragments of concerts. Special emphasis will be placed on multilingualism of contemporary Latin music, which alongside Spanish and Portuguese uses also other languages, particularly English and French. We will analyze how two or more languages are combined within a single song and which pragmatic, poetic, and stylistic functions code-switching occurrences fulfill in different music genres.

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