The University of Southampton

MUSI2088 Flappers to Rappers: Girl Singers in Popular Music

Module Overview

This module looks at the female voice and the female performer in popular music, using both iconic and lesser-known figures as subjects for inquiry and analysis. The module also introduces a range of cultural theories of difference – particularly regarding gender and race – and specific analytical tools that will be used to support essay writing and class discussion.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: - promote critical thinking about female performers in popular music - introduce students to a wide range of historical popular music genres

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Of the recent history of female vocality in western popular musics
  • Of theories of difference (gender; race) and their application to the analysis of performance and popular music
  • Of style and genre in the girl singer repertoire
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Use analytical models from a variety of disciplines (cultural studies; gender studies; film studies; performance studies; musicology) to read popular music videos and songs
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage critically with cultural materials
  • Demonstrate your understanding of the topic through writing
  • Use appropriate bibliographical and research tools – recorded, printed and on-line
  • Annotate your writing in a logical and usable format
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate technical and stylistic elements of female vocal performances
  • Locate female vocal performances in a historical and social context


Topics to be addressed will include “What is a pop singer?”, “Gender theories and the girl singer,” “Where is the singer?”, “The singer and the body,” “The girl singer and the cyborg,” “Representing sex,” “Not all black and white,” “Are (girl) singers musicians?”, A wide range of artists and genres – from Ma Rainey to Madonna and Janelle Monáe, and from parlour song to punk via jazz, blues and rock’n’roll – will be used in class discussion.

Special Features

Weekly coursework and coursework review will demonstrate your understanding of material introduced in lectures. The lectures, supported by independent study (coursework & mock tests on Blackboard), will be the basis for the content of the two formal theory tests. The compositional/analysis task requires you to utilise techniques acquired from the module in a practical framework, and to demonstrate your theoretical understanding of this work.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - weekly lectures - weekly year-specific seminars Learning activities include - in seminars: short critical thinking activities based on extracts in Counsell and Wolf. - independent listening, watching and reading of materials: you will engage with a wide range of materials (recorded sound, film, video, popular journalism, academic writing) which will form the basis of seminar discussion - independent preparation of essay(s): you will be encouraged to reflect on your own opinions, preferences and value judgments at appropriate stages during the course

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Counsell, Colin, and Laurie Wolf. (2001). Performance Analysis: An Introductory Coursebook. 

O'Brien, Lucy (2012). She-Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Popular Music. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Analysis  (2400 words) 60%
Video  (1600 words) 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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