2- Authenticities Revisited: Locating Nümetal in Heavy Metal Music History - Clare King, Western University

1:30 PM, Saturday 25 May 2019 (2 hours)
Coffee break   03:30 PM to 04:00 PM (30 minutes)

Nearly fifty years after the release of the first “heavy metal music,” the genre continues to proliferate around the globe. Five years ago, a learned society and journal dedicated to the genre were established by the recently founded International Society for Metal Music Studies. Despite this long history and an expanding base of scholarship, debates surrounding gatekeeping and belonging continue to be sites of disagreement among academics, critics, and fans alike.

I investigate how authenticity discourses are formed and debated using the turn-of-the-millennium heavy metal subgenre Nümetal as a case study. My research demonstrates how conflicting senses of authenticity in popular music allow genres to be both derided as inauthentic by some audiences, and simultaneously loved by large fan communities who may also value forms of authenticity. The exclusion of Nümetal from a canon of “true” heavy metal, has involved the prioritizing of some forms of authenticity over others.

I will review influential definitions of authenticity from Enlightenment philosophers including Immanuel Kant, to current musicology and popular music studies scholars such as Richard Middleton, Simon Frith, and David Brackett. Using an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach, I then evaluate the reception of Nümetal based on established metal scholarship, analysis of music examples, contemporary interviews, and critical reviews. This paper aims not to argue for or against Nümetal’s inclusion in a heavy metal canon, but to use this example to provide an understanding of the complicated role that the idea of authenticity plays in the formation of popular music genres more broadly.
Western University
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