'You're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham': Dialect and Identity in UK 'Indie' Music

Joan Christine Beal

University of Sheffield, UK

WS128: Media Representations of Minority Language Varieties

Attempting to explain the tendency in British popular music for singers to use 'American' pronunciation, Trudgill wrote ‘Americans have dominated the field, and cultural domination leads to imitation: it is appropriate to sound like an American when performing what is predominantly an American activity; and one attempts to model one’s singing style on that of those who do it best and who one admires most’ (1983: 144). In recent years, a number of 'indie' bands in the UK have abandoned 'American' pronunciation in favour of more 'authentic' regional British voices. The most prominent of these are Arctic Monkeys, who, in addition to using characteristically 'northern' pronunciations in singing, include dialect words and very local references in their lyrics. It is clear from press interviews and from the lyrics of their songs, such as that quoted in the title of this paper, that they are conscious of the effect of using their 'own' accent/ dialect rather than the 'mid-Atlantic' of mainstream 'pop' music. In this paper, I argue that performers such as Arctic Monkeys are drawing on 'local' features of accent and dialect to index 'authenticity' and independence from the 'corporate machine'. I shall also discuss the paradoxical relationship between this indexing of 'authenticity' and the widely-reported 'levelling' of accent and dialect amongst young people in the UK.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Media Representations of Minority Language Varieties
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 17