“Bad Girls Do It Well”: Musical Exoticism and Commodifying Difference in the 21st Century
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This thesis investigates how musical exoticism works as a commodifying factor in 21st century popular music. Drawing on research from the fields of traditional musicology, popular music studies and postcolonial studies, three categories of musical exoticism are studied in-depth: music containing exotic signifiers, musical borrowings and collaborations. Music from the artist M.I.A. provides relevant case-studies for all categories, since her identity as a Sri-Lankan immigrant and political activist complicates her position towards musical exoticism. The music and music video from her song “Bad Girls” create an exoticizing image of Arabs and the Arab world: the image of the Arab as savage and rebellious. Newer forms of musical exoticism, collaboration, musical borrowings, are more problematic regarding financial and artistic credit. The autoexoticizing of artists of color is a continuation of composers exoticizing themselves. A possible explanation for this, is that artists of color have to exoticize themselves in order to be successful in the Western popular music industry. Still, by doing this, these artists keep stereotypes and the Western distorted view of cultural Others alive.