Title

Branding the Witch: Mysticism, Femininity, Timbre, and Stevie Nicks

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Campus where you would like to present

Ellensburg

Event Website

https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/source

Start Date

16-5-2021

End Date

22-5-2021

Keywords

Branding, timbre, rock

Abstract

Across the last 50 years, Stevie Nicks has built a critically and commercially successful career as a frontwoman of band Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist. Critics and fans alike have long recognized her characteristic image and voice. An analysis of Nicks’ brand offers more than just an understanding of the singer herself. It exemplifies how musicians’ personas are constructed, how those personas can function between solo and group settings, and how they develop over time. As music and promotion become increasingly intertwined, these are concerns scholars in all genres of commercial music will face. This paper addresses those concerns by defining a theory of the Stevie Nicks brand, what constitutes it, and how it has (and has not) changed since the 1970s. Through a musical, semiotic, and textual analysis of Nicks’ persona (music, lyrics, album artwork, interviews, media appearances) and the discourse around it (newspapers, magazines, online forums, modern artist brands), three brand pillars will be proposed. The first is mysticism, broadly defined as the belief in supernatural, occult, or otherwise otherworldly modes of power and knowledge. Second is conventional, archetypal femininity. Finally, is Nicks’ voice. I will propose that Nicks’ identifiable vocal timbre imparts her brand with cultural ideas of authenticity. Her brand simultaneously connotes the voice with its existing meaning, particularly on recording. Mysticism, femininity, and Nicks’ voice rely on and inform one another to create a coherent, consistent, and adaptable brand persona. This persona remains constant in both her solo and Fleetwood Mac careers, and has maintained relevance through the present.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Mark Samples

Department/Program

Music

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May 16th, 12:00 PM May 22nd, 12:00 PM

Branding the Witch: Mysticism, Femininity, Timbre, and Stevie Nicks

Ellensburg

Across the last 50 years, Stevie Nicks has built a critically and commercially successful career as a frontwoman of band Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist. Critics and fans alike have long recognized her characteristic image and voice. An analysis of Nicks’ brand offers more than just an understanding of the singer herself. It exemplifies how musicians’ personas are constructed, how those personas can function between solo and group settings, and how they develop over time. As music and promotion become increasingly intertwined, these are concerns scholars in all genres of commercial music will face. This paper addresses those concerns by defining a theory of the Stevie Nicks brand, what constitutes it, and how it has (and has not) changed since the 1970s. Through a musical, semiotic, and textual analysis of Nicks’ persona (music, lyrics, album artwork, interviews, media appearances) and the discourse around it (newspapers, magazines, online forums, modern artist brands), three brand pillars will be proposed. The first is mysticism, broadly defined as the belief in supernatural, occult, or otherwise otherworldly modes of power and knowledge. Second is conventional, archetypal femininity. Finally, is Nicks’ voice. I will propose that Nicks’ identifiable vocal timbre imparts her brand with cultural ideas of authenticity. Her brand simultaneously connotes the voice with its existing meaning, particularly on recording. Mysticism, femininity, and Nicks’ voice rely on and inform one another to create a coherent, consistent, and adaptable brand persona. This persona remains constant in both her solo and Fleetwood Mac careers, and has maintained relevance through the present.

https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/source/2021/CAH/22