Narrativizing Recorded Popular Song

  • Alexander C. HardenEmail author
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


This chapter explores narrativity in recorded popular song, employing a cognitive position that considers narrative to be an interpreter’s formation of a sequence of events, characters, and so on. In doing so, this chapter adapts and expands the concept of narrativization, drawn from literary theory, to describe the process in which an interpreter constructs a story in response to a text. The adaptation of narrativization for recorded popular song is synthesised with three models of musical narrativity: the enactment of a story in real-time, the telling of a story, and depicting the mental interior of an experiencing consciousness. These forms of narrativization are illustrated with examples that explore the contributions of lyrical information relayed by a persona, notated details, and the art of record production.


  1. Abbott, H.Porter. 2008. The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andean, James. 2014. Towards a Narratology of Acousmatic Music. In Proceedings of the Electroacoustic Music Studies Network Conference. Berlin.
  3. ———. 2016. Narrative Modes in Acousmatic Music. Organised Sound 21 (3): 192–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. BBC. 2001. Rapper Jay-Z Admits to Stabbing. BBC, October 18.
  5. Burns, Lori, Alyssa Woods, and Marc Lafrance. 2016. Sampling and Storytelling: Kanye West’s Vocal and Sonic Narratives. In The Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter, ed. Katherine Williams and Justin Williams, 144–158. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cone, Edward T. 1974. The Composer’s Voice. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dannenberg, Hilary P. 2008. Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eco, Umberto. 1990. The Limits of Interpretation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Fludernik, Monika. 2010. Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  10. Genette, Gérard. 1980. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Griffiths, Dai. 2003. From Lyric to Anti-Lyric: Analyzing the Words in Pop Song. In Analyzing Popular Music, ed. Allan F. Moore, 39–59. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Harden, Alexander C. 2018. Narrativity, Worldmaking, and Recorded Popular Song. PhD diss., University of Surrey.
  13. Lacasse, Serge. 2006. Stratégies narratives dans « Stan » d’Eminem: Le rôle de la voix et de la technologie dans l’articulation du récit phonographique. Protée 34 (2–3): 11–26.Google Scholar
  14. Liu-Rosenbaum, Aaron. 2012. The Meaning in the Mix: Tracing a Sonic Narrative in ‘When the Levee Breaks’. Journal on the Art of Record Production 7.‘when-the-levee-breaks’/.
  15. Moore, Allan F. 2005. The Persona-Environment Relation in Recorded Song. Music Theory Online 11 (4).
  16. ———. 2012. Song Means: Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  17. Negus, Keith. 2012. Narrative, Interpretation, and the Popular Song. The Musical Quarterly 95 (2–3): 368–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nicholls, David. 2007. Narrative Theory as an Analytical Tool in the Study of Popular Music Texts. Music and Letters 88 (2): 297–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Reyland, Nicholas. 2014. Narrative. In Aesthetics of Music: Musicological Perspectives, ed. Stephen Downes, 203–223. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ryan, Marie-Laure. 2005. Possible Worlds Theory. In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, ed. David Herman, Manfred Jahn, and Marie-Laure Ryan. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Temperley, David. 2007. The Melodic-Harmonic “Divorce” in Rock. Popular Music 26 (2): 323–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar


  1. Jay Z. 2003. 99 Problems. Digital Download. The Black Album. Roc-A-Fella Records.Google Scholar
  2. No Doubt. 1995. Don’t Speak. CD. Tragic Kingdom. Santa Monica: Interscope.Google Scholar
  3. The Pogues. 2005. Fairytale of New York. Digital Download. The Ultimate Collection. London: Warner Music UK.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GuildfordUK

Personalised recommendations