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Friday, April 27 • 1:45pm - 3:15pm
Roundtable: Soft and Stormy, From the '70s-'90s

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Ann Powers, Emily Gale, Rashod Ollison, Karen Tongson, and Jason King
Soft and Stormy: Gender, Race & Genre from the 70s-90s
This roundtable explores the confluences and divergences between two genres that ruled the radio starting in the 1970s: soft rock and quiet storm. Both are aspirational and adult, distinguished in many respects by their renewed fantasies of financial security and upward mobility. Each genre provided distinct soundtracks for mature explorations of sensuality, love and other sensations both sexy and serene. Whereas soft rock is associated with white suburbanites who gently moved on from its avuncular precursor, easy listening, quiet storm emerged in the 1970s a sophisticated new genre for a rising black, urban bourgeoisie. Individually, we briefly track some key examples from the 1970s onward, before launching into an extended conversation with one another—and the audience—about all things soft and stormy.
Ann Powers will kick us off with Kris Kristoferson’s crossover moment in the 1970s, in order to mark the intersection of country and soft rock, Nashville and Hollywood. Emily Gale follows with another look at the blue-eyed soul of Hall and Oates, and how their performance of emotional vulnerability provides an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between soft rock, masculinity, and race in the 70s.  Rashod Ollison then limns the boundaries between soft rock and quiet storm during their mutual peak in the 70s and early 80s, offering some context for their appeal to the lifestyle aspirations of boomer sophisticates. Karen Tongson exhumes Karen Carpenter’s eponymously titled solo album (recorded in 1979, but not released until 1996 after she died), to explore its curious flirtations with quiet storm—one of her rare efforts to break free from the Carpenters’ finely calibrated whiteness. Finally, Jason King brings us into the 80s and 90s, to show how Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds’ affection for acoustic guitar driven soft rock, distinguished his own approach to 80s and 90s smooth R&B.

avatar for Emily Gale

Emily Gale

Emily Gale is a lecturer at UC Merced. Her book project, Sentimental Songs for Sentimental People, explores intersections between American popular song and sentimentalism. Her article on citizenship, sentimentality, and settler colonialism in Canadian composer Calixa Lavallée’s... Read More →
avatar for Jason King

Jason King

Jason King, Ph.D is Associate Professor and the founding faculty member at New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. A journalist, musician, DJ and producer, he worked alongside music impresario Clive Davis to help build and develop the program and he served as... Read More →
avatar for Rashod Ollison

Rashod Ollison

Rashod Ollison is an award-winning culture critic and a native of Little Rock, Arkansas. He earned a BA in journalism and creative writing from the University of Arkansas and has been a staff critic for the Dallas Morning News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Journal News in Westchester... Read More →
avatar for Ann Powers

Ann Powers

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs. She is the author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music (2017). Powers also... Read More →
avatar for Karen Tongson

Karen Tongson

Karen Tongson is Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at University of Southern California, and the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (NYU Press). Her work has appeared in numerous venues in print and online. She has a forthcoming book with ForEdge Press... Read More →

Friday April 27, 2018 1:45pm - 3:15pm PDT
JBL Theater MoPOP, 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109