Meenasarani Linde Murugan

Meenasarani Linde Murugan is an Assistant Professor at Fordham University in the Department of Communication and Media Studies. She's written various academic online and print publications about media history, race, fashion, and gender, concerning contemporary programs like Mad Men and The Mindy Project. Her manuscript, Gender and Race in Postwar Variety Television: Colorful Performance is under contract at Routledge and will be part of a new Gender, Media, and Sexuality series, edited by Mary Kearney.

“'It’s our paradise and it’s our warzone': Charting Cross Overs and Other Mobilities for the South Asian Diasporic Idol"
On January 29, 2016, Zayn Malik’s “Pillowtalk,” the lead single off his debut album Mind of Mine, was released with its own music video. This was Zayn’s first independent artistic foray after leaving the wildly popular British boy band One Direction. Dispensing with the more upbeat pop romantic sweetness of the boy band’s hits, “Pillowtalk,” and its accompanying surrealist music video featuring his partner American model Gigi Hadid, are decidedly more explicit and sexual. The single simultaneously debuted at No. 1 on the UK Singles and US Billboard Hot 100.

While Zayn’s success signals that there is an easy acceptance of South Asian diasporic artists in the contemporary popular music world, this paper wants to interrogate what crossing over means for the South Asian diasporic idol. In popular music studies, crossing over has been used to describe the racially segregated divisions between “mainstream” white pop music and the Black artists that perform in a variety of musical styles but are often lumped into the categories of r&b and hip hop. Similarly, crossover has been used to discuss the racially and linguistically segregated divisions between predominantly Spanish-language “Latin” music in the Americas and “mainstream” white Anglophone music from Canada and the US. While these are useful metaphors to describe the linguistic and racial boundaries that define pop music, the historic legal racial indeterminacy of South Asians has led to a pop music history in the US and UK that has been oddly peppered by South Asian male vocalists and MCs, including: Kuldip Rae Singh, Sajid Khan, Freddie Mercury, Sanjaya Malakar, Heems, and Riz MC. This paper explores the erotic investments in the popularity and circulation of these figures in relation to both the post-WWII changes in migration and post-9/11 Islamophobia as well as Orientalist and exotic framings of Brown bodies in popular culture.