American Popular Music (W3075)

15 credits, Level 5

Spring teaching

You’ll explore some of the repertoires that are at the heart of post-war American pop music, including mainstream pop, the blues, hip-hop, funk, country and rock.

You will consider the extent to which American popular music has influenced other pop music cultures, and how a sense of American identity is both fostered and communicated in its music. You’ll connect specific kinds of repertoire to major events in American history, such as the Civil Rights Movement.

The module is organised according to topics such as:

  • the music industry
  • the blues continuum
  • identity in country music
  • urban music
  • Afrofuturism.

By the end you will be able to identify and describe a range of American popular music genres, and position them in their socio-historical context. You will also apply the main analytic techniques that scholars use to explore American popular music.

In groups, you will offer an interpretive analysis of a popular song, and connect it explicitly to theoretical work on issues of American identity. You’ll develop skills in writing, research and oral presentation.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay, Report)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 24 hours of contact time and about 126 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: