Pop Conference

A melting pot for fans, musicians, scholars, and journalists.

  1. Pop Conference presenters Emily Lordi (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and Aimee Cox (Fordham University) participate in a discussion focused on Beyoncé’s career and impact on contemporary female musicians in “Queen Bey and Her Court: A Critical Roundtable.” Other feminist cultural critics participated in the discussion, including Rachel Kaadzi Gansah, Daphne Brooks, Ann Powers, and facilitator Salamishah Tillet.

    Photo courtesy EMP staff.

  2. NPR Music critic and correspondent Ann Powers (pictured right) moderates the 2014 Pop Conference keynote discussion, “You Gotta Move: Artists Talk About Life on the Road and Music in Motion.” Held in EMP’s Sky Church, the conversation featured (L to R) Mike McCready, one of the founding members of Pearl Jam; Alynda Lee Segarra, front woman of Hurray For The Riff Raff; bassist and prolific songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello; and soul singer Sharon Jones.

    Photo courtesy EMP staff.

  3. 2014 EMP Pop Conference attendees fill the seats of EMP’s JBL Theater to experience one of the weekend’s over 35 sessions. The annual conference returned to Seattle in 2014 after three years roaming, with the conference taking place at UCLA (Los Angeles, CA) in 2011; NYU (New York, NY) in 2012; and five different venues in 2013, including EMP Museum, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (Cleveland, OH); USC (Los Angeles, CA), Tulane University (New Orleans, LA), and NYU.

    Photo courtesy EMP staff. 

The annual EMP Pop Conference, first held in 2002, mixes together ambitious music writing of every kind, in an attempt to bring academics, critics, musicians, and dedicated fans into a collective conversation.

Get Ur Freak On: Music, Weirdness, and Transgression
2015 EMP Pop Conference
April 16–19, 2015; EMP Museum

2015 Conference Information


Get Ur Freak On: Music, Weirdness, and Transgression

Exploding conventions has long put the bomp in pop: the uncontainable desire of those deemed sexually unnatural, racial impostors, gender outlaws, obsessed fans, willful bohemians, or just plain weird. “We feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle,” Edgar Allan Poe wrote in “The Imp of the Perverse.” Music often sanctions transgression, challenges or corrupts the status quo depending on your perspective, gives us Prince in one era (called Imp of the Perverse by a biographer), Miley Cyrus in another, an Iggy Pop then, and an Iggy Azalea now. 

For this year’s Pop Conference, we seek presentations that connect music of any style or period to notions of transgression, perversion, and the weird, such as:

  • histories of the strange from minstrelsy to cabaret, rock and roll to black metal, “Tutti Frutti” to “Super Freak”
  • twistings of form—of the song, the voice, the genre, language; versioning and remixes; sonic markers of the polymorphous
  • queer pop, gender subversion, and the perverse diva
  • transgression, social movements, and culture wars; the role of the state; drugs
  • racialized notions of otherness, margins/difference as center, carnival
  • exploitation–marketing “Blurred Lines,” the limits of dissolute star/fan behavior
  • technology and the estrangement of the human in pop
  • comparative cultural ethnographies of outrageousness
  • fetishization of records, the past, the disease of collecting



The deadline for submissions has passed. Questions? Email Eric.Weisbard@gmail.com.


Individual proposals for 20 minute presentations should be 300 words, with a 75 word bio. For three person (90 minute) or four person (120 minute) panel proposals, include a one-paragraph overview and individual statements of 300 words plus 75 word bio. For roundtables, outline the subject in up to 500 words, include a 75 word bio for each panelist, and specify desired panel length. We welcome unorthodox proposals: ask for submission advice. Please include emails for all participants.


PDF Resources

2015 Call for Proposals

Program Committee Members

Will Hermes (Rolling Stone), Jennifer Lena (Columbia University), Emily Lordi (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) Greil Marcus (The Believer), Rashod Ollison (The Virginian-Pilot), Ann Powers (NPR Music), Shana Redmond (University of Southern California), Julianne Escobedo Shepherd (New York University), and Travis Stimeling (West Virginia University)

Support for the conference is provided by the University of Alabama College of Arts & Sciences, on behalf of the Department of American Studies.