11 Crazy College Courses Studying Music's Icons
  • THURSDAY, JULY 31, 2014

  • Posted by: Emily Geiger

No one is ready to admit it, but school will be starting up again soon, and college students are begrudgingly starting to think about courses for the upcoming semester. Whether you have already registered or not, you will undoubtedly be changing around your schedule during add-drop period, the two week long limbo where you basically go to six classes a day and register for far too many credits, only to wind up at about four classes at the last minute. So we thought it might be nice to give you all a break from the stress of finishing off your pre-med and economics requirements by showing you some of the unique and interesting courses offered by colleges across the country about some of the most intellectually stimulating musicians out there.

1. Princeton: Sociology from E Street: Bruce Springsteen's America

This course was offered by Princeton back in 2009 and it analyzed what sociology says about the questions raised by Springsteen's songs, specifically on his songs that reveal what it means to be a middle class American. Each class started with a couple of songs, and although we don't have too many details, we can only imagine that "The River" and "Lost in the Flood" made for some pretty good fodder for discussion.



2. Rutgers University: The Theology of Bruce Springsteen

When you have a catalogue as extensive and rich as The Boss's, it comes as no surprise that you can be analyzed from different angles. So instead of providing a sociological approach like its fellow New Jersey institution, Rutgers chose to look at Bruce Springsteen's theology through his lyrics. This freshman seminar's course description explains that students analyze redemption through means such as women, music and cars and how Springsteen often intertwines religious and secular elements in his work.



3. Rutgers University: Politicizing Beyonce

Rutgers is teaching another course on a musical icon, and this time it's about looking at Beyonce as a contemporary political figure who molds and pushes the limits of America's class, racial, gender and sexual norms. Although it may sound like this course may be all about hailing Bey as the Queen that she is, Professor Kevin Allred seems adamant about having an intellectual foundation by incorporating current political issues and the writings of black feminists into the syllabus.



4. Georgetown: Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z

Mrs. Carter is not the only part of one of the world's most powerful couples to have a class devoted to her, as Georgetown offers a class about how Jay-Z's body of work touches upon the most fundamental parts of sociology: race, gender, class, economic equality and social injustice. In a large lecture hall, the Hoyas study Hova by looking at his lyrics as well as his memoir "Decoded." Students are intended to come to conclusions about how hip-hop affects politics, and ultimately, that minorities growing up in a white image of America have way more than 99 problems to wrestle with.



5. University of Missouri: English 2169: Jay-Z and Kanye West

University of Missouri is jumping on the Jay-Z bandwagon and adding in some Yeezus with this English class titled Jay-Z and Kanye West. The course tackles the duo from three angles: their relationship with and affects on the hip-hop industry, their similarities and differences with poets and how their musical and business triumphs alter our view of the American Dream. Course instructor Andrew Hoberek explains that these rappers' work goes beyond words, and therefore their videos and artwork must be examined. I think this class is interesting enough that you won't run the risk of Kanye tempting you into becoming a college dropout.



6. University of Washington: The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur

University of Washington proves that the men behind Watch the Throne are not the only rappers with merit in the eyes of academia with their course on Tupac Shakur. The course explores the literary and historical influences on the late rapper by looking at his body of work alongside the likes of Machiavelli and Shakespeare. So if you're a rising senior who constantly finds yourself saying "I Don't Give a Fuck" about schoolwork and you're just hoping to relax, this course may not be that good of a fit for you.



7. New York University: The Beatles

Several universities offer courses on the Beatles, and you can even get a masters in Beatles Studies from Liverpool Hope University, and unlike most of the courses on this list, the NYU course entitled The Beatles focused on the band's music more than anything else, which is fitting considering the course was offered by Tisch. This course swept through the short but dense career of the Beatles and analyzed how the British band changed recording techniques and delved deep into how they transformed the role of the musician in pop culture.



8. Clark Atlanta University: Michael Jackson: The Business of Music

You may think that Michael Jackson built his empire all thanks to his raw musical talent, but this Clark Atlanta University MBA course proves that a lot of business savvy went into making Jackson into the King of Pop. By looking at the musician's negation skills for his tours and his legal practices relating to copyright, this course is meant to cater toward students hoping to step into the world of music business. So if you don't really have any musical gifts to speak of, there's still hope of becoming a part of the industry if you enroll in this course.



9. University of Iowa: Elvis as Anthology

Rivaling the King of Pop for the title and glory of a top spot on the ivory throne of academia is the King of Rock and Roll himself. The professor of "Elvis an Anthology" has a theory that Elvis was like a sponge who soaked up influences all around him, most notably that of African American culture. So don't expect an hour long lecture from an Elvis impersonator spouting facts, although Professor Peter Nazareth does have hair quaffed similarly to Elvis, but instead expect readings and lectures about Elvis' relationship with black music and social change.



10. Syracuse University: Radiohead

Radiohead is often considered one of today's most thought provoking and cerebral bands, so it only makes sense that their music should be studied in a classroom. As a course about an intellectual part of pop culture, "Radiohead" includes many critical and analytical readings about Radiohead's themes and influences as well as Thom Yorke interviews that any fan would enjoy reading for pleasure. If you want to impress your fellow schoolmates with your ability to explicate any Radiohead song, this course is for you.



11. Skidmore College: The Sociology of Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus has been baffling the country the last few years as we have stood back and watched her transition from Disney darling to sexed-up pop star, and Skidmore is trying to make sense of the situation through a sociological lens. The course professor believes that the former Hannah Montana is the perfect model of the behavior of sex and gender in the media, which is pretty much the only way that Cyrus can be looked at as exhibiting model behavior these days.

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