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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access March 22, 2019

Sacred Languages of Pop: Rooted Practices in Globalized and Digital French Popular Music

  • Michael Spanu EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Cultural Studies


Nowadays, popular music artists from a wide range of cultures perform in English alongside other local languages. This phenomenon questions the coexistence of different languages within local music practices. In this article, I argue that we cannot fully understand this issue without addressing the sacred dimension of language in popular music, which entails two aspects: 1) the transitory experience of an ideal that challenges intelligibility, and 2) the entanglement with social norms and institutions. Further to which, I compare Latin hegemony during the Middle Ages and the contemporary French popular music, where English and French coexist in a context marked by globalisation and ubiquitous digital technologies. The case of the Middle Ages shows that religious control over Latin led to a massive unintelligible experience of ritual singing, which reflected a strong class divide and created a demand for music rituals in vernacular languages. In the case of contemporary French popular music, asemantical practices of language are employed by artists in order to explore alternative, sacred dimensions of language that challenge nationhood.

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Received: 2018-04-30
Accepted: 2018-12-07
Published Online: 2019-03-22
Published in Print: 2019-02-01

© 2019 Michael Spanu, published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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