Immersed in Pop: 3D Music, Subject Positioning, and Compositional Design in The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” in Dolby Atmos
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBresler, Z. (2021) Immersed in Pop: 3D Music, Subject Positioning, and Compositional Design in The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” in Dolby Atmos Journal of Popular Music Studies. 2021, 33 (3), 84-103. https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2021.33.3.84
In 2019, Dolby Atmos Music launched on Tidal HiFi and Amazon Prime Music HD, integrating 3D sound with music streaming services for the first time. This is one of several recent incursions by popular music into immersive and interactive mediums, which also includes technologies such as virtual reality and 360-degree video. As immersive productions become more normal in popular music, they are increasingly critical to examine. How are aesthetic features of pop compositions altered or maintained in these productions? And how do these different spatial mediums effect compositional design, subject positioning, artists’ performativity, and staging? This article aims to address these questions by presenting a model for 3D music analysis which relates various notions of music technology and production to musicological concepts on performance environment, staging, and subject position. This model is then demonstrated in a hermeneutic close reading of the song ‘Blinding Lights’ by R&B superstar The Weeknd, which was released in both stereo and Dolby Atmos mediums in 2019. The goal of the analysis is to demonstrate some of the ways different mediums impinge on various interpretive stances and the relationship between the performer and listener in immersive popular music.