Staging the Spectacle: The Dandyist Theatrics of Jacques Dutronc

Panel Discussion with Stan Hawkins, Freya Jarman, Kai Arne Hansen and Philip Auslander


Theatricality is a recalibration of everyday life. It is part of every performance. It gives credence to popular music and its cultural and political traditions. This presentation opts for an interdisciplinary and intertextual approach in a bid to argue the inextricable links between theatricality, musical personae, and identity. Popular music studies has come a long way in complementing the scholarship of major opera, film, and musical scholars, which has led to an abundance of work on personae, agency, and the problems of authenticity. To show how popular music performances function as powerful arbitrations of the ‘natural’ as much as the artistic, I discuss how masculinity was forged by a Mod sensibility in the 1960s. My focus falls primarily on Paris. If Serge Gainsbourg was considered the Leonard Cohen of French pop music, then Jacques Dutronc (1943) was most definitely le dandy cool, the Gallic Bob Dylan. Part of la nouvelle vague, a precursor to the political and social upheavals of the late 1960s, Dutronc’s original performance style encapsulated an air of anti-establishment that was framed by the growing civil unrest in Paris in 1968 – the student uprisings, street battles, mass protests, and national strikes, all of which would transform France forever, uniting intellectuals with manual workers. Dutronc’s cult of the self, was a rebellion, his vitality symptomatic of the pop esprit of Paris, which found a resonance in the critique of the music flooding into France from the UK. My presentation lands on a discussion of one of Dutronc’s most loved tracks, ‘Les Cactus’, where I map his vocal expression onto audiovisual representations to reveal how theatrics reinforce the structures of gendered subjectivities and more. At the core of all this is my treatise on male dandyism.

Biography: Stan Hawkins is Professor of Musicology at the University of Oslo and the University of Agder, Norway. He has published widely on popular music, culture, sexuality, and identity, and has has served as UK and Nordic Chair of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM). He is author of Settling the Pop Score (2002/2017), The British Pop Dandy (2009/2016), Prince: The Making of a Pop Music Phenomenon (with Sarah Niblock, 2011/2013), and Queerness in Pop Music (2016). Edited volumes include Music, Space and Place (with Sheila Whiteley and Andy Bennett) (2005/2017), Essays on Sound and Vision (with John Richardson) (2007), Pop Music & Easy Listening (2011), Critical Musicological Reflections (2012/2016), The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music and Gender (2017), and The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Video Analysis (with Lori Burns) (2019), and a special edition on Prince (with Anne Danielsen) (2020). He was series editor of Routledge’s Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series (2009-2019), and from 2010 to 2015 led a Norwegian Research Council funded project on Popular Music and Gender in a Transcultural Context. In 2017 he was elected member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

Leave a Reply