From "No Future" to "Delete Yourself "

Journal of Popular Music Studies 25 (4) (2013)
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Beginning with the role of the Sex Pistols’s “God Save the Queen” in Lee Edelman and J. Jack Halberstam’s debates about queer death and failure, I follow a musical motive from the Pistols track to its reappearance in Atari Teenage Riot’s 1995 “Delete Yourself .” In this song, as in much of ATR’s work from the 1990s, overlapping queer and Afro-diasporic aesthetics condense around the idea of death or “bare life.” ATR’s musical strategies treat this death as a form of de-intensification and divestment— not, as in Edelman or the Pistols, as a form of negation . I will show that ATR’s musical recontextualization of the Pistols’s riff mirrors the political recontextualization of queerness and queer death from negation to disinvestment. Pushing this misprision or sticky interface between cyberpunk, queer, and Afro-diasporic musical aesthetics, I use ATR’s music to consider how queer death might work as a political response to neoliberal demands to invest in “normal” life. I first discuss the traditional concept of death as negation in both the Sex Pistols song "God Save the Queen," and in Lee Edelman and Jack Halberstam’s formulations. I then argue that Atari Teenage Riot's song “Delete Yourself” describes a neoliberal, biopolitical concept of death, death as carefully administered divestment. Finally, I use Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of drugs, and Ronald Bogue’s Deleuzian reading of death metal to identify and explain how “MIDIjunkies” and “Into the Death” complicate the biopolitical/neoliberal management of death by reworking traditional black/queer critical aesthet- ics. In these songs, ATR undermine biopolitical neoliberalism’s demand to invest in and intensify regular “normal” life: rather than treating death as a nadir of intensity, they intensify it–that is, they go into the death. This strategy of going “into the death” is one possible queer necropolitical response to neoliberalism.

Author's Profile

Robin M. James
University of North Carolina, Charlotte


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