Carpool Karaoke: Deconstructing the directly lived experience of hearing oneself singing

Social Semiotics 27 (5):624-637 (2017)
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The various ways whereby spatial conditions afford to monumentalize culture and to appropriate geographically demarcated places in terms of individual and collective meaning structures has been amply documented in urban cultural studies. However, considerably less attention has been paid to how cultural identity is produced against the background of musical temporality. By way of a phenomenological inquiry into the staged spectacle of James Corden’s (the host of CBS Network’s Late Late Show) Carpool Karaoke, this paper addresses the issues of directly lived experience and authenticity as facets of cultural identity. By critically discussing the assumptions of self-presence and auto-affectivity while singing and listening to one’s sung voice against the background of pre-recorded songs, the notion of directly lived musical experience is put to the test. Furthermore, by examining the dramaturgical scaffolding of Carpool Karaoke, the analysis points to wider implications for post-modern cultural studies in terms of an identified ironic reversal of modernist universal criteria of legitimacy in favor of a celebration of postmodern being-with inauthentically. The analysis of the selected Carpool Karaoke corpus utilizes a resourceful blend of phenomenological method, semiotics and interpretive videography while challenging embedded orthodoxies in the extant literature.

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George Rossolatos
Universität Gesamthochschule Kassel


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