Although canon formation has been discussed in popular music studies for over a decade, the notion of what constitutes ‘the popular music canon’ is still vague. However, considering that many scholars resent canon formation due to the negative effects canons have exerted on other academic fields, analysis of canon formation processes in popular music studies seems desirable: awareness of these processes can be a valuable tool for scholars’ assessment of how their academic choices contribute to canon formation. Based on an examination of the reception history of Queen in the popular mainstream, music criticism and academia, this article argues that a universally valid popular music canon does not exist and that canon formation in popular music is based on the same criteria as in the ‘high’ arts, i.e. transcendence, historical importance and ‘greatness’, although the latter is replaced by ‘authenticity’ in the popular music context. While canons can be theorised in various ways, a model that distinguishes between canonic strata according to listeners’ relationship to music is particularly useful as it reveals the relative importance of the three canonic criteria within different strata and how they are applied.
- popular music studies