Mass Communication


John Thomson defines mass communication as the institutionalized production and generalized diffusion of symbolic goods through transmission of information. Symbolic goods are those goods that symbolize a certain lifestyle that people aspire to example beauty models, people in the society aspire have such lives as big houses, beautiful kids etc.

According to John Thomson mass communication is characterized by institutionalized production and diffusion and diffusion of symbolic goods, media institutes that enable the diffusion of information and that there is only a one flow of information and this is from the media to the masses and not vice versa.

Popular culture is that cultural text that is proposed by the media of communication which is used in our day to day lives. The mass media proposes to us this cultural text continuously, we identify with them but we interpret them in different ways, therefore cultural text change the way we think and the way we react to certain situation in our day to day lives.

This paper focuses on the theoretical background of popular music and also criticizes and supports these theories with the present popular music, this paper discusses Adorno theory of popular music and compares that with the popular music “listen” by Beyonce, it also looks at the implications of these cultural texts that are proposed and the resulting change in peoples culture and life.

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Giselle Beyonce:

Beyonce Giselle was born in 1981 in Houston Texas, she started her singing career right when she was a young a girl and it is said that her music career started even before she had learnt how to talk, she later become popular most popular for her album entitled destiny’s child.

Other songs that hit the chart were “jumping”, “bills” and “say my name” in the year 1997, this album sold more than 10 million copies world wide, in the year 1999 when the song independent women part one was sound track to the movie Charlie’s angels, the song reached the largest audience ever all over the world and it recorded over 140.4 audiences all over the world. In 2001 Beyonce received a Grammy award for the best R$B song and also another award for best performance.

Adorno (1941) tried to define popular music using the following elements namely:

– Standardization

According to Adorno popular music is standardized, in his theory of standardization he stated that popular music is composed with 32 bars, and that notes raged from one octave to one note, this however has become irrelevant as the recent popular music has become different and the music does not meet his stated range of notes and bars.

– Repetition

Adorno also stated that popular music is characterized by repetition, repetition in the music where certain phrases are repeated over and over again, the other form of repetition is that the

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music is played continuously in the mass media, popular music in the present are continuously played in the radio, also the music is characterized by repeated phrases all over the song, therefore his theory is relevant in the present regarding popular music.

– Glamour

Glamour according to Adorno is another characteristic of popular music which is used to differentiate the popular music from other music, this technique is used in the present popular music whereby artist will use such effects which attract viewers and listeners, and this makes the music to be popular music.

– Plugging

This is also a characteristic of popular music whereby it involves the use of the mass media in order to make music popular, this technique involves the continuous and repeated playing of the music in the media which when the audience listens to the music the media unconsciously forces the masses to listen to that music, through this the media will mold what is to be termed as popular because the music producers determine the agenda to be attached to the music and media messages.

– Imitation

This is another technique that Adorno stated that is used by popular music in order to dominate the masses. Imitation involves an attempt to produce what other individuals or even other sounds and incorporating them into the music. As a result of this the music becomes popular music.

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Beyonce and Adorno’s theory of popular culture:

Popular culture symbolize a certain lifestyle that people aspire to, Beyonce and many other popular music artist have introduced a popular culture that has inspired many to live the way they live and at the same time change their ways of life, the cultural text that is embedded on the music of Beyonce in terms of words and images has changed the modern world.

In his recent song named “listen” which has been in the chart this year, she has influenced the culture of many through very many ways, the images and the message it portrays has had a major influence on the people’s ways of life.

Many are inspired to belike her, the mode of dressing has changed the way people today dress as every other person want to look like her, in her song she has used repetition of the phrase “ “ and also this song has been played over the media reputedly, this has made the masses to accept her singing and music as popular music influencing peoples culture and the way of thinking, example her height and body posture has led to many people especially women to dress the way she does and also to interpret beauty according to her looks, this is the reason why many women have spent most of the time wanting to loose weight to have the looks of Beyonce.

Standardization according to Adorno is not evidence in the song, as Adorno stated that popular music is composed with 32 bars, and that notes raged from one octave to one note this is not evident in Beyonce’s music according to the range he stated, however the song is similar to the other popular songs which are in the media, recently the popular songs and artist have introduced new ways in which they use images of half naked women which has now become a culture.

Imitation is also evident in the song “listen” by Beyonce, she has imitated the use of half naked women in her song, the use of such images has been evident in almost all the other popular songs today, a song without such images is most probably less likely to become popular to the masses and cannot be termed as a popular song, therefore she has imitated the use of this images from other popular artist in order to make her own music more attractive and acceptable tom the audience.

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The use of half naked women is a way in which according to Adorno whereby the popular music embeds glamour, glamour is used to differentiate the popular music from other music, and this technique is used in the present popular music whereby artist will use such effects which attract viewers and listeners, through this her music has been accepted by many as popular, she does this through introduction of very attractive images, also through the use of dancing styles that attract viewers of her music.


Beyonce’s song “listen has in the recent past changed peoples culture, this culture which is today known as popular culture, Popular culture is that cultural texts that is proposed by the media which proposes to us and we identify with them but we interpret them in different ways, to make her music popular she has used glamour, repetition and plugging techniques in order to be at the top.

She has influenced peoples lives in terms of their interpretation of the modern word and also the culture people adopt, every other person now want to be like her, this is because the cultural text she display is the way people should dance, how they should dress and how people should make up and also the hair style, in the present people have now adopted this modes of dressing and make up in order to be like her. Through all this the masses have changed their perception of the modern world and also changed their ways of life because of the cultural text Beyonce and many other popular musicians have proposed.


Arthur Berger (1990) Political Culture and Mass Communication Theory, Transaction Publishers, New York

Angela McRobbie (1994) Postmodernism and Popular Culture, Routledge publishers, New York

Beyonce website (2007) the biography of Beyonce, retrieved on 14th September, available at w

Wikipedia (2007) Beyonce Giselle, retrieved on 14th September, available at www.en.wikipedia

Mass Communication