Mark Samples (Music Education)
Across the last 50 years, Stevie Nicks has built a critically and commercially successful career as a frontwoman of band Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist. Critics and fans alike have long recognized her characteristic image and voice. An analysis of Nicks’ brand offers more than just an understanding of the singer herself. It exemplifies how musicians’ personas are constructed, how those personas can function between solo and group settings, and how they develop over time. As music and promotion become increasingly intertwined, these are concerns scholars in all genres of commercial music will face. This paper addresses those concerns by defining a theory of the Stevie Nicks brand, what constitutes it, and how it has (and has not) changed since the 1970s. Through a musical, semiotic, and textual analysis of Nicks’ persona (music, lyrics, album artwork, interviews, media appearances) and the discourse around it (newspapers, magazines, online forums, modern artist brands), three brand pillars will be proposed. The first is mysticism, broadly defined as the belief in supernatural, occult, or otherwise otherworldly modes of power and knowledge. Second is conventional, archetypal femininity. Finally, is Nicks’ voice. I will propose that Nicks’ identifiable vocal timbre imparts her brand with cultural ideas of authenticity. Her brand simultaneously connotes the voice with its existing meaning, particularly on recording. Mysticism, femininity, and Nicks’ voice rely on and inform one another to create a coherent, consistent, and adaptable brand persona. This persona remains constant in both her solo and Fleetwood Mac careers, and has maintained relevance through the present.
Keywords: Branding, timbre, rock