Branding the Witch: Mysticism, Femininity, Timbre, and Stevie Nicks

Author(s)

Michael Powers

Faculty Mentor(s)

Mark Samples (Music Education)

Abstract

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

Presentation

2 thoughts on “Branding the Witch: Mysticism, Femininity, Timbre, and Stevie Nicks”

  1. Thank you for such a thorough writing and understanding of Stevie Nicks’ persona and how she has influenced other female artists through her unique style and branding. It is interesting how her vocal nodes actually played a role in creating this brand, something that is typically viewed in a negative way.

  2. Angela Marie Kyle

    Mike…WOW! Such a cool presentation. I grew up listening to Stevie Nicks and didn’t realize any of this. I absolutely love her voice! Great presentation.

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