- Bloomsbury Popular Music
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Bloomsbury Popular Music (BPM) is an online popular music resource for the academic market. The most recognizable component of BPM is the 33 1/3 book series. It also includes the 11-volume Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and standalone Bloomsbury Academic and Continuum scholarly books on popular music topics, fifty-five titles at the time of this review, the oldest from 2006 but most from 2017 or later. Book topics range from the specific, such as The Beatles on Screen by Stephanie Fremaux (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018) to the broad, such as Mortality and Music: Popular Music and the Awareness of Death by Christopher Partridge (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).
Encyclopedia articles address locations and genres, and entries stretch from several paragraphs to the equivalent of several pages. The first volume, Media, Industry and Society, deals with broad concepts such as record collecting and the music press, a helpfully concise starting point for students with overly broad research topics. All articles include a bibliography and most have a discography of key releases.
For readers unfamiliar with the 33 1/3 series, each compact volume, just 6.5 inches tall, roughly 150 pages, is devoted to a single album. The series originally focused on iconic albums, the kind seen on lists of the greatest ever. Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace meets this definition, but it is hard to argue for Flood by They Might Be Giants as the series expanded to cult favorites or albums that an author could turn into a thoughtful narrative. Each writer takes a unique approach. In the top seller in the series, Carl Wilson used Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love as a framework for investigating the meaning of musical taste. The Who Sell Out includes a history of pirate radio in the U.K. that the band sought to replicate on the album. For Music from the Big Pink, John Niven wrote a novella involving members of the Band. Generically, the books explore the making of the album, where it fits into the artist's career arc and perhaps the author's experiences as a fan of the work. BPM includes both the original 33 1/3 series as well as the Global 33 1/3, focusing on popular albums from around the world.
BPM provides several tools to help users discover and navigate the content. The timeline, broken down by decade since 1900 then by year, includes key music releases, music events and world news events. As time progresses, the timeline links to 33 1/3 books on albums released that year, helpful for cultural studies classes focused on a specific era. The key recordings are selected [End Page 159] editorially for cultural impact rather than top sales. For example, 1967 highlights Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band even though More of the Monkees outsold the landmark Beatles album that year.
Artist pages for hundreds of artists provide indexing for place, period, and genres; and links to related content, and many include a brief career overview and a high-quality photo of the artist. While generally helpful, there are a few missteps. The periods on the Elvis Costello and My Bloody Valentine artist pages suggest that neither is recording or performing in the present decade, but the narratives discuss their current careers. Searching for the bands Television and the Who turns up articles that mention the common rather than proper nouns. The artist index is in strictly alphabetical order, so that, for example, in the M section, Bill Monroe is alphabetized as Bill while the Mills Brothers are alphabetized as "the."
Finally, a world map enables users to browse geographically, with color coding depicting the concentration of content for an area. For example, Asia as a whole has moderate content, but within Asia...