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Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture

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From Beatlemania in the early 1960s to the Directioners and Beyhive of today, female music fans have long driven the objects of their affection to the dizzying heights of life-changing fame. But marginalized fan groups are never given appropriate credit. Frequently derided, their worlds and communities are self-contained and rarely investigated by cultural historians and c From Beatlemania in the early 1960s to the Directioners and Beyhive of today, female music fans have long driven the objects of their affection to the dizzying heights of life-changing fame. But marginalized fan groups are never given appropriate credit. Frequently derided, their worlds and communities are self-contained and rarely investigated by cultural historians and commentators. Yet without these people, in the past, records would have gathered dust on shelves, unsold and forgotten. Now, concerts wouldn't sell out and revenue streams from merchandising would disappear, changing the face of the music industry as we know it. In Fangirls: Scenes From Modern Music Culture, journalist Hannah Ewens is on a mission to give these individuals their rightful due. A dedicated music lover herself, she has spoken to hundreds of fans from the UK to Japan to trace their path through recent pop and rock history. She's found the untold stories behind important events and uncovered the ups, the downs and the lengths fans go to, celebrating the camaraderie and lifelines their fandoms can provide.


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From Beatlemania in the early 1960s to the Directioners and Beyhive of today, female music fans have long driven the objects of their affection to the dizzying heights of life-changing fame. But marginalized fan groups are never given appropriate credit. Frequently derided, their worlds and communities are self-contained and rarely investigated by cultural historians and c From Beatlemania in the early 1960s to the Directioners and Beyhive of today, female music fans have long driven the objects of their affection to the dizzying heights of life-changing fame. But marginalized fan groups are never given appropriate credit. Frequently derided, their worlds and communities are self-contained and rarely investigated by cultural historians and commentators. Yet without these people, in the past, records would have gathered dust on shelves, unsold and forgotten. Now, concerts wouldn't sell out and revenue streams from merchandising would disappear, changing the face of the music industry as we know it. In Fangirls: Scenes From Modern Music Culture, journalist Hannah Ewens is on a mission to give these individuals their rightful due. A dedicated music lover herself, she has spoken to hundreds of fans from the UK to Japan to trace their path through recent pop and rock history. She's found the untold stories behind important events and uncovered the ups, the downs and the lengths fans go to, celebrating the camaraderie and lifelines their fandoms can provide.

30 review for Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mauma

    In the acknowledgements of this book the very last line on the last page Hannah says "To you all and any fan who bought this book: I hope you recognise yourself in these pages" and I felt that. This is the first book in over a year that has managed to capture my attention to the point that I finished it in a less than a week (something that I was easy to me as a teen but counts as an accomplishment for me now). When people talk about representation nowadays I roll my eyes because I feel like thos In the acknowledgements of this book the very last line on the last page Hannah says "To you all and any fan who bought this book: I hope you recognise yourself in these pages" and I felt that. This is the first book in over a year that has managed to capture my attention to the point that I finished it in a less than a week (something that I was easy to me as a teen but counts as an accomplishment for me now). When people talk about representation nowadays I roll my eyes because I feel like those words have lost their meaning, but I'm going to go ahead and be exactly that person and say that Hannah Ewens' writing in this book is the representation that is needed. Not because of what she's talking about, but how she says it. The empathy in which she talks about the girls she met and interviewed, how she finds a way to see herself and all of them, in all of their experiences is what we are lacking in the media when it comes to women and girls.

  2. 5 out of 5

    apryl

    i wish this had been twice as long because i adored every moment and didn’t want it to end. maybe the best account of (female) fan culture i’ve ever read?!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    As a Beatles /classic rock fan this resonated BIG TIME. From the beatles collab channel i made to the fan fiction i would write if ur a fan of any subculture PLS READ! And cringe at all your past choices.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen

    I enjoyed reading this very much, one of those books like a door into a room inside your own house that you never knew existed. I have always kept myself purposefully away from (too) popular culture. In the past, as is typical of that phase of growing up, this was a kind of point of pride for me, and I think this small rebellion might have been necessary to assert myself, but now I do not need that anymore, and I can kind of see the beauty and value in the collective fawning over people and artis I enjoyed reading this very much, one of those books like a door into a room inside your own house that you never knew existed. I have always kept myself purposefully away from (too) popular culture. In the past, as is typical of that phase of growing up, this was a kind of point of pride for me, and I think this small rebellion might have been necessary to assert myself, but now I do not need that anymore, and I can kind of see the beauty and value in the collective fawning over people and artistic expressions. As such, even though almost all the chapters in this book detail musicians I do not necessarily care much about, I found the descriptions of fandom extremely moving - I guess it is extremely moving when others are extremely moved, it is as simple as that. Ewens writes - as a former fangirl - with a big heart and with compassion and sympathy for these girls that are often mischaracterized. Sometimes she might take it a little too far, and I feel she confuses the need to normalize with the need to say that these expressions are okay. I would personally not say that fainting because you see someone, or camping out for multiple days just to get a few rows further ahead in the room is "normal", but it is most certainly okay. Strong, also, is the comparison between male expressions of fandom and female, and how the latter are much more stigmatized. Typical. It would be good if many people read Ewens' book, and start thinking about these things. I surely did.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I really enjoyed this! It's one of the few books about the fan/fandom experience that I felt I really related with. Yes, there were some things that I scoffed at, but Hannah Ewens clearly understands and respects fandom. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on areas of fandom I knew nothing of (JPOP, Courtney Love...) and it generally just made me really happy and proud to be a fangirl!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I'm writing a review on my blog and I'll link it here when it is ready. Fangirls are demonised and dismissed constantly in the music industry. Ewens has presented a creative and addictive study of the fangirl across multiple genres. I have a lot of thoughts but I will wait until I post my review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Evelien

    I was standing in the London Picadilly Circus Waterstones and this book just spoke to me when I saw it. Me, a lifelong fangirl, starting to appreciate music and fandom from the age of 12 when I got into the Beatles (in 1994) and having to do with copied library books and a newspaper article cut-out collection since there was no Internet, no Youtube, no Twitter, no Instagram. This book is set up as a series of papers/short stories, each one with a different artist as the main focus. Some of the s I was standing in the London Picadilly Circus Waterstones and this book just spoke to me when I saw it. Me, a lifelong fangirl, starting to appreciate music and fandom from the age of 12 when I got into the Beatles (in 1994) and having to do with copied library books and a newspaper article cut-out collection since there was no Internet, no Youtube, no Twitter, no Instagram. This book is set up as a series of papers/short stories, each one with a different artist as the main focus. Some of the stories really left an impression (like the 2017 Manchester bombing one) but others, especially the ones that aren't my cup of tea music-wise, didn't. This is not the author's fault or doesn't take away from the fact that others will enjoy this book a lot more than I do. I think half of why I 'only' give 3 stars is that I am probably too 'old' as the target audience. Almost the whole book talks about and to teenagers. Logically, though, because that's when most fandoms start. But I, as a 37-year old (still a fangirl at heart, though, having just gotten into 1D of whom the boys, give or take a few years, could have been my sons, lmao!) didn't feel as connected to it. Still, some things never change across the generations, and that was nice to read. Fangirls gonna fangirl, you know? :)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    This was such a good read - it made me feel really nostalgic for the musical experiences I had growing up and how they've shaped my life now. I loved how this book, as well as obviously having music at its core, takes in racism, mental health, politics, and plenty else along the way too. The writing is really affectionate towards its subjects and was a delightful and thought provoking read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    If you've been a fan of any specific fraction of music culture throughout your life, you'll recognise a tiny part of yourself in this book. Focused solely on the experiences of womxn fans, it's a uniquely fresh and relatable series of essays on a wide range of topics - One Direction, My Chemical Romance, Beyonce, international fan culture, JPop, everything is touched upon. At times it felt more like a personal reflection of the author rather than an objective analysis, but that almost made it mo If you've been a fan of any specific fraction of music culture throughout your life, you'll recognise a tiny part of yourself in this book. Focused solely on the experiences of womxn fans, it's a uniquely fresh and relatable series of essays on a wide range of topics - One Direction, My Chemical Romance, Beyonce, international fan culture, JPop, everything is touched upon. At times it felt more like a personal reflection of the author rather than an objective analysis, but that almost made it more enjoyable. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone with even a passing interest in musical fandoms.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    Like Jessica Hopper, who edits the University of Texas Press series of which Fangirls is a part and who get the book's opening epigraph ("Suggestion: replace the word 'fan girl' with 'expert' and see what happens"), Ewens wants to elevate the young girls whose fandom has been ignored, dismissed, or mocked in favor of the older men who are supposed to be the "real" music experts. Beyond that, though, Ewens want to unpack the many ways that fandom works in the music world. For the author, the topic Like Jessica Hopper, who edits the University of Texas Press series of which Fangirls is a part and who get the book's opening epigraph ("Suggestion: replace the word 'fan girl' with 'expert' and see what happens"), Ewens wants to elevate the young girls whose fandom has been ignored, dismissed, or mocked in favor of the older men who are supposed to be the "real" music experts. Beyond that, though, Ewens want to unpack the many ways that fandom works in the music world. For the author, the topic is personal — and Ewens doesn't make any secret of that. Frequently writing in the first person, the author (now in her late 20s) shares her own experiences with fandom, notably as one of the legion of young women inspired by Courtney Love. (More on that shortly.) Fangirls reads as an extended essay, but one informed by on-the-ground research with fans of artists from Elvis to Fall Out Boy. I reviewed Fangirls for The Current.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    I expected to like this book but had no idea how diverse the stories in it would be - I particularly enjoyed the chapter about Japanese music fans, and the insight into fandoms that are totally unfamiliar to me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    Fucking phenomenal.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emilee

    4.5 stars. This was so interesting to read as someone who has done their fair share of fangirling at bands in her time!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Heartfelt. Passionate. Purposeful. Fresh. Intentional. Superb. Brought me to tears a few times.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    A must-read for any gal that dedicated their teenage years to a band, musician and still has that ingrained inside of them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    If you’ve ever been a music fan, particularly a female music fan, I recommend this book. I learned so much about the way fandom works, got throwbacks to being a young teenager and that kind of all-consuming obsession I felt over bands then, and I got new insights into different fan cultures that were super interesting. Read this book!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elke Vervoort

    On the last page of this book, Hannah Ewens writes that she hopes fans recognise themselves in the pages of this book. That's what I hoped too, as I started to read it. I definitely fit the target audience; I'm no stranger to fandoms... I read and finished this book in the week I'm travelling to see my favourite band - and not for the first time. I did recognise myself in some of the pages, I did read some things that I could relate to and was reassured by as well. Admittedly, not everything res On the last page of this book, Hannah Ewens writes that she hopes fans recognise themselves in the pages of this book. That's what I hoped too, as I started to read it. I definitely fit the target audience; I'm no stranger to fandoms... I read and finished this book in the week I'm travelling to see my favourite band - and not for the first time. I did recognise myself in some of the pages, I did read some things that I could relate to and was reassured by as well. Admittedly, not everything resonated with me, but I enjoyed this book a lot nonetheless. I love how Hannah Ewens manages to mix her personal experiences with an objective account of what the fangirl life is like for people in various stages of their lives. She does so in a compassionate way - taking the fans she's interviewed seriously in a way that people often don't do. I was particularly moved by and interested in the chapters about the bombing at Ariana Grande's Manchester gig and the talk about gender terrorism as well as the one about Amy Winehouse's death - the part in which Hannah Ewens describes how the press haunted and ridiculed her for ages, then started to write all these complimentary tributes about her when she died feels particularly relevant today.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Snorki

    Part homage to teenage female fans, and part exploration of why they are not taken seriously, I found this an interesting read. The author herself was an ardent teenage fan, and participated in various fandom activities. In this book, she’s exploring fans of today (and previous generations) to understand a little more about why teenage girls are attracted to fandom activities, and why they are valuable. It’s easy to dismiss hoards of screaming teenage girls as hysterical, but this thoughtful boo Part homage to teenage female fans, and part exploration of why they are not taken seriously, I found this an interesting read. The author herself was an ardent teenage fan, and participated in various fandom activities. In this book, she’s exploring fans of today (and previous generations) to understand a little more about why teenage girls are attracted to fandom activities, and why they are valuable. It’s easy to dismiss hoards of screaming teenage girls as hysterical, but this thoughtful book gives us more insight into how it can help young girls belong, give them a sense of ownership and purpose in a confusing world. There are some heart-warming tales of teenage girls queuing overnight to get tickets or get into concerts, and developing their own system of numbering so that people can enter in the order they arrived. The author is not afraid to tackle more difficult subjects either, looking at sexuality, self-harm and the aftermath of the Ariane Grande concert bombing in Manchester. Definitely makes you think differently about teenage fans!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    I bought Fangirls, not knowing anything about it, just because I liked the title and cover - but I ended up really enjoying it. In a society that often mocks fandom and fangirl culture, I thought Hannah handled even the most delicate topics with respect and and compassion. Covering a wide range of bands and topics, including One Direction, My Chemical Romance, Lady Gaga and the Ariana Grande Manchester attack, Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture combined an objective view on what it means t I bought Fangirls, not knowing anything about it, just because I liked the title and cover - but I ended up really enjoying it. In a society that often mocks fandom and fangirl culture, I thought Hannah handled even the most delicate topics with respect and and compassion. Covering a wide range of bands and topics, including One Direction, My Chemical Romance, Lady Gaga and the Ariana Grande Manchester attack, Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture combined an objective view on what it means to be a fan with Hannah's own personal reflections. I also really admired Hannah's research effort, diving into the depths of the internet to really understand each fandom and their activities. The only thing I didn't like about Fangirls is the length of the book. At a short 229 pages, I could have - quite happily - read another 200 or so pages.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cara

    Academic schools of thought typically revile the archetypal consumer. It’s easy for them to relegate fangirls to mindless sycophants, lacking in individuality, and to see nothing fruitful in their admiration. That’s why it feels so fresh to have a intellectual retrospective that treats fangirls with genuine compassion. Ewen’s depiction of fan culture was warm, familiar and well-researched. It delved into why and how we obsess, but more importantly, it validated those in the throes of their obses Academic schools of thought typically revile the archetypal consumer. It’s easy for them to relegate fangirls to mindless sycophants, lacking in individuality, and to see nothing fruitful in their admiration. That’s why it feels so fresh to have a intellectual retrospective that treats fangirls with genuine compassion. Ewen’s depiction of fan culture was warm, familiar and well-researched. It delved into why and how we obsess, but more importantly, it validated those in the throes of their obsession, never correlating it with stupidity. The sections on the Manchester attacks were particularly moving.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Nathanson

    i felt i was THERE with Ms. Ewens on her extensive travels to discover the zeitgeist of fandom... she writes beautifully and clearly and colorfully about the fangirls she met on her journey, and gave a recognizable face to a group who have sometimes been given short shrift. These FanGirls are real, they are passionate and they are dedicated. a MUST read for anyone who has an emotional connection to music and to their favorite artists.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Black

    I devoured this book pretty quickly; it's great. There were a couple of chapters I wasn't as keen on because I wasn't really aware of the artists being described, for example, but I am sure I'll read the chapters on pop punk, emo, Amy Winehouse and Ariana Grande over and over again. A big thank you to Hannah for giving a voice to a group of people often underestimated.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lis

    This wonderful book turned up as a surprise in the post one day from my friend Kate, who knew I’d appreciate it. Ewens’ book is a really sensitive and incredibly-researched work about a subject I think about a lot – tag yourself, I belong in the chapter on Courtney Love and “older” fangirls. I listened to a lot of Taylor Swift on shuffle while reading this, for obvious reasons.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lou Viner

    If I could give more than 5 stars, I would. Hannah completely captures what it’s like to be a fan, on any level, without judgement or mockery. I recognised myself in every person she wrote about. I didn’t want the book to finish, but I feel better for having read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Book Aviary

    Dedicated to “every girl who has ever had an obsession”, Fangirls is written with not only with affection, but with genuine respect, and is an enhancing, enchanting look at fans, fandom, and girlhood. Read my full review here: https://www.bookaviary.com/reviews/fa... Dedicated to “every girl who has ever had an obsession”, Fangirls is written with not only with affection, but with genuine respect, and is an enhancing, enchanting look at fans, fandom, and girlhood. Read my full review here: https://www.bookaviary.com/reviews/fa...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    This is the best non-fiction book I've read this year, and probably one of the best I've ever read. It's beautifully written, touching and so relatable. I felt seen but I also learnt a lot. Trust me and read this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    this is fucking FABULOUS

  28. 4 out of 5

    Abbi Louise

    One of the first books I’ve finished in a long time, and for good reason. So insightful and so glad to see fan culture getting the recognition it deserves. A must-read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rob Adey

    Empathetic exploration of a usually derided fandom.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Mackney

    Really fascinating. And the chapter on Ariana Grande and gendered terrorism was so powerful.

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