I am a professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia. My first book, Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination, received Honorable Mention for the Woody Guthrie Award (Outstanding Book) from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, won a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book Award, and was named one of the three best non-fiction books of 2016 by Splice Magazine. In 2017 PopMatters picked it as one of the “10 Conversation-Shifting Books about Music” of the past ten years. (You can buy it here.) I’m currently working on a book about music and technology since the 1960s that chronicles the cultural ascendance of four major musical instruments: the keyboard synthesizer, the drum machine, the digital sampler, and the vocal processor Auto-Tune.
I’m also the pop critic for Slate magazine, where I write about music, sports, film, TV, books, and other areas of culture. In 2016 I hosted the Slate podcast series “Pop, Race, and the ‘60s”, and am an occasional guest on the Slate Culture Gabfest and Slate’s Hang Up and Listen sports podcast. My writing has also appeared online and in print in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, NPR, ESPN, Transition, L.A. Review of Books, Free Darko, and many other venues.
I was born and raised in and around the Boston area. After spending a few years as a professional musician I received my B.A. in English from NYU in 2003, then my Ph.D in American Studies from Harvard University in 2013. I spent the 2013-14 academic year as the inaugural postdoctoral research fellow at the Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture at the University of Colorado, Boulder. My favorite album of all time is Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions.