What’s in a Thang? Dancing to Brand Image with Miley Cyrus’s Multimodal Dance Spectacle
Arts and the Market, 7 (1) 2017, pp.101-130
Posted: 2 Dec 2016 Last revised: 20 May 2017
Date Written: August 29, 2016
Purpose – This paper scrutinizes how Miley Cyrus’s brand values are projected through the multimodal semiotic structure of the live performance of the song “Do my thang” (from the Bangerz album ).
Design/methodology/approach – Sociosemiotic conceptual framework in conjunction with an interpretive videographic method of analysis, facilitated by the multimodal qualitative discourse analytic software Atlas.ti.
Findings – It is shown how a brand image is enscripted in Cyrus’s spectacle as ‘script within script’, in various modes (other than the verbal and sonic ones that are defining of the recorded song), and in the interaction among modes, with an emphasis on the dance mode (as composite mode made up of the kinetic and haptic ones). Furthermore, it is shown how Cyrus construes an imaginary, neo-burlesque brand space of hyperdifferentiation, narcissistic play and polymorphous sexuality that she and her dancing crew project onto an evoked audience.
Practical implications – Attending to structural couplings between signs and modes in the context of bespoke artists’ brand languages constitutes a priority for managing an artist as brand, and, concomitantly, for safeguarding relevance for a fandom. A multimodal reading grid is offered to this end.
Originality/value – From a branding point of view, this study constitutes the first one that theorizes the live show spectacle as the manifest discourse whereupon brand image and brand values are edified, with an emphasis on the dance mode, over and above the verbal/ visual modes that dominate the advertising/branding literatures.
Keywords: artist branding, live show, sociosemiotics, multimodal semiotic analysis, atlas.ti
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