Popular Music Studies: BereNike Wuhrer - "A Special Form of Happiness"

2022-02-07 The alumna wrote her Bachelor's thesis on making women visible in popular music. She published her research results in the journal "Samples". The Society for Popular Music Research has now awarded BereNike Wuhrer the Early Career Best Paper Award for her work.

BereNike Wuhrer ©Privat
"I want to share a piece of me with my music and lyrics and give it to the outside world," says BereNike Wuhrer.

„Let’s free ourselves from categories,
Predetermined roles and bodies.
It’s my voice,
I have the choice
How to act.“

With their debut single "Ängry", the young Hamburg synth-pop band Junokill defend themselves against rigid role patterns and social constraints. The lyrics were penned by BereNike Wuhrer, singer and keyboard player, who has just released her debut album "Astropunk". In 2020, BereNike Wuhrer completed her Bachelor's degree in Cultural Studies with a focus on music and auditory culture and a minor in Popular Music Studies at Leuphana College. In her bachelor thesis, she dealt with a similar topic as in "Ängry": the securitisation of women in pop music in connection with hegemonic power structures. "There are different forms of making visible: for example, the stage or the online sphere, which has become much more important once again due to the pandemic. Visibility, however, is an ambiguous construct that not only shows but also conceals," explains BereNike Wuhrer. In her research, she explored this ambivalence: "Even when there is a woman on stage, it is often men who occupy the operational level - be it in management, at record labels and agencies or in music journalism." BereNike Wuhrer would like to see a network of FLINTA* people to change power structures and establish a diverse music culture.

For her bachelor's thesis with philosopher Dr. Steffi Hobuß and cultural scientist Katharina Alexi, the former student interviewed female singers from Europe and the USA about their strategies for making themselves visible and analysed how female musicians are portrayed and received externally. She placed the results of her research in a feminist philosophical context: "Before you change forms of visibility, you have to understand them," says BereNike Wuhrer. Her Bachelor's thesis was so convincing that Katharina Alexi suggested the student publish it. It became a turbulent time for BereNike Wuhrer: "I had just recorded the album with my band. Then I sat down again to work on my bachelor's thesis and rewrote part of it into a scientific publication. That was a good piece of work." The effort paid off. The article was accepted by the journal "Samples". But not only that: her work has now been awarded the Early Career Best Paper Award by the Society for Popular Music Research.

BereNike Wuhrer has been playing the piano since her primary school days and later also received singing lessons. Nevertheless, she decided against studying at a music academy: "The Kuwi programme gave me a lot. The many options allowed me to study exactly what I wanted. Interdisciplinary work and critical questioning are still important qualities for me today, which manifested themselves especially during my studies." At the moment, however, her university life is at rest. BereNike Wuhrer wants to concentrate on her band first before she looks into a Master's degree. "I want to share a piece of me with my music and lyrics and give it to the outside world. And maybe it will help others in some way. With Astropunk, I awaken a utopian space without imposed boundaries, in that you can try out and let go. Making music and creating connections with it is a special form of happiness for me."

Junokill's debut album "Astropunk" can be listened to and downloaded on popular music platforms.

The professional article "Visibility, Gender and Pop Music. A Theoretical Transfer of Critical Concepts of Visibility and Recognition from Visual and Auditory Culture" has been published in "Samples", the online publication of the Society for Popular Music Research and can be viewed at www.aspm-samples.de.