Major Labels

A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres

Kelefa Sanneh

Over the past half century, many musicians and listeners have belonged to tribes. What’s wrong with that?
Major Labels by Kelefa Sanneh (Paperback ISBN 9781838855949) book cover

Available as Paperback, Hardback, eBook, Downloadable audio

A comprehensive and celebratory journey through the history of popular music, from the former New York Times music critic

From his allegiance to punk rock in his adolescence to becoming an essential voice on music and culture, Kelefa Sanneh makes a deep study of how popular music unites and divides us. Distilling a career’s worth of knowledge, he explores the tribes music forms, and how its genres, shape-shifting across the years, give us a way to track larger forces and concerns.

This is a book to shock and awe the deepest music nerd, and at the same time to work as a heady gateway drug for the uninitiated.

“The most elegant history of popular music ever written … Sanneh not only delivers a coolly dazzling overview of the battlefields of genre but also revels open-heartedly in the music itself, his taste unbound by dogma or prejudice. The operative word is keen: zealous in spirit, exact in execution, ferociously acute from the first sentence to the last”
Alex Ross
author Of The Rest Is Noise

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“Kelefa Sanneh has achieved the impossible. Major Labels somehow manages to unspool everything you need to know about 50 years of music, but more impressively, he makes you care about all of it. Even the stuff you don’t care about. It’s funny, it’s personal, and as a piece of writing the book borders on poetry”
David Letterman

“An intellectually rigorous retelling of rock and pop history”
the Times, Best Books Of The Year

“The most wide-ranging music book of the year … elegantly written”
herald, Music Books Of The Year

“Intriguing, controversial, personal … a unique and absorbing read”

Kelefa Sanneh

Kelefa Sanneh has been a New Yorker staff writer since 2008, when he left his position at the New York Times, where he had been the pop-music critic since 2002. Previously, he was the deputy editor of Transition, a journal of race and culture based at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University. His writing has also appeared in a number of magazines and a handful of books, including Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z, a Library of America Special Publication, and Da Capo Best Music Writing (2002, 2005, 2007 and 2011).