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Popular music may be ephemeral and superficial but its almost essential transience and insignificance serve as useful barometers of the here and the now, or knowledge of the present. The reviled reflection thesis – that popular-cultural products “reflect” larger society – has cast a long shadow on the social study of the arts and culture. However much social scientists seek to show the salience of production or the relative autonomy of art worlds, the causal primacy of the social or political economy remains robust. I suggest reversing the received perspective and procedure.