Nothing Has Been Done Before

Nothing Has Been Done Before: Seeking the New in 21st Century American Popular Music is a book of music criticism written by Robert Loss and published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2017. It attempts to drum up a fresh debate about newness in American pop, rock ‘n’ roll, rap, folk, and R&B made since the turn of the millennium. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach that combines music criticism, philosophy, and the literary essay, Robert Loss follows the stories of a diverse cast of musicians who seek the new by wrestling with the past, navigating the market, and speaking politically. The book does not forecast trends. It does not proclaim this or that genre, scene, or band to be new. Instead, it rethinks how we determine newness in popular music and leaves the rest of the decision-making up to you.

For more information about the book and to access learning resources, use the menu above.

Nothing Has Been Done Before is the second book in the “Alternate Takes” series published by Bloomsbury Academic. The series “aims to examine popular music from critical perspectives that challenge the accepted ways of thinking about popular music in areas such as popular music history, popular music analysis, the music industry, and the popular music canon.” For more information, go here.


PopMatters (Feb. 26 2018)

Mention in Publishers Weekly (Sept. 8 2017)

“Robert Loss’s writing is characterized by unstoppable historical curiosity, true storytelling, and the unusual combination of intellectual ambition and modesty–all qualities that play out with incisive strength in Nothing Has Been Done Before.”

Greil Marcus, author of Lipstick Traces, Mystery Train, and The Old, Weird America

 “The ever prized prospect of the ‘new’ excites and nourishes the commercial music industry as much as it does the desire of musicians to shape their own space within its leaky borders. In Nothing Has Been Done Before, Robert Loss cuts an idiosyncratic path through late 20th and 21st century popular music, tipping his hat to the renowned and the obscure along the way. Wearing his musical proclivities and political beliefs on his sleeve, Loss visits amongst others the familiar subjects of race, gender, protest song, and the role of technology to frame his hunt for the elusive signs of newness in popular music. His witty, characterful, and occasionally provocative style simultaneously draws you into the conversation of newness and invites critical response.” —Jack Harbord, Senior Lecturer, Leeds College of Music, UK

“Utterly original and erudite, Loss has written a book for music lovers that will inspire and instigate in equal measure.” —Ed Whitelock, co-author of Apocalypse Jukebox: The End of the World in American Popular Music

Related Interviews and Essays

Recent interview about the book (2022)

33 1/3 Sound guest blog about NHBDB (2017) Multiple entries, follow links at bottom of pages