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"No one has ever been as sublimely uncomfortable about being a pop star," says Hopps, describing Morrissey, the lead singer of the 1980s band, the Smiths, who went on to a successful solo career in the following decade. But Hopps wants to argue that his hero is more than just a pop star: he's "a radical subversion of the traditional values of pop music" who restored the genre's ability to give voice to dysfunction and alienation. The argument veers from the defensive to the impenetrably academic; the lyrics of one song, for example, are described as "an unshackling of the referential function of language," while another is "an urban parody of the Liebestod of Tristan and Isolde." It's not that Morrissey can't be compared, as he is here, to the likes of Oscar Wilde, Ronald Firbank and Christina Rossetti-or, perhaps most extensively, Samuel Beckett. As a singer and a songwriter, he is by just about any standard a significant artist. But Hopps's enthusiastic appraisal is at times so overwrought that it almost feels as if he's trying to convince himself as much as his academic colleagues of the validity of pursuing a thesis that is not nearly as provocative as it hopes to be. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.