By Oleksandra Levina
It is listened to by almost everyone, while people do not always watch the news or read newspapers. It is difficult to be political and to entertain at the same time. But Jay-Z, Kanye West and Green Day are apparently able to cope with this mission. American Idiot by Green Day is about how bad George Bush was as a president and how much influence media has over the people. These artists prove that music with political context could also be extremely popular. When musicians involve themselves in politics their young fans are getting into it as well.
Lorde included anti-capitalist content in her song Royals where she mocked the wealthy lifestyle portrayed in hip-hop and pop music. Kanye West in his song Power and Kendrick Lamar in To Pimp a Butterfly have politically charged lyrics. And nevertheless, they are two of the most popular musicians.
“Music is an extremely powerful tool of control.”
Kanye West is supposedly going for the 2020 presidential election: “I am concerned about putting our concept of how to do the president’s job in a new way and if no one will do it in that way, I will take a position in 2020 and do it myself”. If a British musician would do such a thing it could be considered inappropriate and hilarious. I believe that Britain is more conservative as a country, thus not every member of a pop industry will do what Madonna, Beyoncé and Kanye West are doing in America. In America pop culture is being
used as a tool of propaganda for the young generation. It has a vast influence over the people in States. Donald Trump winning the Elections is a perfect example. With Internet turning him into a meme, and a major pop culture figure, he gained, even more, popularity than before.
Back in the 70s British musicians showed an intense interest in the political situation in the country. Billy Bragg became politically engaged when Margaret Thatcher was in power and he still keeps his songs political- ly charged. His music combined elements of folk, punk rock and protest songs. Talking With the Taxman About Poetry is one of his most political albums. The Clash was one of the earliest protestors – their first album The Clash was filled with songs campaigning against racial discrimination.
Politically active musicians, such as The Jam and Tom Robinson Band were defining the angry mood of the late 70s in their records. They were campaigning against Margaret Thatcher and the policies she applied in the country. The Clash and other punk rock groups were expressing anti-Thatcher mood in music. British protest music of the 70s gifted people with the ability to speak up about the country’s political problems freely.
In majority, young people rather seem to care about music than politics. Politicians in Britain do not have such a huge influence over the voters. At present mixing politics with art is quite easy, especially if you are a popular and established artist already.
Rita Ora is a top artist in the UK. During the referendum, she engaged her fans to vote in through her social media accounts. Dave Rowntree from Blur has run twice for city council positions and Parliamentary elections. Franz Ferdinand took part in the “30 songs, 30 days” anti-Trump campaign and produced a song called Demagogue. British hip-hop star Tinie Tempah is an active Labour party supporter.
But if pop and rock idols are able to gather thousands of people at their con- certs, they are also able to change the political apathy in the country. During the last general election, some British musicians removed themselves from the politics completely. Keith Flint from The Prodigy re- fused to vote and said that “all politicians are crooks and liars” during his interview for the NME magazine. Faris Badwan from The Horrors expressed his opinion in a more critical way, saying that people do not accomplish anything by voting. His quote caused a range of comments all over the Internet. After that, other contemporary musicians such as Drenge and Caribou have supported his opinion by pushing themselves aside from the politics as well.
Some of the British artists are probably scared that the political views they can include in their music will affect sales and their fame. Because people tend to belong to different political parties, it is also hard for the artists not to lose their audience by producing music linked to one of the parties specifically. As we can see opinions divide. Artists like Rita Ora and Billy Bragg are very concerned about politics. The time of Post-referendum Britain and America run by Trump is a time when musicians should take a stand and allow themselves to engage politically.