As we step into 2024, the question of whether politics belongs in music remains as pertinent as ever. Music, an art form that transcends boundaries and speaks the universal language of emotion, has often been a vessel for political expression. From the soul-stirring melodies of folk to the rebellious chords of punk, music has not just mirrored but also shaped societal narratives.
But in a society more bitterly divided than ever with people clinging to the extreme ends of the political spectrum with increasingly partisan views, is it the right move for your music career to be candid with your political beliefs? No one can answer that question for you. Each artist has their own agenda. But with the considerations outlined below, you will hopefully see that societal regression is an inevitable symptom of inhibition of expression.
There is certainly an argument that music should be an escape from the dystopia that is closing in around us, but if you are biting your lyrical tongue to appease as many people as possible, it may be time to bite the political bullet and start to speak for the marginalised and voiceless.
The Role of Artists in Challenging Oppressive Structures
History is replete with artists who have used their platform to challenge oppressive political structures. Their music becomes a rallying cry, a beacon of hope and solidarity. In oppressive regimes, where voices are stifled, music becomes the unquenchable flame of resistance. It’s not just about creating art; it’s about creating change.
If you are an independent artist, you may not be able to start a revolution with your next single, but the ripple effect of liberating music can at least spark some resistance.
Authenticity vs. Appeasement: The Cost of Political Expression
Incorporating politics in music can be a double-edged sword. Artists risk alienating fans whose beliefs diverge from the message conveyed. However, the pursuit of universal appeasement often leads to bland, meaningless art. True artistic expression demands authenticity, even at the cost of popularity. It’s a testament to the artist’s integrity, choosing significance over safety.
In the digital era of music when music can feel like a popularity contest with the focus on how many listeners tune into your music on Spotify monthly and you get booked for gigs based on your Instagram followers, anything that threatens to diminish your follower count is enough to strike fear, but if you want to spend your entire career pussyfooting around the people who want to sedately suck the cocks of GB News presenters before parroting ‘go woke, go broke’ at anyone with a conscience and a voice, go ahead.
There is always the risk of facing the same backlash which saw the Dixie Chicks fall from grace in 2003 when Natalie Maines commented on the US invasion of Iraq, which saw radio stations boycotting their music and sponsors boycotting them. Yet, if you’re so inclined to be a populist, you may as well have moved into politics instead of the music industry.
The Revolutionary Echoes of Genre Pioneers
The annals of music history are marked by pioneers who were brave enough to carry the torch of political expression. Hip-hop became a catalyst for collective resistance. Rock became a rallying cry against economic stagnation. Punk became a rejection of fascism.
These genres have always been more than just music; they’ve been movements, challenging norms and igniting societal change. Their creators weren’t just musicians. They were revolutionaries whose notes were as potent as any speech.
Culture propels matters into public discourse, prompting us to reconsider our perspectives on the world. Pivotal cultural events often lay the groundwork for shifts in politics and policy-making.
The Sleaford Mods Controversy: A Reflection of Expectations
If you are thinking that silence on key issues is the key to success, the recent controversy surrounding Sleaford Mods, who faced backlash for not expressing their views on Palestine, underscores a critical aspect of music and politics. It highlights the expectations placed on artists to use their platform for political discourse.
This incident, which saw Sleaford Mods storm off stage after a Palestinian flag was thrown at their feet, reflects the evolving relationship between artists, their art, and their audience in the realm of political expression.
The Irony of Political Ignorance
Remember how in 2020 it only just dawned on some music fans that Rage Against the Machine is a political band? Well, there’s been an even more absurd instance of music fans being politically tone-deaf. When Green Day played their 2004 hit, American Idiot, during an NYE show on ABC and changed the lyrics to “I’m not a part of the MAGA agenda”, people were shocked at the twist to the single that has ALWAYS been underpinned by political angst.
Both of these instances are stark reminders of how music can be consumed without comprehending its deeper messages. Are these the kinds of mind-numbed fans you want to appease by refraining from including political messages in your music? The kinds of people who love to hate far more than they love to adore? The kinds of people who look for any hint that the world is descending into ‘woke madness’ because you don’t share their views? The people who throw the oppressed under the bus because they can’t come to terms with the real reasons behind their shortcomings so they foam at the mouths like pedant toddlers screeching because they’re not being pandered to by everyone, all of the time?
Conclusion: The Inextricable Link Between Music and Politics
In conclusion, the question isn’t whether politics belongs in music in 2024, but rather how it manifests. Music has always been a reflection of the times, a voice for the voiceless, and a tool for change. As long as there are stories to be told and injustices to be challenged, politics will find its rhythm in the heart of music. The true essence of music lies in its ability to speak truth to power, to challenge, and to inspire.
If you have a political or a protestive track you would like to promote, submit music to our indie music blog for a review or use our artist interview service to give your fans and our readers an inside view into the inspiration behind your latest release.
Article by Amelia Vandergast