‘Now that you’ve realized the pride’s arrived / We’ve got to pump the stuff to make us tough […] It’s a start, a work of art / To revolutionize’ raps Chuck D in Public Enemy’s politicized anthem ‘Fight the Power’. It’s a confrontational, unapologetic song that looks to answer government oppression.
The likes of Public Enemy, John Lennon, Pattie Smith and Noel Gallagher have all had their hands in the political cookie jar. I am surprised by the recent press on how Pop is not political anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that there has been a small dip in political music – especially in the popular sphere. Pop music nowadays is more about a breakup of two people than a country.
Nonetheless, music is still political; you just have to look harder. There are subcultures of political music (and there always will be) – checkout Sisteray’s ‘Gentrification’ or any Sleaford Mods’ song. The charts are full of it too. Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are (apparently) feminist spearheads, who ‘shake off’ the patriarchy in disdain. Look at Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar’s recent albums. They are full of political undertones concerning race in America.
I do understand why some musicians (take Ed Sheeran or the band Catfish and the Bottlemen) choose to remain silent, as they feel safe in their little warm bubbles that concern breaking up with girls and getting high. When any sudden exclamation of political leaning is mentioned, the media rally together, writing opinion articles that ‘tut-tut’ and moan in dismay. Gary Barlow’s peculiar love for the Tories or Fat White Family’s outrageous lyrics are prime examples. There’s a sense that musicians feel deterred from being outspoken, thinking that they will be sneered at or maybe believe that it’s not in the consciousness of young people, their listeners. I get that, I do. There is something patronising, almost irritatingly so, when I scroll through my instagram feed and Katy Perry (who’s music isn’t full of political subtexts) pops up and tells me to vote for Hilary Clinton. Sorry Katy I can forge my own opinions without your help thanks. Go away please.
Then last month I changed my mind. I was really disappointed to find out that only 64 per cent of young people had turned out to vote in the EU referendum compared to over 80 per cent of over 65s. Something has to change. We, the people that will have to live with the result of the referendum, obviously feel distant from the political landscape of today. Putting my feelings of being patronised by Katy Perry aside, I feel that music should get political again or more political than it is. Musicians should use their platform to influence young fans to vote, to engage with politics – no excuses. I don’t care about their political views as such. Tory, Labour, Right, Left – whatever. The emphasis needs to be on the importance of having a political voice. Music has the capability to do this. The Sex Pistols ‘God Save the Queen’ is a powerful, communal punk song that is likely to change any raging Royalist’s leaning. The Clash’s ‘Lost in the supermarket’, makes you want to put your middle finger up at capitalism and commercialism. Music is influential. It screams: ‘this is our voice, where’s yours?’
The rising attention on Grime music might be the catalyst to a neo-punk movement, where people my age will feel the need to be politically engaged, to protest against the alienating establishment that looks to us in disregard. In the song, ‘Break in Your House’, Novelist says: ‘Not enough man like me are voting / But man are on the blocks, chatting shit, moaning.’ He has clocked in on this political feeling. So, let the chimes of politics ring out, and disturb Simon & Garfunkel’s sound of silence.
Fight the Power.