Politics in Music: Shut Up and Listen
by J. Andrew Zalucky
There are some people who say you shouldn’t mix politics and music…Well, I think that’s kinda bullshit!
– Adam Clayton, bassist for U2
Conservative writer Laura Ingraham, in her 2003 book Shut Up and Sing, decried the preponderance of “elitism” in the media, including popular music. Of course, what she really meant to criticize were public figures, films, TV Shows, and musicians whose message sought to undermine the traditional populist orthodoxy of American Conservatism. Her title basically makes the assumption that “You’re an artist, you’re not worth listening to when it comes to political and cultural issues! So shut up and be all ‘artistic’ about something else!”
But what else should artists and musicians talk about then?
Certainly the same people who (rightly) attack the vapid stupidity of post-modern pop-culture would not begrudge those artists who actually want to bring some thought and substance into their art? Obviously this could go terribly wrong in another sense, that of the sacrifice of all fun and entertainment for the alienating and pretentious obsession with always “having a message.” And while I don’t share most of Ingraham’s politics, I agree that just because you’re famous (in a large-scale or cult-sense) does not mean you are worth listening to. This goes back to why I have always hated celebrity culture for its deification of public figures, especially those who are simply famous for being famous.
However! There are many talented and intelligent artists who, over the course of rock n’ roll history, have managed to balance style and substance to successfully craft a compelling message through their music. These influential artists and songs will be the focus of our new series, Politics in Music. This series will run through the best in Classic Rock, Punk, Heavy Metal, Hardcore, Industrial, Rap, Ska, and possibly even more genre’s.
So stay tuned! Also- have an artist/song you want us to write about? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org