ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : MusicalStuff

Quora Answer : What is everyone's view on politics in music?

Jul 11, 2018

It's a high risk strategy.

Most lyrics are awful anyway.

And trying to say something which is politically profound and serious in the constraints of a pop song is pretty difficult.

So most political songs come out sounding simplistic or trite.

Hip-hop does slightly better because it fits in so many more words into the average track. This gives you more space to make some kind of more subtle political point.

But even there it's hard. And hip-hop today has got itself into a very complicated place. Hip-hop is incredibly formulaic in its subject matter. And so politics is never addressed as a single theme, with an argument taking place over a narrative arc. It comes in the form of stolen asides, glimpses, within the main narrative (which is usually how good, rich and successful the artist is). And in the video which often has far more direct and explicit political images. But again, fragmentary hints rather than developing a full argument.

Ultimately music isn't a good fit for politics.

Quora Answer : Why are political songs so rare in contemporary Top 40 music?

Feb 17, 2014

"Politics" is seen as boring, and something that young people are disengaged with. And the music industry is obsessed (again) with "young people".

It's also seen as divisive. Especially in a country like the US which seems fairly evenly balanced between two large parties. Anyone seeming to appeal to one party (50% of the country) is assumed to be losing the other.

Musicians today may also be warier of writing explicitly political songs, not so much because they're downplaying their opinions, but because it's less possible to be optimistic that political songs will "work" in 2014 than it was in, say, 1974.
(Nixon had to resign because of Watergate. It's not likely that Obama has to resign because of the NSA scandal. So writing songs about it looks a bit hopeless.) Why sing about politics if you actually have no hope that your political song will change anything? If it will just going to become another commodity anyway? Why not treat art as a personal refuge?

The assimilation of hip-hop - which OUGHT to have been the most powerful musical political expression of the dispossessed - to the agenda of glorifying wealth is ASTOUNDING. (See TheWorldOfHipHop / RapConsideredHarmful - Ed) It would surely be hard for anyone in the 1970s to imagine that generations of disadvantaged, racially abused black youths, would spend the majority of their energy and creative genius hymning luxury brands and pretending to be rich rather addressing issues of real concern to their community. When roots are mentioned at all, it's as ties to be transcended and escaped from as much as identity to be proud of.

This collapse of community concerns or social responsibility and shift to focus on individualistic advancement has largely replaced "political consciousness" in popular culture. Popular musicians are not ashamed of greed, self-interest or being seen to whine about jealous hangers-on and "haters". There is no public performance of generosity. Only public performance of pouting self-righteousness.

Perhaps this is political. The personal has become the political but in the ugliest, most dispiriting way possible.

Quora Answer : What deep, common, and philosophical messages does modern music manage to transmit to young people today?

Jun 28, 2020

America is fucked up.

Quite a lot of modern music says that.

So does quite a lot of older pop music as well.

The main difference is that protest music from the 60s was optimistic. Hippies really believed that by calling out America's bad behaviour and foolish leaders, and singing in solidarity with each other, they would make things get better.

The younger generations, more or less since the 90s, have basically given up on that.

They still sing that America (or Britain, or wherever they live) is fucked up.

But they no longer think their music can make a difference, or presume to offer solutions.

We've had 50 years of optimistic, political music having no effect whatsoever.

So today, young people are cynical. They say that America is fucked up. But beyond that they simply sing about personal despair and personal survival.

Either "I had it rough, but look at me now, look at how personally successful I've become". Or "I'm suffering, can't you see how I'm suffering?".

These are both profound messages in their own way. And they should make us all think.

But don't expect young people today to sing "let's all make things better". Because they aren't that naive.

Transcluded from PinkFloydAnimals

Quora Answer : Would you still relate Pink Floyd's "Animals" to today's standards and what the world is like today, with celebs, the rich and the government (pigs), the police and military (dogs), the poor, middle class, and the have-nots (sheep)?

Jul 21, 2019

I find the "politics" of Animals somewhat confused.

It's allegedly based on Animal Farm, but only really takes the idea of "an allegory where animals stand for people" which is an ancient idea, that's been around at least since Aesop.

It doesn't have anything to do with the actual story of Animal Farm which is about how a revolution went wrong. Instead, in Animals, I think we're meant to assume that when the sheep revolt, that's meant to be a "good" thing. Or at least it's the cathartic end to the whole drama. Which is kind of the opposite of what Animal Farm is about.

Obviously, as you say, the basic model of a pyramid of society, with a rich, hypocritically moralizing elite (pigs), a bunch of aggressive defenders of that elite (dogs), and everyone else (sheep) is as true as it ever was. More so, as economic inequality exacerbates (as it has since the 1970s).

I don't think it's a particularly informative allegory though. In particular because today, the defenders of the elite, don't just come in "dog" flavour. There's a more superficially "cerebral" version of it, from the right-wing media, all the alt.right blowhards and "debaters" you find "destroying" the left on YouTube, to data-analysis companies and lobbyists and purveyors of disinformation of all sorts.

The hallmark of the contemporary defence of the elites is not raw violence (though that's available at the end) it's "bamboozlement" ... a FireHosing of fake, or distorted news, lies, conspiracies and rumours and insinuation. "HyperNormalization" as AdamCurtis puts it.

"Dog" doesn't really capture that. Fox or coyote might capture a bit more of that sense of cunning. Though obviously "wormtongue" is Tolkien's good old fashioned Anglo-Saxonish name.

Compared to Animal Farm which is subtle and dispiriting. And the contemporary political scene, which is overwhelmingly terrifying. Animals is pretty much naively "optimistic". Or at least naively "moralistic". The Dog wastes his life defending the elites but at least learns the error of his ways / gets his comeuppance at the end. The Sheep do revolt. And the Pigs are called out and subjected to ridicule.

I tend to believe that most political art isn't very good (either as art or politics) because the requirements of art and of politics pull in two different directions. (Art, for example, requires ambiguity and politics requires clarity.) And Animals is no exception.

But I've recently started to really like it. As music and song-writing. Much more than either Wish You Were Here or The Wall. 70s rock isn't really my genre, but I'll throw (particularly) Dogs or Sheep into a playlist surprisingly often.

Is that because of its political resonance today? I hadn't really thought of that, but I guess it might be.