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Old 14-07-2010, 09:48 AM   #1
decode reality
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Cool Pitfalls of being 'A Political Artist'

I believe it's important for there to be artists out there putting certain social-political issues into their songs. How much effect they actually have is debatable; in the UK their impact is often negligible. At the very most (or least), they provide an alternative entertainment for people who want something more than 'pop clichés'.

Whilst there's an audience out there who wants this alternative, there is also a downside. The politics start to overshadow the music. If you position yourself as a 'political artist' to use a broad term (that includes 'anti new world order artists') then it immediately creates a wall, preventing those who aren't of that mindset from tuning in. So you end up preaching to the converted, who then expect you to ONLY write music that features all the pet slogans and symbols of the movement. For the artist to do otherwise risks the possibility of them being branded as 'sell outs', even 'shills'.

Every artist does not need to be 'trying to awake people to the new world order'. Arguably, that term 'new world order' is a vague one with multifarious and often conflicting meanings. Certain artists don't even need words anyway because their whole artistic being represents uniqueness, nonconformity and most importantly, they sound beautifully themselves. Imagine of Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk were alive today and someone said to them "wear a 911 was an inside job t-shirt to wake people up". Talk about not getting it.

Here is a 10 minute clip from a video that covers Paul Weller's career. In the 80s, he and many other artists made the mistake of aligning themselves with the Labour/anti-Thatcher Red Wedge movement. Most relevant bits to this post are at 4:20 onwards

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Old 14-07-2010, 03:46 PM   #2
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Good questions! When I saw Peter Gabriel in Toronto back in '03 (I think) on his Growing Up tour he made a rather stunning comment. he denounced America's "imperial ambitions and wars of conquest..." this comment invoked "yays!!, booooo's, and WTF's!?!"

I used to be a member of the PG Forums; The Full Moon Club. I got flamed by other memebers for getting "political" on the forums. Despite the fact that I was posting in "General Section - Anything and Everything Peter Gabriel." I reminded his audience that there is more to PG than his music and any "fan" of his should be aware of his involvement in Witness and other human rights causes. Some told me, "look...we come here to get away from that stuff!"

I reminded them that it was Peter's comments in Toronto that motivated me to post them and invite discussion on America's "imperial ambitions."

It's a tough one Imani. So stay true to yourself!
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Old 14-07-2010, 06:39 PM   #3
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Good questions! When I saw Peter Gabriel in Toronto back in '03 (I think) on his Growing Up tour he made a rather stunning comment. he denounced America's "imperial ambitions and wars of conquest..." this comment invoked "yays!!, booooo's, and WTF's!?!"

I used to be a member of the PG Forums; The Full Moon Club. I got flamed by other memebers for getting "political" on the forums. Despite the fact that I was posting in "General Section - Anything and Everything Peter Gabriel." I reminded his audience that there is more to PG than his music and any "fan" of his should be aware of his involvement in Witness and other human rights causes. Some told me, "look...we come here to get away from that stuff!"

I reminded them that it was Peter's comments in Toronto that motivated me to post them and invite discussion on America's "imperial ambitions."

It's a tough one Imani. So stay true to yourself!
Classic example, Michael. I've found this with the fanbase of most if not all 'political bands'. It's not that the majority have no interest in the politics of the artist but essentially, they're coming to gigs and buying records to be entertained. This is the reality, the audience want to be rocked. That doesn't mean that they won't have some resonance and empathy with the political stance but they aren't seeking enlightenment through the songs.

Although at times it beggars belief when people are listening to the songs but at the same time, they 'want to get away from that stuff'!
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Old 14-07-2010, 09:26 PM   #4
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Well music is not the words but how it all binds together. As you can probably easily see is that if one leaves the thing that binds it together to one side you become a corporate character whatever the role it is. Music doesn't need an explanation like any policy does. It delivers it completely and correctly. We see those that give genre names to music the same as "political" musicians. It's like saying "North European Spirit". It doesn't quite mix since music itself is that which holds politics together.

That's also why ""look...we come here to get away from that stuff!". It is like saying to someone who is lying in a Hammock "You've got to do this right now.(!)".

As some one said "you can only make music when you are in the forth state. Everything else is bleating".
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Old 15-07-2010, 08:21 AM   #5
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Well music is not the words but how it all binds together. As you can probably easily see is that if one leaves the thing that binds it together to one side you become a corporate character whatever the role it is. Music doesn't need an explanation like any policy does. It delivers it completely and correctly. We see those that give genre names to music the same as "political" musicians. It's like saying "North European Spirit". It doesn't quite mix since music itself is that which holds politics together.

That's also why ""look...we come here to get away from that stuff!". It is like saying to someone who is lying in a Hammock "You've got to do this right now.(!)".

As some one said "you can only make music when you are in the forth state. Everything else is bleating".
The music, the sound itself, does the talking, I hear you. People are attracted to certain songwriters for different reasons. They may or may not buy into the song's messages or the personal political stance of their favourite artists.

As a band, I think U2 are great, they do the business on stage. I can appreciate that aspect of them without being into Bono's political leanings.

But that brings something else up: I've always thought it a paradox that lots of 'awakened' people are anti-celebrity but at the same time want celebrities to speak out and wake up the masses. Wouldn't it be better if the 'anti' people DID IT THEMSELVES rather than waiting for a messiah from Hollywood or Polygram to do it for them?
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Old 06-11-2010, 02:56 AM   #6
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The music, the sound itself, does the talking, I hear you. People are attracted to certain songwriters for different reasons. They may or may not buy into the song's messages or the personal political stance of their favourite artists.

As a band, I think U2 are great, they do the business on stage. I can appreciate that aspect of them without being into Bono's political leanings.

But that brings something else up: I've always thought it a paradox that lots of 'awakened' people are anti-celebrity but at the same time want celebrities to speak out and wake up the masses. Wouldn't it be better if the 'anti' people DID IT THEMSELVES rather than waiting for a messiah from Hollywood or Polygram to do it for them?
I think artists really just need to express themselves, whatever that is. As a musician that could take the form of a political song, a love song or whatever...but I think it would be wrong to suppress whatever you're going through and want to 'let out' for fear of being too political etc...it's more important to be true to the dictat of your spirit than any commercial or outer force.

I personally have found that the only way I could open my real creativity was by totally abondoning the idea of outward pressure. I do it only for myself and if other people like it, great. If not, no problem. Curiously people do like my stuff much more now that I dont care what they think! Typical but obvious that should happen really...

My only problem with political music is that there isn't any! Talk about a conspiracy, the record industry is classic. Try and name one highly conscious, either politically or in a universal sense, artist in the mainstream of music...obviously there's a few older artists, but no young ones really. You know I would just love someone of the magnitude of John Lennon to be alive today...imagine (!) where his consciousness would be by now...wow!
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Old 06-11-2010, 06:42 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by thegatherer View Post
I think artists really just need to express themselves, whatever that is. As a musician that could take the form of a political song, a love song or whatever...but I think it would be wrong to suppress whatever you're going through and want to 'let out' for fear of being too political etc...it's more important to be true to the dictat of your spirit than any commercial or outer force.

I personally have found that the only way I could open my real creativity was by totally abondoning the idea of outward pressure. I do it only for myself and if other people like it, great. If not, no problem. Curiously people do like my stuff much more now that I dont care what they think! Typical but obvious that should happen really...

My only problem with political music is that there isn't any! Talk about a conspiracy, the record industry is classic. Try and name one highly conscious, either politically or in a universal sense, artist in the mainstream of music...obviously there's a few older artists, but no young ones really. You know I would just love someone of the magnitude of John Lennon to be alive today...imagine (!) where his consciousness would be by now...wow!
It's really interesting that once you start to make music without thinking about "Will the public like it? Is it commercial enough?", you appeal to even more people? At the same time, what an artist looks for is a crowd enjoying their performance at a gig or someone responding favourably to something you've recorded.

At the same time, check out this clip from a Miles Davis documentary, from 1.45 onwards. The singer Mtume (who used to play percussion with Miles) speaks about a gig where the crowd response was anything BUT favourable. Very enlightening!
Back to the political issue. The last time that mainstream bands in the UK were putting forward a political agenda I'd say was 2 tone. Red Wedge? I have reservations about it, for the reasons given in my first post. There definitely isn't enough music out there that gets people thinking and that can't be an accident. Yet it's always been the case.

It's funny how Bob Marley had all these chart hits with Three Little Birds, One Love and Waiting In Vain. Not throwaway by any stretch of the imagination, yet not his heaviest songs either. As I remember, he didn't really need chart hits at all, he was selling out massive venues when he only had a couple of top thirty songs under his belt. He could have carried on being really political and been successful because there was so much quality and entertainment value in his work on record and in concert.

Would like to hear some of your work, btw.
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Old 09-11-2010, 01:58 AM   #8
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It's really interesting that once you start to make music without thinking about "Will the public like it? Is it commercial enough?", you appeal to even more people? At the same time, what an artist looks for is a crowd enjoying their performance at a gig or someone responding favourably to something you've recorded.

At the same time, check out this clip from a Miles Davis documentary, from 1.45 onwards. The singer Mtume (who used to play percussion with Miles) speaks about a gig where the crowd response was anything BUT favourable. Very enlightening! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5T3u1RQlL8

Back to the political issue. The last time that mainstream bands in the UK were putting forward a political agenda I'd say was 2 tone. Red Wedge? I have reservations about it, for the reasons given in my first post. There definitely isn't enough music out there that gets people thinking and that can't be an accident. Yet it's always been the case.

It's funny how Bob Marley had all these chart hits with Three Little Birds, One Love and Waiting In Vain. Not throwaway by any stretch of the imagination, yet not his heaviest songs either. As I remember, he didn't really need chart hits at all, he was selling out massive venues when he only had a couple of top thirty songs under his belt. He could have carried on being really political and been successful because there was so much quality and entertainment value in his work on record and in concert.

Would like to hear some of your work, btw.
Re: the red wedge thing, I think Paul Weller himself summed it up very well when he said he wished they had stayed outside of 'party' politics and just stuck to their own thing. It was a mistake he made at the time, and in the 80's it was harder to see through the party political 'two-sides of the same coin' masquerade. I was buying all that shit big time in the 80's myself I'll admit it.
As for Bob, I think he just had that romantic side to him too and he wasn't all politics, consciousness etc. Anyway, love and consciousness go hand in hand. One love is a conscious song that goes beyond anywhere you could go by talking politics...
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Old 09-11-2010, 06:24 AM   #9
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Re: the red wedge thing, I think Paul Weller himself summed it up very well when he said he wished they had stayed outside of 'party' politics and just stuck to their own thing. It was a mistake he made at the time, and in the 80's it was harder to see through the party political 'two-sides of the same coin' masquerade. I was buying all that shit big time in the 80's myself I'll admit it.
As for Bob, I think he just had that romantic side to him too and he wasn't all politics, consciousness etc. Anyway, love and consciousness go hand in hand. One love is a conscious song that goes beyond anywhere you could go by talking politics...
Good points

It wasn't difficult to have left wing leanings in the 80s, or at least be against the Tories, with Thatcher in power. Again, we didn't know they were both the same thing. Politicians the world over are extremely shrewd at aligning themselves with celebrities, whether they're musicians or actors. You'd think we'd have seen through the façade but look at Obama two years ago.

Good point about Bob. His life wasn't always on the battlefield and he reflected that in his work. I don't think polemics and militancy in music works all the time. There might be instances that call for that approach but there's a danger that it can become predictable. I discussed this with a friend of mine who's a psychotherapist...she said to me that if you "shout" a lot, on a psychological level it can actually convey more that you're afraid than anything else. Hmm, intriguing!
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Old 09-11-2010, 02:16 PM   #10
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Good points

It wasn't difficult to have left wing leanings in the 80s, or at least be against the Tories, with Thatcher in power. Again, we didn't know they were both the same thing. Politicians the world over are extremely shrewd at aligning themselves with celebrities, whether they're musicians or actors. You'd think we'd have seen through the façade but look at Obama two years ago.

Good point about Bob. His life wasn't always on the battlefield and he reflected that in his work. I don't think polemics and militancy in music works all the time. There might be instances that call for that approach but there's a danger that it can become predictable. I discussed this with a friend of mine who's a psychotherapist...she said to me that if you "shout" a lot, on a psychological level it can actually convey more that you're afraid than anything else. Hmm, intriguing!
Socialsim has been quite clever at making itself seem to be representative of the people...and I'm sure a lot of people still believe that . I think though if you look at history in reality the elites have just used this idea of a 'popular uprising' etc to remove other elites they didn't like...while never giving the people any say in the regime that comes next either! Meet the new boss, same as the old boss! We dont get fooled again!

As for too much militancy in music, yeah it's too much! If you look at say Exodus by Bob Marley (one of thegreat albums of all time) it probably had 4 out of 10 songs that were (loosely) political and the rest were love and consciousness. Even the four 'political' songs had more to them than just shouting for change...they had a kind of teaching vibe too I think...which goes back to consciousness again really I would say.

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Old 09-11-2010, 05:33 PM   #11
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Socialsim has been quite clever at making itself seem to be representative of the people...and I'm sure a lot of people still believe that . I think though if you look at history in reality the elites have just used this idea of a 'popular uprising' etc to remove other elites they didn't like...while never giving the people any say in the regime that comes next either! Meet the new boss, same as the old boss! We dont get fooled again!

As for too much militancy in music, yeah it's too much! If you look at say Exodus by Bob Marley (one of thegreat albums of all time) it probably had 4 out of 10 songs that were (loosely) political and the rest were love and consciousness. Even the four 'political' songs had more to them than just shouting for change...they had a kind of teaching vibe too I think...which goes back to consciousness again really I would say.
And because we're kept ignorant of history, we don't see the pattern and break the cycle.

A lot of Bob's stuff was really folk wisdom and had a Biblical parable side. So he was able to apply those things to the political situation but managed to be universal. Exodus is a great album and manages to cover all bases.
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:37 PM   #12
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And because we're kept ignorant of history, we don't see the pattern and break the cycle.

A lot of Bob's stuff was really folk wisdom and had a Biblical parable side. So he was able to apply those things to the political situation but managed to be universal.
Ig-norant of the history,
Full to the brim of shitstory!
That's all you need, to hypnotise the masses.
Da-da-da-da-da-da-da....

Yes his political stuff did manage to be universal...I was trying to say that but you did it better.
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Old 18-01-2011, 06:29 AM   #13
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Shamelessly bumping this topic for anyone who didn't see it and wishes to join the conversation.
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Old 18-01-2011, 08:34 AM   #14
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Pitfalls of being 'A Political Artist'....The Limits of Conspiracy Research.

Hmm, i can see a theme developing here

Maybe I should re-name myself 'The Dissenter'?
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Old 18-01-2011, 09:51 AM   #15
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Here is a 10 minute clip from a video that covers Paul Weller's career. In the 80s, he and many other artists made the mistake of aligning themselves with the Labour/anti-Thatcher Red Wedge movement. Most relevant bits to this post are at 4:20 onwards

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mkyl4...eature=related

Here's the clip, it's not in the opening post.
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Old 19-01-2011, 01:06 AM   #16
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bump
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Old 19-01-2011, 02:56 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by thegatherer View Post
I think artists really just need to express themselves, whatever that is. As a musician that could take the form of a political song, a love song or whatever...but I think it would be wrong to suppress whatever you're going through and want to 'let out' for fear of being too political etc...it's more important to be true to the dictat of your spirit than any commercial or outer force.

I personally have found that the only way I could open my real creativity was by totally abondoning the idea of outward pressure. I do it only for myself and if other people like it, great. If not, no problem. Curiously people do like my stuff much more now that I dont care what they think! Typical but obvious that should happen really...

My only problem with political music is that there isn't any! Talk about a conspiracy, the record industry is classic. Try and name one highly conscious, either politically or in a universal sense, artist in the mainstream of music...obviously there's a few older artists, but no young ones really. You know I would just love someone of the magnitude of John Lennon to be alive today...imagine (!) where his consciousness would be by now...wow!
I think that we want/expect SO MUCH to see political messages in pop songs, that we start to interpret bland meaningless lyrics as having a political message. I think that this is probably done on purpose (ie the record companies like very much IMO to put out meaningless songs eg "I am the walrus", and we think that it has a hidden meaning, and the mainstream media like to hype it up so that we DO BELIEVE there to be a message when in fact there isnt one*). Anyway, we end up being happy cos we BELIEVE that pop songs have political messages, when in reality, those types of songs are repressed (or whatever the word is), and never see the light of day.

*I hope that I am right that "I am the walrus" doesnt have a message, I chose that song off the top of me head

Great thread btw guys

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Old 19-01-2011, 03:02 PM   #18
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A song can be pretty much an instrumental, but if you just put a hint in the song that it's say about freedom, then the whole feel of the song changes eg. Sunchyme by Dario G. If you were to add one word (eg Freedom) to that song, imagine the power it would give to the song! In other words you wouldnt have to be seen as a dissenter for you to be able to put across messages/vibes to the people who listen to your music :-


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Old 19-01-2011, 03:35 PM   #19
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Here's the clip, it's not in the opening post.
I wonder what Billy Bragg thinks about Red Wedge now. I dont trust Bragg, so I would be interested in what he has to say now.

It's also interesting how that fellar from the record company had a dad who worked for the CIA - That is NOT surprising.
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Old 20-01-2011, 01:48 AM   #20
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*I hope that I am right that "I am the walrus" doesnt have a message, I chose that song off the top of me head
Er, are you kidding???
I take it you never saw the Paul McCartney Is Dead arguments/thread.
("I Am The Walrus" is John singing about the real Paul - allegedly)

The very best songwriters are political.
You can't live in a vacuum and write the very best songs.
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