by MATT BACON >
Writing about politics in your music is not really edgy. And if you think it is, you either (A) need to get your head out of your ass or (B) you’re genuinely oppressed. If you’re genuinely oppressed you usually know it, if you just decided you were two years ago, get your head out of your ass.
Now this is a multi-layered thing and is bound to rustle some jimmies.
I also obviously know that one of the inherent issues with saying people shouldn’t get political in their music is y’know, freedom of speech, but I think that that misses a key point. This is about the marketability of your art, that’s what this blog has always been about much more than the artistic side. That being said I think this has significant ties to the artistic side of things and gives you a way to guide your music forward in a way that is legitimately interesting and will get people paying attention to you. I call it the curse of Rage Against The Machine, but the problem has been going on for a long time, and we need to sort this out.
See, the issue I have with people talking about politics in music is manifold.
One of the key things is simply that certain groups of people just really shouldn’t try to talk about politics because its cringy. The two main categories here are rich white people who are upset by the Republican party and young white dudes who think that because they know about the military industrial complex they are ‘edgy’ and ‘woke’. The fact of the matter is that a lot of the opinions espoused by these guys is the same trite bullshit that the politicians you claim to hate because they allowed Donald Trump to win. If that’s not some Barrack Obama community activist shit then I don’t know what is. I get why these people talk about these things – politics are obviously important to everybody, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to have a unique perspective or a perspective that anyone particularly cares about, especially if it’s in line with 70% of Americans general beliefs.
Now I’m not trying to have a gatekeeper complex about this, but just fucking think for a second about how you might be devaluing someone elses experience by try to act like the political problems impacting your life are of the same scale that might be hurting a trans black man in the Bronx. Again – this isn’t saying to not sing about life’s struggles or to not try and focus on what’s wrong with the world, this is very important and has been one of the key driving factors of music for all of time, but try and realize where you fall into this whole thing. Your view of politics is probably not unique to you and when it comes down to it someone has probably expressed those views better than you ever have or will. Again – I know you don’t want to admit that, and it’s hard to accept that a lot of really good music has come that will routinely outdo you, but that’s part of the struggle and part of why you need to y’know, spend time developing yourself.
Of course there are a ton of really good reasons to sing about politics and a lot of people who have really good and interesting opinions about politics. For example, Rage Against The Machine, the band everyone thinks that they can emulate politically were super educated and actually went out and experienced a lot of the struggles. Zach De La Rocha lived in native American communities, even after the band broke so he wouldn’t forget the struggle and wouldn’t forget the streets. Tom Morello, as he is fond of reminding us, went to Harvard. Sure he’s kind of a dick about it, but his way of thinking was so far evolved so many of these other godawful bands who think that because they listened to Bulls On Parade there thinking on mainstream politics is in any way ‘alternative’. Again – people don’t seem to understand that there’s a reason it’s good most folks don’t have a platform, because most folks aren’t as smart as they think they are. I realize the irony of that statement.
Don’t view this article as me trying to swing my dick around and tell you that there is no point in singing about politics but that you need to realize where you fall in terms of the spectrum and what that’s going to mean for your fanbase. If your fanbase is bombarded with political music, as they probably are, then writing yet another song about how folks aren’t happy with how things are right now probably isn’t going to have an impact. What will have an impact though is a song that poignantly talks about some of the basic struggles you face, because that’s what more people are going to wind up relating to and being able to get something out of. That’s ultimately the problem with music, if you’re going over the same boring fucking themes then people don’t care, so think about that for a minute before moving ahead.
So yeah, maybe don’t talk about politics, because the odds are if you think you should write about politics then you shouldn’t. If you feel forced to write about politics then that might make sense, but seriously reevaluate where your life is at. Again – that’s the struggle a lot of people have, they don’t want to just live and let live and understand that their ‘edgy anthem’ really isn’t going to matter. Even if you are a minority it probably doesn’t make sense for you to do something unless you’ve figured your shit out. There is no easier way to be cringy with your music and it turns people off, so get your mind right.