You can’t fight the power of the Pub­lic En­emy-par­a­lympics vid

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - OPINION -

CAN PUB­LIC EN­EMY save the Olympics? As the com­mer­cial takeover by sports-shoe man­u­fac­tur­ers and mak­ers of su­gar-laden drinks gets un­der­way to­day, one un­likely and highly sur­pris­ing bene­fac­tor of the “great­est sport­ing show on earth” is a heav­ily politi­cised New York rap group who formed all of 30 years ago.

It’s all to do with the Lon­don 2012 Par­a­lympics, which be­gin on Au­gust 29th. Chan­nel 4 (of­fi­cial broad­caster of the event) de­cided, with Pub­lic En­emy’s help, to do some­thing about the des­per­ately low pro­file of the event, which is marginalised and typ­i­cally pa­tro­n­ised by the main­stream me­dia.

To this end Chan­nel 4 has just launched one of its big­gest-ever mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, with the pre­miere this week of its breath­tak­ing video, Meet the Su­per­hu­mans, across 78 tele­vi­sion chan­nels. The mu­sic in the video is Pub­lic En­emy’s Harder Than You Think – not one of their best-known tracks but eas­ily one of their best.

You re­ally have to press pause here and go over to your lo­cal, friendly, video-shar­ing site to take in the sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence that is Meet the Su­per­hu­mans. It’s just one-and-a-half min­utes long but al­ready it’s be­ing la­belled the best mu­sic/sports video of all time thanks to the mesh­ing to­gether of the po­tent and pen­e­tra­tive Pub­lic En­emy track and the vi­su­als of the Par­a­lympic ath­letes in ac­tion.

An in­stant vi­ral hit, the video be­gins with the sil­hou­ette of a Par­a­lympic swim­mer ap­proach­ing the cam­era as the song’s elec­tric gui­tar rhythms be­gin. Later, the song’s dis­tinc­tive bassline is mixed with a bomb ex­plod­ing as two sol­diers are thrown back by the force of the blast. As the track

rum­bles on there is footage of a car over­turn­ing on a mo­tor­way and a preg­nant woman be­ing shown an ul­tra­sound of her baby.

It is these back­sto­ries about how peo­ple be­came Par­a­lympians that chime with a song from the band’s 2007 al­bum, How You Sell Soul to a Soul­less Peo­ple Who Sold Their Soul???, a re­cur­ring theme of which is how we need to look be­yond main­stream im­ages to dis­cover the real truth.

Whether it’s the Par­a­lympian rugby player do­ing chin-ups as Chuck D bel­lows out the words, or the bits where the song’s key lyric, “Thank you for let­ting us be our­selves”, hits in to dra­matic ef­fect, this is one of those rare mo­ments where you can thrill to the sheer vis­ceral power of mu­sic.

“It’s time to do bat­tle. Meet the su­per­hu­mans,” is the clos­ing line as the song fades out. Pub­lic En­emy have never made so much sense.

The un­prece­dented amount of in­ter­est in the clip is now spilling over into pur­chases of the track it­self and a re­newed in­ter­est in Pub­lic En­emy’s work. At a time when most of the big hip-hop stars seem­ingly view their mu­si­cal out­put as just part of a busi­ness port­fo­lio to be filed along­side their fash­ion line, Pub­lic En­emy (a band not with­out con­tro­versy due to the na­ture of some of their pub­lic com­ments) of­fer a wel­come re­minder of how mu­sic can be im­bued with all man­ner of com­men­tary and not just act as a back­drop for a Vogue fash­ion shoot

It would be a very good thing if peo­ple down­load the song (it costs 99 cent on iTunes) and put it right up at the top of the charts over the com­ing weeks. Mu­sic can say some­thing and it can mean some­thing when used as art­fully as this. Be­lieve all the hype about Meet the Su­per­hu­mans.

Pub­lic En­emy cel­e­brates the power of Par­a­lympians

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