Where have all the musical campaigners gone?
Would you buy a political slogan from a pop singer? There have always been musicians who have used their platform and oodles of soft power for causes. Be it Bob Dylan or Gil ScottHeron, the past is full of acts who’ve made the full use of their position to advocate and agitate or simply express their views on the world around them.
But that was then. Today’s pop classes and campaigns make for somewhat less comfortable bedfellows. Of course, there are many musicians who still have the very best of intentions in this regard. Chris Martin’s support for Oxfam or Radiohead campaigning against human trafficking have ensured attention and profile for worthy causes.
However, many music fans have become a little circumspect about pop stars as campaigners. We’ve become suspicious about where our charity donations actually go and would like to know if it does any good or merely pays inflated wages.
Then, there’s the hypocrisy of pop stars saying one thing and doing something completely different in their own business lives. U2 can say all they want about their tax arrangements, but their utterances don’t matter to the narrative – and thus, the issue shadows any altruistic work by individual band members.
But campaigning doesn’t always have to mean shaking a tin can for a cause. Where are the local acts commenting on or critiquing what this country has been through in the last few years, for example? Or has this been just delegated to Damien Dempsey or Christy Moore?
Songs addressing or reflecting on how this country lost the ecomomic run of itself from high profile acts are few and far between. There are exceptions but the fact that you have to think hard to come up with the names speaks volumes.
Perhaps, sadly, the days of acts using their platforms to show that they’re part of the real world are over.
Dylan: now he knew how to agitate