Where have all the mu­si­cal cam­paign­ers gone?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

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

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