Is Barack Obama’s presidency going to ruin music? MSNBC.com’s Tony Sciafani fears that it is. Exhibit A: The rise of Lady Gaga (see above video) on the pop chart. Looking back over 50 years of pop history, Sciafani finds a correlation between periods of American prosperity/security and the popularity of substance-free, hedonistic dance pop. Similarly, he finds correlation between periods of American turmoil and the popularity of thoughtful, political pop. (Interesting that these weak-America-but-strong-tunes periods all correspond with Republican presidencies, with the glaring exception of Lyndon Johnson’s administration at the height of the ’60s protest-rock era.) With a Democrat in the White House, Sciafani worries that we’re going to have a dearth of meaningful music.
Setting aside the article’s assumptions that dance music is necessarily apolitical, or that only protest music has any value, or that hip-hop doesn’t exist (and isn’t full of complex political tunes as well as hedonistic club jams, no matter who’s president), I don’t share Sciafani’s fear. I’m glad Obama is president, but things are going to get worse before they get better, so there will be plenty for thoughtful musicians to complain about. And some of us may even welcome the opportunity to forget those troubles by listening to mindless dance pop.