What’s Bad for America Is Good for Music

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.

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1 Comment

Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Music

One response to “What’s Bad for America Is Good for Music

  1. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen to music now. The last 8 years have given the indie band am in in a lot of material, which I think is pretty good, and while I personally have some hope for the new administration, I think it is going to get much worse before it gets better. When musicians don’t have the financial means to live like they want to, see social injustice, or bad governmental decisions, I guarantee we’ll all hear about it. Whether that music will be good or not so, remains to be seen.

    There is also another issue here. In my opinion, most mainstream bands and artists right now are as about as talented as dryer lint. I mean, put someone like Brittany Spears and then someone like Tony Bennett on a stage with no backing musicians and see who can really sing…

    Don’t get me wrong, there are people out there, many on the outer fringes who are very talented, and are making great music, but the general public is unaware of these artists for the most part. I find great bands on MySpace, iTunes, and Soundclick.com, but outside of a small following, they are generally unknown. I would also offer up that, although I am a little bias, in the alt/hard country scene, great music is very much alive in artists like Jason Boland, Bart Crow, Kyle Bennett, etc. These folks aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. Hell, there are also some interesting tunes coming out of, all places, Nashville, with songs like John Rich’s “Shutting Detroit Down.” That song is pretty indicative of the mood of the country right now. It is, in a way, a protest song, and in my opinion doesn’t suck. Unfortunately, this song is a bad example, as it has more to do with the current situation than whatever the future holds. In any event, I will keep making music and I am always hoping it’s good music…

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