Where Are Our New Anthems?

Definitely a protest singer; Peter Tosh

Being first and foremost a musician, I am inclined to wonder how the current economic and political climate will affect the current music scene.

Despite David Cameron’s promise that he wants ‘the people’ to become more involved in Government, we all know that he doesn’t really mean this.  Conservative administrations are notoriously authoritarian and elitist; they lack any form of empathy, compassion or humanity and instead favour profit for themselves and their rich friends at any cost.  Any public involvement might put paid to this.  Needless to say, this type of rule causes people to fight back in any way they can and there is a long tradition of musical excellence under these circumstances.  I have already heard people make reference to this, and to be honest I baulked at it at first because it came across as rather fatuous and high-handed.  It’s kind of like, ‘who cares if loads of people are made unemployed and homeless?  The soundtrack will should be good!’  That didn’t really appeal to me.  Great popular music does seem to be made during times of repression, however.

I am certainly not nominating myself as a spokes-person for the left, but New Labour presented us with a bit of a quandary.  For the large part, none of us were really overjoyed by them, but we had to admit that they were way better than the alternative. This seemed to create a certain amount of inertia and complacency in the left, and this was in some ways evident in the arts.  Who would have thought, for example, that we could become involved in two illegal wars without there being more earth-shattering protest songs about it?  There were plenty of marches admittedly, but where were the rousing protest songs?  The Vietnam War certainly produced enough of them. 

Okay, I admit I’m beginning to sound like an old fart here – I do acknowledge that there is some great underground rap and grime music around at the moment, but the mainstream is rather bland.  And what about the so-called kings of indie like Coldplay and Keane?  I can’t imagine them ever creating a revolutionary anthem, but admittedly they are very middle-class, so maybe it’s unfair to expect them to.  But what of bands like Oasis, who began their success under the Blair administration, and wear their working-class origins on their sleeve?  So far, unfortunately, all they seem to care about is chunky-gold jewellery and Peruvian marching-powder, and it seems their John Lennon fixation hasn’t extended far enough to include writing any anti-war songs or the like, despite the fact that Lennon didn’t let his extreme wealth stop him from releasing ‘Some Time In New York City’ for example; an album packed with tracks like ‘Power To The People’, and so on.  Is Noel Gallagher ever likely to do that?

I imagine, then, that it will be left to up-and-coming artistes to take on the ConDems and all their works, and at this time of centre-politics, someone needs to do it.  The Conservatives, now in Government, are inevitably going to reveal their true colours and become even more right-wing, but I don’t expect Labour to respond by shifting further to the left – they don’t have the courage, unfortunately.  Consequently, it will be left to ordinary people to dissent, and the best way to do this is by singing about it, writing about it, going on marches, making films, doing as much as possible to spread the word.  Popular music has always played a vital role in changing opinions, and it still can.

Therefore, if any new, politicised artistes come onto the music scene, we ought to support them by buying their records, attending their gigs and championing them to everyone we know.  Such artistes have been missing on the mainstream music scene for far too long, and it will be essential in the difficult times that lie before us.  Don’t expect them to resemble the protest singers of the past, though; times have changed, and so have musical genres.  The next anthem may not be sung by someone with an acoustic guitar, it may be very different!


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