May 20, 2008

Our Music Only!

Ambling about the internet, I wandered across a recording of the Barenaked Ladies over at Crooks & Liars. Mentioned is the strange juxtapostion of a pop-heavy group of white kids from Canada playing "Fight the Power".

Many of the replies were either fans or critics of the song, which is fair enough; but a few were violent objections to the very idea that anyone should cover that song that isn't black, poor, or at the very least American.

This is not only stupid, but utterly missing the point of the song.

Granted, these guys aren't the first you think of when the talk turns to rap, but the ideas from Fight the Power carry through:

"No we're not the same
Cause we don't know the game
What we need is awareness, we can't get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved lets get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness"

What do you think that means? It's about awareness as much as it is about creating change. Public Enemy was smart enough to realise that only controled change could be benificial - either you controlled the change that was happening, or someone else would:

"There is chaos under heaven, and the situation is excellent."

Is there some way in which the need for self and political awareness doesn't include white people? Never mind the idea of reverse racism, but how is this going to hurt the ideas that Public Enemy was promoting? Maybe it's just me, but isn't someone who has a completely different audience from your own spreading your ideas a good thing?

To quote:

"Every fan black that I got, was probably his in Exchange
For every white fan that he's got, like damn, we just swapped, sittin' back lookin' at shit, wow,
I'm like my skin is it starting to work to my benefit now!

Outside that, the Barenaked Ladies are a politically aware group, and often do pitch unpopular and/or socialist ideas. The fact that they do it using pop makes it all the more subversive: you can't even hear the wink in "Shopping", their devestating attack on the very idea of "If you love this country, go buy things!"

In short, these guys are not the updated Pat Boone.

Trying to limit musical forms to a single group only limits the form itself. The idea that Jazz is only for blacks is missing at least half the story. Think country music is universally tight-assed conservative? Then you don't know the artists who make up it's past and present. Figure pop is only for the translucent folk? How quickly we forget!


posted by Thursday at 7:51 pm


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