Saturday, November 25, 2017

The State of Music

I want to ask my readers their thoughts on a recent Guardian editorial on Taylor Swift. Unfortunately the editorial does not take up musical questions or even publicity or promotion, but focuses on, well, not Taylor Swift's politics, but instead her lack of politics! Let's have a look at the essay titled "The Guardian view on Taylor Swift: an envoy for Trump’s values?"
In the year since Donald Trump was elected, the entertainment world has been largely united in its disdain for his presidency. But a notable voice has been missing from the chorus: that of Taylor Swift, the world’s biggest pop star. Her silence is striking, highlighting the parallels between the singer and the president: their adept use of social media to foster a diehard support base; their solipsism; their laser focus on the bottom line; their support among the “alt-right”.
The idea that the "entertainment world" is united in their politics is disturbing enough, but the implication that simply being non-political as a public figure in the arts is not only blameworthy, but an indication that one is somehow aligned with the great boogeyman of our time, Donald Trump, is astonishing. How long ago was it that everyone in the arts and entertainment was advised to be non-political, simply out of professional ethics? Even here at the Music Salon we take the position that we prefer to limit any political discussions to ones in defence of the aesthetic independence of the arts from politics. But now the official editorial position of a major leftish medium is that every figure in entertainment must signal their political opposition to Trump or be judged an ally?

What this reminds me of more than anything is the absolutist demands of authoritarianism as exemplified in the famous quote from Mussolini: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” Later in the editorial;
In a well-publicised Twitter exchange with rapper Nicki Minaj, she treated the discussion of structural racism as not only incomprehensible, but a way to disempower white people such as herself – though her lawyers have taken action over articles that associate her with the far right, and have taken issue with claims that she has not sufficiently denounced white supremacy.
Well, frankly the idea of "structural racism" along with that of "unconscious bias" and a bunch of other post-modern shibboleths is incomprehensible--intentionally so!

I'm not a Taylor Swift fan (but hey, at least she isn't Nicki Minaj!), but I would certainly defend her right to say that "structural racism" is nonsense and to sue people that slander her. Accusations that someone has not sufficiently denounced white supremacy are nothing more than warmed over Maoism.

So let's listen to some Taylor Swift.

That seems reasonably mentally healthy for a conventional pop song. Let me know what you think in the comments.


Will Wilkin said...

I recall pleasant memories of riding in a car driven by the teenaged daughter of a woman who...well...ruined my black heart. But it was in those moments quite pleasant to hear her Taylor Swift music that, not in itself anything great, was perfect for the context. All the excitement and innocence of a sexy young woman who can't appreciate just how young and innocent she still is, no matter what corruptions lurk in the world of professional popular music.

Bryan Townsend said...


Will Wilkin said...

But of course Taylor Swift was here only the example at hand, your main point being much larger and of enduring interest: why has the music world become so contaminated with the politicized herd mentality that seems to originate on campuses? I won't pretend to have an answer, though it's possible we are paying too much attention to a loud minority of hyper-political people who don't reflect the larger populace. I find it somewhat forgivable for students and youth, who in their beautiful swirl of innocence and confidence often play a useful role in asking why the Emperor Wears No Clothes. In my own university days I started as an apolitical literature major who, disturbed by some campus anti-war activists, quickly be came hyper-political myself, switched majors to history, and found politics in EVERYthing, from food to cars to clothing to language....

But if one reads and listens widely enough, it becomes obvious there are multiple valid (and incomplete) understandings of the social world, and eventually my politics morphed drastically...until now when I have a deep sense of futility about every form of politics and seek relief in art (especially music) and direct human relationships. Its to the point now that I'm seriously considering a vow to not read any news in 2018 and to focus only on becoming a better musician, father, brother, son, friend....

Bryan Townsend said...

Excellent goals, Will. The only caveat is that while you may have no interest in politics, it certainly seems to have an interest in you, so sometimes we need some self-defence. But I think you are right, there is a loud-mouthed minority that looms larger than the reality. I suspect most people do have their heads on straight!