In her first article for Label News, Keelin Elvyn Brook discusses how and why musicians on both sides of the Atlantic have been particularly vocal about political events over the past twelve months.
2017 has been a restless year for politics. From Donald Trump’s presidency to the ongoing story that is Brexit, the course of politics has taken some sharp turns. Whilst the rest of the world stood watching the news with eager eyes, unable to imagine the outcome of these events, some individuals channelled their confusion and enthusiasm into lyrics and guitar riffs to map out how they imagine the future might unfold in an era of new leaders and controversial changes.
During the 2017 general election, #GrimeForCorbyn became a popular trending topic on social media platforms including Twitter. The movement’s supporters favoured the Labour party in the General Election and believed that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign was resonating with young people – some of whom were first-time voters who became more interested in and confident about discussing politics. #GrimeForCorbyn saw grime artists who had never voted before become connected to politics and, in turn, enabled their likeminded followers (the majority of whom are young people) to listen to the message which was on offer. Popular artists such as Stormzy and JME showed their support for Corbyn and there can be no doubt that this social media movement helped to inspire an astonishing increase in the voting turnout for those aged 18 to 21: 57% of all 18 to 19-year-olds casted a ballot.
The love for Corbyn only continued to grow after the election, despite Labour not taking the win. As summer rolled around, many music festivals played host to widespread support for the Labour leader. It was almost impossible to attend a festival and not hear “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” sung at one point or another. It became the anthem of the summer, and you felt a strange sense of unity and triumph whilst stood in the middle of hundreds of people all singing their hearts out to it. Jeremy Corbyn even made an appearance at Glastonbury! Although the hype surrounding Corbyn has since died down, “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” still echoes around the Union every now and then.
Politics obtaining the fascination of mainstream musicians was not exclusively a UK-based phenomenon. In America, The Killers have just released a string of new songs, some of which protest quite overtly against Donald Trump. For example, ‘Run for Cover’ (which was released in August) features lyrics such as “are your excuses any better than your senator’s?” and “he’s fake news”, the latter of which makes a jab by using Trump’s own words against him. The song has received praise, but that does not seem to be what The Killers were initially after. They have been increasingly vocal about their thoughts and opinions on Trump’s presidency: a role which they do not think he is well suited to. The song has a protest feel to it – the Killers are expressing themselves in the way most familiar to them and the message portrayed demands respect.
Keelin Elvyn Brook