Musicians And The Use of Their Platform For Political Influence

Music Award shows are some of the best nights of the year. The red carpet full of celebrities, the performances, and we can’t forget…the political chants?

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This past Sunday’s American Music Awards was quite an eventful night. Aside from the typical musical performances, corny jokes and really bad dancing on Taylor Swift’s part, the punk rock band Green Day used their 3-minute set as a chance to raise their middle finger to newly elected president Donald Trump.

As the group performed their latest single “Bang Bang” from their upcoming album  Revolution Road, they surprised the crowd with a little switch up of lyrics to include the line “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” Although the line is not their own, in recent weeks it has gained popularity spawning from the original 1982 M.D.C. single “Born to Die.” Most viewers of the AMAs were a little surprised to see that, yeah, Green Day went there.

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The connection between politics and music runs deep in our history and as it becomes easier for musicians to reach their fan base on platforms like social media, they are playing a bigger role in politics than ever before. Just think about it, in 2020 we could have Kim Kardashian as our first lady.

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You would think  a musician taking a political stance or speaking openly about social issues would be a huge PR no-no, yet it continues to happen.  We see it in the lyrics of J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar as they rap of issues surrounding politics and racism:

“Be Free” J.Cole – “What’s the price for a black man life? / I check the toe tag, not one zero in sight / I turn the TV on, not one hero in sight / Unless he dribble or he fiddle with mics.”

“Hood Politics” Kendrick Lamar – “From Compton to Congress, set trippin’ all around / Ain’t nothin’ new, but a flu of new Demo-Crips and Re-Blood-licans / Red state versus a blue state, which one you governin’?”

So the question is posed – should artists keep their political views to themselves? It’s a tricky one to answer because we know the power musicians have over their fan base. Not to say that all music lovers do exactly as their favorite band says, but we do see this same tactic of manipulation occur when it comes sponsorships and brand collaborations. Your favorite artists say “drink this water.” So what do you do? Go out and buy the water.

As a twenty-something-year-old observing the last election I watched as peers stood around kind of confused as to who to vote for. Seeing propaganda come straight onto our Instagram feed from the people we look up to definitely had some impact on our decision.

Take Ariana Grande who was very candid with whom she was voting for on her Instagram during the course of the election:

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Although not all musicians were as active in campaigning for the election this time around- should they have been? The answer is yes.

Music is about connecting with people and bringing them together. Yes, musicians hold influence over their fans but it is important that as a generation we stay informed about what is going on in our country. We all have the right to keep our opinions to ourselves but as public figures, they have the duty to serve their fan base. Even if it’s not swaying them on an opinion they should at least be imploring fans to stay involved and informed.

Musicians have a bigger impact on social and mass media than the average Upstate New York college kid so they should use it to give fans a voice. That’s where we come in.

If you want change, demand it. Get involved and make your voice heard. Who knows, you may be inspiring your favorite punk rock band to perform an anti-Trump chant at the next nationally televised music award show.


Two Buttons Deep is a news & entertainment website based in Upstate, New York.

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