WHO’S PROTESTING NOW?
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One of the most cringing quotes that I came across recently was Coldplay’s description of their song Violet Hill as “Chris’s first attempt to write a protest song”. Scratch a little below the surface and it turns out that not only is it his first protest song, but it’s also an anti-war song! Bravo Coldplay for pointing out to the world that war is bad and peace is good but at least he attempted to protest. Unfortunately though, a lot of bands have been guilty of saying nothing but banalities or alternatively saying absolutely nothing with such absolute sincerity that it gives the impression that they are in actual fact saying something - a kind of lyrical deception.
Back in the 1970s Punk came along and showed the proverbial middle-finger to authority, in the 1960s singers such as Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell questioned the establishment using their weapons of words set against the backdrop of the war in Vietnam. Right now I don’t see this happening as Rock bands contend themselves with singing love songs to distorted guitars and Pop stars merrily sing love songs to plastic beats. The same empty platitudes are being espoused by Rock Gods and Pop Stars alike, it’s only the musical background that is different. There are millions of issues to question, to satirise and sometimes to condemn, yet there seems to be a cowardice among many songwriters to do so.
On our new album, I’ve quite possibly committed lyrical suicide by having had the gall to write an album that tackles real issues that affect me and not set out to compose an album of three minute derivative love songs where baby invariably rhymes with crazy. Of course there is a danger when writing songs that deviate from the usual “baby, lady, crazy” path that you alienate yourself from a vast number of people who only listen to songs that offer a kind of lyrical prozac. Many musicians and music fans also believe that popular music should offer an escape where songs should be about sex, love or drugs and of course there are many popular radio stations that clearly prefer to give their listeners a fluffy little world of puppy love lost and puppy love found. But in this information age where we theoretically have unlimited choice at the click of a button, I do think that there is a real need for songwriters to start commenting on the world they live in and not run away from expressing an opinion. They should stop fearing the demise of their careers should they challenge popular notions and the status quo and also realise that the words they use can still bring about a change to the minds and the lives of their listeners and not make them apathetic and numb. After all, what is the point in writing a song if not to express an emotion that is real and true to he who is composing?