Monday 2 August 2010

Politics Lite and Music

In Britain we moan about the decline in seriousness of our political figures, and perhaps rightly. We seem to have slipped into politics lite, everything slipping very swiftly towards the centre, so that it can be hard to tell one part from another without a scorecard. Whither Old Labour?
However, we have it good when compared to the US, where the hottest candidate for 2012 seems unable to even discuss policy. A Huffington Post article pointed out the people accept Sarah Palin because of her celebrity and because she inadvertently drags up deeply symbolic icons, like the Mama Grizzly (a reference that wouldn’t work as well in the UK). Palin via Jung, a scary thought.
The dumbing down on politics is universal – witness Regan. It’s interesting to note, however, that Reagan’s star was high when Madonna came on the scene, another victory of style over substance. As was pointed out in a recent New York Times article, Madonna did at least sometimes sneak in references to religion and politics in her music, however lightweight they might be.
Now we have Palin. Her followers are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it any more. They want to burn it down (“For God’s sake burn it down probably never rang truer, Dexys) even if they don’t have a clue what they’ll replace it with. There’s even more style and even less substance. Being against something is fine, but you have to be for something.
So is it any surprise that Lady Gaga is in the ascendancy? Her lyrics Make Madonna seem like Auden. Being vacuous, both musically and lyrically, has become a real style. Maybe there’s an analogue between music and politics in the US (and possibly globally here). You don’t even need to give the people what they want, because they don’t really know what they want. Lady Gaga’s music has been aptly described as a “distraction.” It’s simply there, presented in flashy colour with lots of daring costumes. The emperor’s New Clothes. And politics in the US is headed that way. The problem is that, where America leads…

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