Why 2017 will be the year of bad protest music (and how to stop it)

If Punk is still alive, it works for President Donald J. Trump.


Today is Inauguration Day, that coveted day which occurs every four years in the American calendar, during which the Chief Justice of the United States transfers the power of presidency from one man to another. This happens via a mystical “essence sucking” ritual whereby the  previous President is drained forcibly and violently of his vitality by the Chief Justice.

The presidential power (which manifests itself as a wet, brown substance,) is then regurgitated into the chosen candidate, who then carries it around inside of himself for a minimum of four years, perhaps more if he is lucky.

While Inauguration Day is treated with reserved disgust by the rest of the world, it is an important event for Americans, and one which usually attracts a roster of musical celebrities. Not so this year, as a huge range of high-profile American musicians have stated vehemently that they will not be performing at Trump’s inauguration. (Though he has managed to bag R&B singer and token African-American friend Chrisette Michele to perform, a move which Michele claims was motivated by Martin Luther King Jr. but probably had more to do with Benjamin Franklins.)

This tidal change has brought with it a new musical tradition re. the Presidential Inauguration: Bad protest music. While the 2016 campaign was replete with anti-Trump protest songs, spawning such abominations as this one, things are about to get even worse.

We’ve already seen the release of several unnecessary and vaguely anti-Trump songs in the past few days. Including Arcade Fire’s I Give You Power, a mediocre dance track and the most bland entry into their discography yet. Gorillaz too have ended their long hiatus with an underwhelming Trump protest song, Hallelujah Money. And with the announcement of “our first 100 days,” we’re looking at a least a few more months of this shit.

Some people are of the incorrect opinion that Donald Trump is going to make Punk great again, and that the tense political climate will give birth to a new generation of disaffected musicians who will use the power of music to rage against a political power. There are two problems with this. Firstly, Punk never went away. There are still plenty of Punk musicians out there making great stuff. (See: Jeff Rosenstock, Big Ups, Iceage, Ought. (Seriously, check them out if you haven’t already.)) Secondly, as a movement, Punk is a historical happening, not an ancestral spirit you can summon at will. If Punk was forced, it wouldn’t be Punk. If it’s an opinion echoed by the mainstream media, it’s probably not Punk either.

This is the problem with the current wave of anti-Trump protests, musical or otherwise. As soon as an anti-Trump sentiment is expressed, it’s automatically validated by the cultural hegemony and is thus stripped of its potency. To be anti-Trump is to be facile; a plucker of low-hanging fruit; part of the mainstream. His political incompetency is so apparent that it becomes unfashionable to point it out, not to mention tedious. How can you be subversive when 99.9% of your immediate social group will agree with you?

Punk has been way too successful for its own good. It’s ideas are now so firmly embedded into our collective consciousness that they have ceased to be subversive. This is why more and more people are turning toward right-wing or libertarian media. Not because they offer reasonable solutions, but because they offer an alternative to the liberal mainstream. The more pervasive and unanimous dismissal of Trump becomes, the more popular these right-wing media outlets will become. Their popularity is in direct inverse proportion to the amount of corny anti-Trump sentiment in the world.

This is how Trump won the election. Not on the strength of his ideas; not even on his charisma. He won the election based on resistance to the established narrative. That’s an established narrative that only gets fatter every time someone releases a song that is anti-Trump just for the sake of being anti-Trump.
So, musicians of the world, we ask of you this: Please stop making bad protest music. When you do so, you work against your interests and the interests of your country. And stop trying to revive Punk. If Punk is still alive, it works for President Donald J. Trump.

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