At the British Chinese Project, we fight for political representation of Chinese people in Britain. However, are we currently living in a society of political underrepresentation by the music scene?
Music has historically been an expressive form of culture; love, sex, drugs and politics have all had their fair share of lyrics written about them. Love, sex and drugs are still heavy influences for songwriters today, but politics seems to have been neglected in today's hits. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Oasis; these are a few of the big British rock bands who either promoted political activism and/or strongly reflected on a disenfranchised British society.
John Lennon, whose following largely remains unparalleled, captured the interest of the suppressed youths in the 60s who backed his campaign of peace and anti-war. This 'working class hero' empowered a likewise generation to support his revolution to overthrow the Vietnam-hungry government. Songwriting was his forte and political activism was his passion; 'Imagine', 'Revolution' and 'Give Peace a Chance' contagiously echoed his political vision for the world. The Rolling Stones, whose breakthrough hit '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', reflected societal dissatisfaction amongst the youths in the 60s and 'Gimme Shelter', 'Street Fighting Man' and 'Salt of The Earth', would later demonstrate dissatisfaction with British politics.
A much louder message was brazenly voiced by the Sex Pistols in the 70s, whose biggest hits 'Anarchy in the UK' and 'God Save The Queen', were not only absorbed by the post-hippy generation, but were ardently anti-establishment. Political antipathy amongst the younger generation in the 70s was widespread and the Sex Pistols were unabashed in voicing it. In a prodigious effort in being obnoxious, the Sex Pistols successfully secured a young following of anarchists who likewise hated the establishment. The Clash followed in a similar vain; 'White Riot', 'Hate & War', 'London's Burning, 'Career Opportunities' and 'Remote Control' were all on their debut album and were powerful reflections of a suffering working class.
The Stone Roses and The Smiths who pioneered the 'Madchester' music scene in the early 80s were unafraid to express their deep antipathy with the social scene at the time. The Stone Roses' 'Made of Stone' and The Smiths' 'Panic' were instantly relatable to anyone who felt suppressed in society. Oasis, who drew heavy influences from these fellow Mancunians, was not as politically headstrong, but was certainly relatable to the working class in the 90s. 'Up in the Sky' reflected the detachment the working class had from politicians and 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' reflected society's struggles. 'Supersonic' and 'Live Forever' gave British people the hope and drive that the government failed to provide.
Since the end of the 90s, music seems to have given up on politics. This seems shockingly strange considering that the noughties saw the world's worst terrorist attack, controversial terrorist legislation and a couple of illegal wars instigated by the West. The end of the noughties' first decade even saw global financial collapse and recession, but yet, commentary from the music scene has remained mute. Of course, some of the politically strong bands discussed above are still around to some degree; The Rolling Stones are strutting around the world, Ian Brown is in Harry Potter films, Johnny Marr is touring, Noel Gallagher is writing and Johnny Rotten is making butter adverts.
Britain is urgently in need of a music icon that can fill the shoes of these prolific figures. 15 years of political underrepresentation in the music scene has festered its way into our society and has eroded our culture. Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Ellie Golding may have captured our charts, but can they capture society's grievances in their music?
Political underrepresentation must end in all areas of society. Who will step up?