Purposeful Pop and Politics

Sara Santora /
Jun 8, 2017 / Music

With a tense election season on both sides of the Atlantic, there has been a noticeable increase in activism among pop artists.

Many pop artists feel the desire or need to use their raised platform to fight for causes, policies, and leaders they believe in.

While many feel that artists should keep their political opinions to themselves, many others feel that those in the spotlight should fight for what they believe in and speak out against any perceived injustices. With so many opinions, the fight over whether or not artists should be allowed to publicly participate in political activism sometimes seems be more divisive than elections themselves.

These sentiments were echoed by Matty Healy as he and the other members of The 1975 accepted their Brit Award for best band. He told the crowd, “At the moment, a lot of people in pop music and the public in general are told to ‘stay in your lane’ when it comes to social issues. But if you have a platform, don’t do that, please don’t do that.”

Those familiar with the front-man knows that he is very vocal about his political beliefs. Like many people around the world, he’s taken to Twitter to speak his mind on the modern political climate. With that, he has been documented speaking out against Trump and Brexit during concerts. Of course, The 1975’s activism isn’t just done through Twitter or through speeches on stage, but through their artistry as well. The band’s song, ‘Loving Someone’ tackles fame, media, sexuality, and the like, and has become an anthem of hope and love amidst political turmoil and international crisis.

But they’re not the only ones speaking out. Katy Perry, who was very publicly active in her support for Hilary Clinton, took to Twitter to deem this era “Purposeful Pop.” Her first single of the year, ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ was meant to be a jab at those at the top, and arguably many of us. Perry uses this song to explain that many of us are “living in a bubble,” and that this bubble in which we live is keeping us from seeing the problems occurring right outside of our doors.

Though many may view artists’ desire to vocalise their opinions as a positive, it seems as though a vast majority view this as a negative. Common arguments made against pop artists is their lack of qualifications to speak out on political issues, or the idea that they’re out of touch with the rest of this people in this world. However, these arguments seem baseless when grounded within the greater context.

If level of qualification is the measure used in determining whether or not someone should be allowed to have and vocalise an opinion, then it would be fair to say that many of us should refrain from speaking out on politics. When it comes to being out of touch… aren’t we all? I mean, how many of us truly understand the struggles being faced by others around the world? At some point, many of us are “out of touch” and again, if this is a measure of the speech we are allowed to exercise, then many of us shouldn’t speak publicly about our beliefs. But being under-qualified or being a little out of touch shouldn’t keep someone from being able to recognise and care about certain problems occurring in our world.

It seems as though the reason why artists are more highly scrutinised than the average individual has a lot to do with their reach. Because artists like The 1975 and Perry have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fans and followers, their words matter.  If fans read a tweet or listen to a song written by their favourite artist that speaks out against something happening in mainstream politics, they’ll be more likely to listen to them, and take on their favourite artist’s beliefs as their own.

No artist is telling their fans that they have to agree.  Matty Healy isn’t forcing fans to sign a waiver that says they hate religion in order to buy merchandise or music (although he may be bribing them with nudes to vote Labour), and Perry isn’t saying that you have to be a supporter of Hilary Clinton to attend her concerts; they’re simply people living in this world who, like the rest of us, are both inspired and saddened by the world in which they live.

They’re artists. Of course they’re going to talk about it.

I’m not here to say that you have to fully agree with every political opinion that your favourite pop stars have, or even agree with them at all.  However, I am arguing that they, like the rest of us, should be allowed to speak out on the things that matter to them. Wouldn’t you?

Words by Sara Santora

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