Where did all the music go?

Octavia Bromell /
Nov 16, 2016 / Opinion

So then. 2016. What a fucking shit storm.

We’re ploughing to the end of 12 months of pure, unadulterated chaos, and the entire planet seems to be wedged somewhere quite unknown. As things stand, we’re in the midst of the “worst humanitarian crisis of our lifetime” (Amnesty International on the Syrian conflict), the soon-to-be leader of the free world is due in court next month on allegations of child rape, and the vicious Zika virus continues to spread disease and distress in South America.

From an international standpoint this is undoubtedly disastrous, but us Brits have had our fair share of fuckery this year. Remember when Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in her own constituency? How about when, after a campaign of deceit, the UK exercised their democratic right and half voted to leave the European Union? Sorry, just over half. The just over bit is important.

This isn’t even scratching the surface of the increasingly worldwide refugee crisis, the increasingly powerful – and close to home – terror attacks carried out by Daesh, and the string of incredible minds that we’ve lost in the past 11 months. David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood, and most recently Leonard Cohen are just a few of the greats to have left us this year. And honestly, who can blame them?

In this absolute quagmire then, why on earth has there been no obvious reaction from the music world? This week marks the one year anniversary of the Paris attacks, which saw 89 people massacred during an Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan theatre. While the reaction of people in general was extensive, and reflected the true horror we all felt at the events, where are the protest songs? The political comment? It cannot be true that people are less angry at the state of the world now than they were when the Sex Pistols released God Save the Queen, or The Clash put out Rock the Casbah.

Even looking to more recent times, we’ve seen The Gossip write Standing In The Way Of Control for marriage equality, Green Day’s Holiday pass a scathing review on the Iraq war, and Frank Turner pose the ever-subtle statement that Thatcher Fucked the Kids. Even the London riots of 2011 prompted Plan B to release the hard hitting Ill Manors album and accompanying film in a bid to express his desire for social activism.

It may be true that musicians themselves are able to pass a more general comment through the means of social media, but when Donald Trump can walk away from his presidential victory speech to You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Mick Jagger only responds with a tongue-in-cheek tweet, where the hell have we gone wrong?

That this piece has been filled with question marks should itself pose an answer – honestly, no one has a bloody clue. Maybe it’s because everyone, musicians included, are in a bit of shock that so much can happen in one year. I know I am.

Heading into the festive season should be an interesting one – Christmas has obviously got a bit of a musical name for itself. Each year Michael Bublé resurfaces around early November, encouraging a string of washed up pop stars to cover a combination of songs from Now That’s What I Call Christmas (John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, we’re looking at you).

However, it was only in 2009 that charity choirs and X Factor hopefuls alike were beaten to Christmas Number 1 by none other than Rage Against the Machine and their iconic track Killing in the Name. The anger-fuelled song from ’91 resurfaced and reconnected a new generation of head bangers, and the free gig they played afterwards at Finsbury Park in London attracted over 40,000 people.

With most musicians eyeing up the top spot in this year’s chart yet to declare their festive contributions, I suppose it’s not totally out of the question that something worthy could come along in time to save what’s left of 2016’s dignity?

So there you have it Santa – all I want for Christmas is a good fucking protest song. God knows we’ve got enough material for it.

Words by Octavia Bromell

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