It seems almost inevitable as a teenager growing up in the times we live that you would be heavily into music. For whatever reason, music has long been important to the identity of teenagers and the kind of music you listen to, correlates heavily with your social group. I heard at least one story growing up of a kid dumping their entire music collection and starting a new one in a different genre. It was serious stuff or at least, it certainly seemed to be at the time.
One aspect I can vividly remember was the hostility my peers had (which I quickly adopted), towards pop music. Our antipathy towards pop music wasn’t entirely unreasonable and mostly had to do with it being highly manufactured and soulless. The fact that most artists didn’t write their songs and that everything about them from what they sung, to what they wore as well as their opinions and even who they dated was managed by their record company. Our main mistake was supposing the music we listened to was any better.
In hindsight, one aspect that we had deeply wrong about pop music was the idea that musicians needed to write their own lyrics and music to be considered good musicians. I wouldn’t tell that to a professional musician who made their career playing the compositions of others on piano, violin, cello or almost any instrument. And many popular artists have certainly been talented regardless of how their music was produced and promoted.
What we had most wrong though was very much the mistaken belief that the alternative musicians we favoured had any more artistic integrity than their more popular peers. Many it is true, rose up from more humble backgrounds and probably had a harder time getting noticed and seeing success. They also definitely had less popular appeal. But with all that in mind, they were still signed to and promoted by the same companies. They still had to foster a certain image that their record companies would have had heavy influence over them as they owed their initial and continuing success to them.
RazörFist recently posted the video below after a brief Twitter encounter with Dee Snider of the rock band known as Twisted Sister. Their most iconic track was one titled “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. As RazörFist quickly demonstrates in his own unique way, they don’t just take it — they want you to take it as well.
Not only do they take it but the very incorrectly named Rage Against the Machine also takes it. This was a band that was popular at the time I grew up and unlike the then mostly forgotten, Twisted Sister. As I believe Thomas Clough more or less put it, they are the band most famous for becoming rich off their rejection of capitalism. At the height of their popularity, the music video for their single Testify juxtaposed the two then presidential candidates cleverly showing how little difference there was between them. Today they are right on board with the oligarchy that put those two candidates there. The current sitting and very fake President Biden is of the same political generation too.
The point is that the corporate counter-culture was fake from the get go. Almost none of these bands or musicians at the time (or now), were genuinely authentic. Vanishingly few of them are willing to step out against the inbred corporate-political system that put them where they are. The ones that do, well… you probably couldn’t tell me who they are. The rebellious aspects common in teenagers today are encouraged by the system and there are controlled alternatives put in place to catch the ones that avoid the mainstream. The end result is just the same. The last few years especially have really made this clear.
The take away from this should be much the same as with anything else. For starters, the political opinions of musicians as with actors and even most authors should be disregarded as the trash they almost invariably are. And much like with literature, most of the best music was created well before the 1960s despite what boomers like to believe. I still like a lot of music but I really couldn’t care less what the artists believed and nobody else should either.