In the last few years, the music world has seen a resurgence of the protest song, mostly in response to the war in Iraq. Some of the more notable anti-war tunes or albums have come from the likes of Green Day, Ani Difranco, Eddie Vedder, Bonnie Raitt, Public Enemy, Pink, Morrissey, John Fogerty, Wyclef Jean, REM, Paula Cole, Beastie Boys, Lennie Kravitz, the Dixie Chicks, and Neil Young. It’s become quite a profitable little musical niche for several artists. How much of the profits made off of multi-platinum albums such as Green Day’s American Idiot have been channeled into charities or anti-war groups? I think it’s a legitimate question, and one my internet research has yielded no results on.
Before I go any further with this, I must make a few things clear. I am not attacking any of the bands listed above. I am not pro-war, nor am I pro-Bush, for that matter. My sole purpose for posting such a long list of diverse artists is to question the effectiveness of the protest song in today’s world. In the mid-1960’s, artists such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, and others lit a fire underneath the conservative American society and sparked off a cultural revolution in the youth of the United States.
These days, however, with the record industry in constant decline and the Bush administration enjoying a 27% approval rating in the face of the Iraq war, it seems almost like a safe bet to record anti-war songs. When over two thirds of Americans agree with what you’re saying, are you really stirring up that much shit? If you’re not giving away some or all of the profits made off of these recordings, then what is the point behind them exactly other than preaching to the choir?
Last year, a band released an album that was mostly devoted to scathing criticism of the music industry. The band is a folk/punk group called Against Me!, and their album is titled New Wave. Included among these songs was one that really got me thinking about the futility of protest music in today’s political and economic environment. That song is called “White People For Peace,” and I think that it expresses very well my frustrations with the current glut of anti-war music that’s flooding today’s market.