This article from yesterday’s NYT is about country musicians in Nashville trying to shed the red state stigma, show people that country music, at it’s core, is not about the sorts of cariacatures most people associate with the genre. Stuff that is offensive and hyper-patriotic, for example. All this talk about the Dixie Chicks has begun to get to me. Songwriters in the article talk about how one’s career can really be penalized for speaking out in the way they did. And sure, maybe the DC aren’t selling as much now as they once did, but I sure think it’s pretty obvious that they’ve been doing okay for themselves. Why is it such a scandal that they once spoke their minds? More scandalous is the fact that no one seemed to follow in their footsteps; rather, most choose to play it safe.
Even record label execs who were more left-leaning than much of the music they sell wouldn’t say a thing, for fear of compromising the artists. Does it seem obvious to anyone else that this is some weird kind of celebrity popularity contest? It seems like a lot of playground antics to me, and the only thing being harmed is the bottom line. Were it really to be about beliefs and social interest, you’d think that folks would be more willing to speak their minds. Or at least that’s what I’d like to think.
UPDATE: I was just sent this article about activism in rock and country. There are some interesting insights, I guess, about the effectiveness of, say, the Vote for Change tour. In truth I found the tone of the article to be incredibly disheartening, and props to Bertis Downs for saying so. The end of it focuses more on country music and the ways in which war has affected the songs. The end result, according to John Mellencamp and to the writer, Geoff Boucher, is that people are shutting up to preserve their reputations. And again, the DC are used as a prime example, although a quick sidenote mentions how their new album went to #1.