Politicians and musicians aren't so different. Both are putting on a show, creating a spectacle, entertaining/selling their vision. But when musicians get political, it can come off as preachy and annoying. As was the case at the Afro-beat show I caught in my neighborhood this week.
The band was Antibalas, a multi-culti, world-music mini-orchestra—which would generally horrify me, all that patchouli and hemp clothing. But this one was full of horns and merengue rhythms and spanish singing, like a funkified Buena Vista Social Club. Their sound was great.
Their politics were boring. They're a protest group, griping about the usual military-industrial complex stuff. At one point they took a poll to see whom their audience would be voting for, as if it was any great mystery in that mostly twentysomething crowd—but I was the one of perhaps three lonely souls to give a "woo" for Hillary! And the trumpeter (who bore a striking resemblance to Borat as my friend Andy pointed out), beseeched the "change"-loving crowd that should "Hillary be the nominee, God forbid, please vote for her" because McCain would be much, much worse. Even worse than that was when the magnificent tenor sax player announced that in the case of Eliot Spitzer, the media made a huge deal out of something that so small... Two glasses of Sancerre and one Jameson's into my evening I could not abide his ignorance, so I hollered, "IT WASN'T SMALL!!" Saxman responded over the crowd of three hundred in the little club, "Okay, right it wasn't small, but nowhere near as big as what we're doing in Iraq..."
This horn-tooter's moral relativism—well, yes, I like to curb-stomp homeless people for fun but at least I didn't start a unilateral war that left an ancient country on the verge of anarchy—got me to thinking of other rockstars who've use the stadium stage as soapbox and looked great, or absurd, doing it.
Sting. Has seen to the preservation of rainforests totalling the size of Belgium.
Bono. The world owes him for his tireless campaigning for debt relief in Africa.
Dave Matthews Band. Every post-grad's favorite fiddle-accompanied pan-liberal.
Sheryl Crow. Informed environmentalist-agitator.
Green Day. American Idiot—an excellent response to "shut up and sing."
Will.i.am Beautiful. But what the hell is ScoJo doing in there?
REM. Preachy t-shirts at the '91 MTV video awards felt…annoying.
The Dixie Chicks. Took hell for criticizing Bush. Took home an Emmy for the pretty, angry ballad they wrote in response to the pile on.
Rage Against the Machine. The original rock radicals support the Zapatistas, giving California back to Mexico, freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal, fighting the man, etc., etc.
Ted Nugent. "Guns for everyone!"
Kanye West. "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
50 Cent. Flip. Flop.
Salt & Peppa. Dropping Obama into their hit song lyrics. Though most of us are just surprised to hear the duo is still alive.