Oi! What you looking at, you little rich boy?
March 19, 2012 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Plenty of protest music around, hell even Bruce Springsteen has a track or two on his last album, Ry Cooder's last three or four albums have been full of it, even Tom Waits' gets into it here and there(NSFW lyrics). Michael Franti use to be all about it until he got struck with too many starshine cosmic rays. Got a fair bit going on locally as well, and if we do I guarantee most of y'all do to.

Might be better to amend that to say death on popular radio played protest music, which given how radio has gone is not a big surprise.
posted by edgeways at 10:01 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not quite the biting satire of Pulp's Common People, no.
posted by Jehan at 10:29 AM on March 19, 2012

That Bruce Springsteen(63), Ry Cooder(65), Tom Waits(63) and Michael Franti(46) are your go-to examples says a lot of the state of the protest song, unfortunately.
posted by svenni at 10:39 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

We are the Folk Song Army,
Everyone of us cares,
We all hate poverty, war, and injustice,
Unlike the rest of you squares...
posted by Melismata at 10:52 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

"© 2012 Warner Music UK Ltd. All rights reserved"

Protesting against whom exactly?
posted by nushustu at 10:57 AM on March 19, 2012

Protest music isn't dead, they just seem to be looking for it in the wrong places.

Here's one example which I kept hearing around student activists in the last six months or so, there's plenty more.
posted by knapah at 11:04 AM on March 19, 2012

Or this with Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip 'Stake a claim'.
posted by knapah at 11:14 AM on March 19, 2012

Protesting against whom exactly?

I don't understand your point here.
posted by Hoopo at 11:16 AM on March 19, 2012

There is a powerful song by MC Nxtgen & Rob Gee about the sale of the NHS, mainly attacking Andrew Lansley.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2012

Yes; I think the point is that Plan B is a major mainstream artist in the UK and not, say, Michael Franti. As Dorian Lynskey says:

All last year when I was promoting the book I wistfully said it would be great if an established multi-platinum British pop star released an out-and-out protest song that was witty, nuanced, relevant, exciting and commercial enough to be playlisted on Radio 1. And here it is.

(And the book he's talking about is the excellent 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs - well worth reading by anyone even vaguely into protest music and popular culture).

I think it's a great song.
posted by Hartster at 11:32 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sometimes you just need to blaze up a fire.
Written before last years riots.
posted by zoo at 11:40 AM on March 19, 2012

From his public statement comes the following quote. This is my position in a nutshell:

I think one of the reasons is that there is a very public prejudice in this country towards the underclass. These kids are ridiculed in the press as they aren't as educated as others, because they talk and dress in a certain way... but they're not as stupid as people think. They are aware of the ill feelings towards them and that makes them feel alienated. I know because I felt it myself growing up. These kids have been beaten into apathy. They don't care about society because society has made it very clear that it doesn’t care about them.

Do a search for the word "chav" on metafilter, and tell me that we're not part of the problem too.
posted by zoo at 11:45 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Thanks for giving the music video the thorough context of Plan B's background and wider concerns. As others have pointed out, the significance of this is that he is releasing a song thick with socio-political comment that is both extremely relevant (props to Spingsteen and Cooder and the rest, but they're not getting much airplay on the estates) and is coming from someone with a high public profile (culturally prominent, commercially successful, playlisting certainty). Furthermore, other (UK)examples shared upthread predate the riots, and articulate the fury of the cuts demonstrations; ill Manors centrally addresses the riots, the cultural demonisation of the poor and disenfranchised, and their resulting anger. Which is, as they say, a whole different ballgame.
posted by hydatius at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, how about that - in my theory class today, we're discussing Zizek's violence, in particular the chapter dealing with phatic communication. This video will make a nice contribution to the discussion.

From an interview with Zizek: 'The young people of the banlieue simply wanted to say (to adopt a slogan from Badiou): we are here, and we are from here. It was a question of asserting their sheer existence. It was a pure demand for visibility. This is the best example of the limitations of our much-vaunted democracy. There are enormous numbers of people who find themselves in a situation where their most essential demands cannot be formulated in the language of a political problem. It’s what Roman Jakobson called "phatic" communication—not, "I want this" but simply, "here I am."'
posted by williampratt at 12:06 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

"So join in the Folk Song Army
Guitars are the weapons we bring
To the fight against poverty, war, and injustice
Ready, aim, sing" ~Tom Lehrer
posted by ahimsakid at 12:53 PM on March 19, 2012

Seems like Plan B listened to Peter Fox's Alles Neu...
posted by ts;dr at 1:08 PM on March 19, 2012

(ah, looks like the youtube comments are full of comments about the sample already... I just thought it was curious to hear this again in a british song)
posted by ts;dr at 1:21 PM on March 19, 2012

Well, Peter Fox nicked it from Shostakovitchovitch so turnabout is fair play.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:24 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is really quite good. It actually made my jaded old pulse beat a little faster. Oh, and to the smug snarkers who sneer at this because it's put out on a major label? You're so cool. Maybe the rioting underclass won't touch you, eh? Especially in the good ol' "Land of the Free".
posted by Decani at 1:26 PM on March 19, 2012

It's just a brilliant bit of music though and it fits well with a rap on top of it.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:26 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like this as a protest song. I like the video. Production on the song is pretty nice.

But, man, he's not a very good rapper. Still pretty interesting stuff, though.
posted by broadway bill at 4:08 PM on March 19, 2012

man, he's not a very good rapper

Isn't he? I think he is. Then again, I'm also a Londoner, and his rhythms, cadence and language are all instantly intelligible to me. While I'm not a massive hiphop fan, I consistently find that the stuff I do like tends to come out of the UK. It speaks to me directly and I understand it.

Isn't that what this music is for?

Much of the American stuff - even what I am told is the good stuff - is effectively just noise to me, because I just don't understand it - it isn't aimed at me and it isn't for me, and I'd be an arse to pretend otherwise. I'd need to actually take classes to understand the language and even that probably wouldn't be enough because I'd also need to take further classes in the cultural context which as a non-American, goes way over my head.

This though? Instant. See also Scroobius Pip.
posted by motty at 6:21 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

<I know what you're saying, but my evaluation of his abilities has nothing to do with his being English. I've no real trouble understanding him, I just think his technical ability in his chosen craft are lacking.

Unrelated to that, though: I think it's a shame that this is being hailed as some sort of anomaly in that it's 'protest music'. There is tons and tons of such music being produced currently, with the bulk of it being rap. Listen to Killer Mike's Burn for a relatively recent example.
posted by broadway bill at 7:55 PM on March 19, 2012

The modern British Rap scene seems to be diverting pretty strongly from the American norm. There's more of an emphasis on British accents & on the grime sound (pardon if my nomenclature is outdated here) I'm afraid British sound is going to sound less and less like "proper" rap to you from now on.

Populist British Rap vocals like " I've got so many clothes I keep some in my aunt's house" must strike Americans as being like The London Sillynannies.
posted by zoo at 3:00 AM on March 20, 2012

Say what you like about Plan B, but he sure can sing a break-up song: Writing's on the Wall.
posted by Sutekh at 6:23 AM on March 20, 2012

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