The results of this year’s presidential election are still having clear ramifications on this nation and its citizens (and non-citizens) and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are not happy about it. Whether it’s the administration’s position on immigration, or its seemingly silly stance on football players taking a knee, it seems that everyone has something to say about it.
What makes one person’s opinion more or less relevant than another’s? Is it their proximity to the topic? Perhaps it’s their experience in political science and debate? Maybe it’s their level of education? Or maybe it’s the fact that they’re not a DJ… because DJs should stay out of politics, right?
That seems to be the comment du jour on social media when fans are faced with even a slightly politically relevant post from a DJ or musician. “Music is supposed to be an escape from politics.” “Politics and music don’t belong together.” Etc., etc….
And I get it, I really do. A lot of these kids found electronic music as a safe haven, a place to belong when they didn’t belong. It was a place to escape and not have to worry about your test in the morning or the state of the nation – you were just enveloped in bass and your only goal was to enjoy yourself.
But music has a history of being involved in politics that goes back decades, perhaps centuries. In the United States alone, the past 50-60 years have been rife with political commentary in music. In 1964, Bob Dylan sang about the evils of war, racism and poverty on his album The Times They Are a-Changin.
In the ’70s, with the rise of punk rock, bands like Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, American Standards, and Anti-Flag focused heavily on anti-establisment ideologies altogether.
Hip hop in the ’80s became associated with standing against police brutality and racism, with groups like Public Enemy and NWA leading the charge.
Many people don’t think that electronic music has roots in politics, but that’s because the majority of EDM listeners were born after 1995. And of course, if you’ve done your homework, good for you – but again, the majority haven’t. When speaking about the roots of dance music – disco in the ’70s and particularly the Chicago house era later on – the focus was on detachment from the establishment, separating oneself from the regular and the mundane, especially as it pertained to civil rights, LGBTQ acceptance, and so on.
Somewhere along the way (probably when dance music started to become commercialized), that aspect was lost and fans focused more on drops and drugs. Dance music was quickly becoming part of popular culture, and so those who originally sought out dance music as a safe haven no longer needed that haven – the oppressors had essentially followed them to the other side. It was at this time that the music became more about PLUR and less about rebellion.
But now that our country is facing turmoil, artists have begun using their platform to stand up against injustice, however they may perceive that. A lot of it has boiled down to chants of “Fuck Donald Trump” at festivals. Let’s call this “having a dissenting opinion tier 1” – the easiest tier.
At the next tier, we have artists like Bassnectar calling for Trump’s impeachment; whether or not this hurts his core fanbase is of no consequence to him, because he is standing up for his own beliefs and using his platform to project them out into the world. This type of dissenting opinion, especially on Facebook, is particularly vulnerable to comments such as “stick to music.”
Zedd is a part of this tier, as well, for threatening to leave the US if Trump was elected president. (He was, and he didn’t, for whatever that’s worth.)
IMPEACHMENT NOW!The Bay Area knows what's up! VIVA CALIFORNIA!www.DemandImpeachmentNow.com#IMPEACH 🍑🍑🍑
If Donald Trump becomes president, I'll move back to Germany.
At the next tier, we have artists like Jai Wolf and Hotel Garuda who have recently been involved in Twitter arguments focusing on civil rights and institutional racism, as well as organizations like Nap Girls Int’l who fight against institutionalized sexism. These are characters who have internalized and understand the struggle of the groups they fight for, and work toward a goal of change.
this is not a difference in opinion. its a fucking fact.
— Jai Wolf (@JaiWolfx) September 24, 2017
about that blog post that went up today… pic.twitter.com/YPPmmPqjCu
— Nap Girls (@napgirls) October 4, 2017
The point here being that DJs aren’t going to stop talking about politics and injustice anytime soon. They’re going to speak about it at shows; they’re going to post about it on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat; they’re going to donate and they’re going to publicly support candidates, and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.
When you tell DJs to “stick to the music” and “stay out of politics,” you’re telling them to erase a part of their identity, a part of who makes them who they are and probably a significant part of why you liked their music, whether you knew it or not. Telling a DJ to “stay out of politics” is no more helpful than telling Trump to stay off Twitter.