Tonight I received a link to the above video from an old friend of mine who finds inspiration in politics in the same way that I find inspiration in music, art, and other less – erm – important things. The subject line of his email read: “Best. Politician. Inspired. Single. Ever.” It included a link to this clip by Ti$a, a member of LA's own Sa-Ra Creative Partners.
And yes, I may just agree with him, it's an inspired single. But let's quickly remove from any description of this song nouns such as “politician” and “politics,” and instead clarify what this song is: a rallying cry plain and simple. Sure it's inspired by Obama, but content-wise it has about as much to do with his politics as Toni Basil's '80s anthem has to do with Mickey Mouse:
Both singles are barely there combination of chants, nonsense, fashion and movement — in many ways, exactly what I look & listen for in pop & dance music (as opposed to rock, classical, metal, and many other forms of music in which those attributes are usually less valued).
But, to repeat, this song is not good because it is political — rather, it is good because it rallies us in the same way as a football stadium cheer gets one side or the other excited. It moves the blood, not the brain. It's about style.
Everyone can use a good rallying cry, now and again, and this one just happens to get all those style details right. The many celebrity cameos (Kanye West, Jay Z, Chris Brown, Travis Barker, Shepard Fairey, and Apple of The Black Eyed Peas) are relatively unobtrusive; the most obtrusive cameo is by someone that could really use the face time (LA producer & experimental musician Daedalus); and — very important! — the costume design is fantastic. (I can't pull off the MC's red tartan shawl with Burger King Crown, four-finger ring, and Smurf mask look, but God knows he sure can.)
And, hey, now that he's in the room, let's actually invoke God again and thank him for not making this song more overtly political.
Get it? God. Ha-ha. Thank God…
Okay maybe you don't get it. But the picture above is a good segue into a short rant on my problems with ideological art — the reason I twitch when artists claim to be political animals. Whenever I start to think about such ideological art, I start to think about Nazis and — being something of a contrarian, something of a professional Devil's advocate — whenever I start to think about Nazis, I start to think about foot-in-mouth comments like this one uttered last year by Brian Ferry as reported in the UK's Guardian newspaper:
“Leni Riefenstahl's movies and Albert Speer's buildings and the mass parades and flags — just amazing. Really beautiful”. This is what Bryan Ferry, the crooner and Marks & Spencer model told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag at the beginning of the week. He also admitted that he called his London studio the “fuhrerbunker”.
He of, of course, is taking about the wonders of Nazi art. I found it in part of a larger story in the Guardian titled Why Nazi aesthetics are a dangerous minefield
. (Someone let me know if I'm re-hashing it in this post. As I sit here blogging at 4am, I couldn't be bothered to read the whole thing.)
Anyhoo, blam, if you start condoning ideological art of any sort, suddenly we have to start considering images like this…
…and we have to start having considered discussions about them.
Fact is, the Nazis sponsored some truly compelling graphic design, film making, and architecture. You can try too deny this fact, but if you do so too strenuously you'll likely sound as ridiculous as Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's well-rationalized hatred of jazz and other forms of American pop culture. You'll be able to critique it in fine details, create ornate theoretical models to back up your case, but you just won't be able to deny that the average person on the street just wants to dance to those Hot Fives and Sevens — just as you won't be able to deny that this rhetorical everyperson is likely to be compelled by columnated buildings that borrow from classic Greek & Roman architecture and are decorated with bold red banners with clear black logotypes.
I apologize to my relatives who died in various shtetls, death camps, and other dark places for saying this. But, that said, it's fairly undeniable that one thing those (more observant) relatives would have agreed upon is my larger point…
That being? Well, our beliefs should not be summed up or supported by false idols, golden calves, really good logotypes, or exceedingly catchy songs. Not that it shouldn't include those things — I'm no hardliner — but when image, sound, and movement begins to overtake something ineffable like private thought well, Houston, we have a problem. All of this is a long-winded way of explaining the reason why — throughout this most thrilling political season — I have strenuously avoided being thrilled, refused to follow the election through the televisual medium, and refused to forward stupid fucking videos about my favorite political candidates.
Instead, I've been reading lots of newspapers.
JUST SO NO ONE IS MISSING MY POINT. IT'S CALLED READING, PEOPLE. IT'S FUCKING AWESOME AND THAT SHIT'S BEEN PROVEN EFFECTIVE AT CONVEYING MEANING SINCE MOSES CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN WITH A PAIR OF GOLDEN TABLETS.
Okay, maybe they were stone. As you can tell by now, I'm really bad about the details on this religion stuff.
Bible scholars, Nazi apologists, and Sunday school teachers, please feel free to post your comments. But before you do, let's all take this opportunity to learn about and listen to the authors of the new Obama rally song, Sa-Ra Creative Partnership, who — in addition to having a name as cool as the Advanced Association of Creative Musicians — make some pretty good tunes.
After the jump, a video of one of history's all time great rallying cries inspired by then-current events, and two cheesy EPK's about Sa-Ra.
The Chicago Bears: “Superbowl Shuffle”:
Isn't it great how the white people in that video seem especially ridiculous? And also isn't it great how it was considered a savvy form of pop cultural miming to include both (1) raps and (2) a Clarence Clemons-style sax breakdown in the same song. (Video circa early 1985, the year after Bruce Springsteen's “Born in the USA” and the Beastie Boys & Run-DMC debuting on MTV.)
Two cheesy but semi-informative Sa-Ra electronic press kits: