Lupe Fiasco has strongly voiced his political opinions regarding President Barack Obama in the past, but this past Sunday, during a concert set up by StartUp RockOn celebrating the President’s inauguration, he may have gone too far. After playing a wandering half-hour version of his anti-war track “Words I Never Said,” which included vocal statements about his lack of support for the President and violent drone strikes in the Middle East, Fiasco was escorted offstage. Hypervocal, the company that co-founded StartUp RockOn, offered a statement claiming that they are “staunch supporters of free speech, and free political speech. This was not about his opinions. Instead, after a bizarrely repetitive, jarring performance that left the crowd vocally dissatisfied, organizers decided to move on to the next act.” Of course, it seems unlikely that the voicing of Fiasco’s political views was not a factor in the organizer’s decision to remove him from the stage.
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You can see footage of the “fiasco” below.
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Ladies and gentleman, we’d like to welcome oldtimer Bob Dylan to the internet. The master of folk has finally figured out how to work that confounded computing machine and has even managed to personally update his facebook status for the first time ever!
What special occasion could possibly compel the legendary geezer to dust off his monitor and update the ol’ ‘book? Why, the election of course! Before Obama’s win was confirmed, Dylan took to his profile with the following message:
“Here’s pretty close to what I said last night in Madison. I said from the stage that we had to play better than good tonight, that the president was here today and he’s a hard act to follow. Also, that we’re not fooled by the media and we think it’s going to be a landslide. That’s pretty much all of it.”
Huh, not bad I guess. Better than my first status update at least: “Hot Pockets r good but I always burn my mouth lol.” Looks like Dylan is finally becoming one of us. Let’s just hope we don’t lost him to rage face memes and pictures of cats (He strikes me as a FarmVille kinda guy)… It’s a slippery slope from here…
If you like Bob Dylan, then you might also like OurStage’s own Joncallmusic.
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Affairs of the heart and affairs of state. The two have been intertwined in music”sometimes harmoniously , sometimes cacophonously”since around the time Bob Dylan declared that the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
In the ’80s, pop stars added a humanitarian angle, which spawned Band-Aid, USA for Africa and, since 9/11, the occasional celebrity-studded telethon during which stoic actors and reverent musicians seek monetary relief for victims of international catastrophes. Pop stars pose with world leaders; political hopefuls adopt rock classics as campaign themes; Lady Gaga and Madonna stand up for gay rights; Sonny Bono even ran for Congress and won.
In recent years, the politics of dancing”of music, in general”have been less about policy and more about moving and feeling good. That hasn’t stopped top stars from making political stands onstage and off. But if you’re going to try to save the world in five minutes of song”as U2 has been doing for the better part of three decades”or publicly put your faith in a specific candidate on the eve of a Presidential election year, you’d better do it well.
Which is exactly what Kelly Clarkson didn’t do on December 29. The woman best known for being the first American Idol winner and scoring frothy hits like “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “My Life Would Suck Without You,” publicly endorsed US Presidential candidate Ron Paul for the Republican Party nomination on Twitter”of all places”and, unfortunately, with all the insight and depth of a high school student discussing student-council elections.
I love Ron Paul,” she tweeted via her WhoSay page. “I liked him a lot during the last republican nomination and no one gave him a chance. If he wins the nomination for the Republican party in 2012 he’s got my vote. Too bad he probably won’t.”
Newspapers, fellow politicians and even Hollywood stars endorse and support candidates every election cycle, and pop stars show up every four years to perform at Presidential inaugurations, regardless of their political affiliation. But when they enter the political ring with their ringing endorsements in 140 characters or less on Twitter, it can be dangerous for both parties”and not just the political ones.
The stars risk not only alienating fans who support the opposite side but sounding uninformed as well. (It’s hard to get coherent points across in Twitter’s tiny comment box.) The candidates risk guilt (and plummeting poll numbers) by association with shallow pop stars.
It’s hard to tell whether Paul’s subsequent placings in the Republican primaries”No. 3 in Iowa on January 3, No. 2 in New Hampshire on January 10”had anything to do with Clarkson, and his effect on her album sales are equally unclear. Her fifth album, Stronger, has racked up ho-hum sales since its release October, and while the first single , “Mr. Know It All,” reached No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, overall, response to it has been tepid. For Katy Perry, it might be considered a flop.
Depending on how you interpret the numbers, Clarkson either flourished or faltered in the week following her Twitter alliance with Paul. According to Billboard.com, Mr. Know It All sold 123,000 downloads (it’s highest weekly tally in seventeen weeks of chart action), and jumped from No. 32 to No. 20 on the Hot 100, but Billboard credits the normal holiday sales surge for active singles. Though its 55 percent digital sales increase was the second largest in the Top 50, all but three titles in the Top 75 enjoyed a boost in sales.
Meanwhile, overall sales of the album actually dropped 40 percent for the week ending January 1 (41,000 to 25,000), while digital sales increased 232 percent (to 14,000). As Billboard sees it, however, that boost probably has more to do with iTunes’ heavy promotion and $7.99 sales-pricing of Stronger (which also may have influenced digital sales of the single) rather than the artist’s political stance, which, in the end, might damage her reputation among her more liberal Democratic-leaning fans.
She’s a formerly apolitical singer with a substantial gay fan base backing a candidate from a party that doesn’t support gay marriage. Does that mean she feels the same way? In the hours after her tweet, Clarkson engaged in a war of words with some of her followers, many of whom dubbed Paul racist and homophobic. (Incidentally, Clarkson’s fellow pop singer Michelle Branch, sided with Team Kelly, tweeting “I wholeheartedly agree” to her Paul endorsement. Luckily for Branch”in this context, at least”she’s not exactly tops of the pops anymore, so few seemed to notice.) Eventually, Clarkson took to WhoSay in her own defense.
“I am really sorry if I have offended anyone. Obviously that was not my intent. I do not support racism. I support gay rights, straight rights, women’s rights, men’s rights, white/black/purple/orange rights. I like Ron Paul because he believes in less government and letting the people (all of us) make the decisions and mold our country. That is all. Out of all of the Republican nominees, he’s my favorite.”
Too bad she didn’t say that in the first place. Pop singers are entitled to their political opinions like everybody else, but when they begin publicly endorsing controversial candidates like Paul, who has been targeted for racist newsletters sent out under his name in the late ˜80s and early ˜90s (which he’s disavowed), they should proceed with great caution.
In the Twitter age, when stars can interact directly with fans, it’s more important to be mindful of what you say and how you say it, which makes entering the political fray an even more slippery slope, especially for stars like Clarkson, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Adele, who are among the most influential people on the planet. Young people want to dress like them, act like them, be them, even many who are over the voting age of eighteen.
When fans start wanting to vote like them, too… Well, if they don’t have something insightful and enlightening to add to the political discussion, it’s probably best to stay out of it and just shut up and sing.
Of all of the crucial components in a presidential election strategy, the campaign song is key. It sets a positive tone for rallies, distills the campaign’s core message and immediately allies the candidate with a specific musical demographic.
Or, it totally backfires.
With the majority of musicians leaning left in the political spectrum, conservative candidates have historically had a difficult time securing songs for their campaigns. So, what’s a politician to do when faced with a likely rejection from a copyright lawyer? Just use the song and pay the price later. After all, isn’t asking forgiveness is easier than asking permission?
GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has become the latest target of political ire from liberal musicians. After playing the Tom Petty song American Girl during her presidential bid announcement, Bachmann received a stern cease and desist order from Petty’s lawyers alleging that she had used the song without permission. Not a week later, Bachmann received a similar warning from Katrina Leskanich, the lead singer of ’80s new wave group Katrina & the Waves. Bachmann had used their song Walking on Sunshine during rallies in Iowa and South Carolina, also supposedly without permission.
Though she didn’t consult Petty or Leskanich’s lawyers, Bachmann at least chose songs appropriate to her central campaign message. Past politicians haven’t been nearly as shrewd. In his 1984 re-election campaign, Ronald Reagan famously used Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. without the Boss’ permission. Exactly why his staffers thought that a song about a shell-shocked, probably disabled, disillusioned Vietnam War veteran would bolster their patriotic campaign still remains a mystery.
Though some pundits have argued that monetary motives are fueling Petty and Leskanich’s cease and desist orders to Bachmann, money is clearly not the only factor. Petty was completely cool with Hillary rocking out to American Girl in her 2008 campaign, but he forbade George W. Bush from using I Won’t Back Down in 2000. So, ultimately it does seem to be politics that are at stake for these artists, even if they unwittingly aid the very politicians they want to defeat in the process. By openly denying conservative politicians the use of their songs, musicians only give those politicians more media attention and press exposure. What is supposed to represent a triumphant rejection of Republican principles merely shines the spotlight brighter on them. But Petty and Leskanich wouldn’t understand that. After all, they’re not politicians.
He told CBS’ What’s Trending, “The biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America. For me, I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism. The root cause of the terrorism is the stuff that you as a government allow to happen and the foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists. And it’s easy for us because it’s really just some oil, which we can really get on our own.
He went on to explain his reasons for not voting, saying, “I don’t get involved in the political process because it’s meaningless, to be honest. First of all I’m a real big believer if I’m gonna vouch for someone, then I’m gonna stand behind everything that they do. That’s just how I am as a human being. So politicians aren’t gonna do that because I don’t want you to bomb some village in the middle of nowhere.”
Crap. I vouched for Lupe and he just told me not to vote. Now what?
Lupe’s lash-out at President Obama was not as surprising to me as his conclusion that participation in a flawed system is futile; and that if you can’t support everything someone does, then you can’t support them at all. While I’ve always applauded the Chicago emcee for his intellectual prowess, and socially conscious content, I must admit, Lupe threw me for a loop with this one.
Isn’t the point of questioning authority to make a difference for the better? To change unfair practices and policies, and to refuse to blindly accept what’s on the surface? The declaration that voting is pointless seems not only irresponsible, but contradictory to the very platform I thought he was standing on. Worse than that, is the fact that Lupe just helped a whole lot of people hit the Mute button before they will ever hear him elaborate on his points. This is a man who clearly has a lot to say; and a lot to offer a habitually complacent crowd. He has the skills to motivate others to affect change, to think twice about what they read and hear and buy; but somewhere along the way, he lost the humility it takes to deliver such messages.
To call President Obama a terrorist is provocative, but not groundbreaking. It could have been enough to get people’s ears to perk up and listen to what followed. That’s where Lupe dropped the ball. He instantaneously relegated himself to the stereotypical “angry black man” that gripes at the system and offers no remedy. He became part of the problem instead of part of the solution. More noise.
Lupe’s statements suggest that the powers that be are too strong to contend with, and that the only answer is to withdraw. If that’s the case, what was the point of leading throngs of fans to protest at Atlantic Records in order to secure a release date for Lasers? Shouldn’t they have realized that their voices would not matter to the powerful executives at the top and decide to quit buying music altogether?
Come on, Lupe. Here I am, touting you as the poster child for what hip hop should be, happily reciting your uplifting, inspiring lyrics for all to hear, and hoping my little brother will choose you instead of Jeezy as a hip hop icon to pay attention to. Once people finally start listening, you go on a pretty radical rant against an American that I would think at least deserves your respect, if not your vote. You have honorable intentions, and you did your fans a disservice. You strive to deliver the truth and empower people, and instead, you disheartened them. I can swallow that you’re flawed, that everything you say and do and believe is not perfect, and I can still think you’re the best man for the job, or in this case, the mic. Lucky for you, fans like me are more understanding than you are.
I have no doubt that a peek into Lupe’s mind would unleash truths and insights that most of his fans would benefit from. I’m certain there are tons of facts and ideas that could inspire young people to do research, learn their own truths and question the powers that be. Instead, however, they never will. He really told them to give up. That his assertions weren’t even worth following up on. Are Americans imperialists? Are we bombing villages full of innocent people? Maybe. But who cares? We can’t do anything about it, so why ask questions.
Furthermore, I can’t help but wonder what personal fight with terrorism he’s referring to. How exactly is he waging this war against the “terrorism that’s actually causing other forms of terrorism.” WTF? Unless he’s moonlighting as a global superhero between concerts and interviews; I’m thinking this self-righteous rapper should stick to the rhymes until he learns to form a complete thought.
I don’t think Lupe’s intention was to alienate the people that support him. I don’t think he realized how hypocritical his statement was, or how much damage it would do to his credibility. I’m not a turncoat, and this unfortunate outburst is not enough to make me toss out his albums. I can accept that we don’t see eye to eye on this; that while he knows a lot, he doesn’t know everything, and that he has a lot of answers, but certainly not all of them. He can be smart and misguided. I can only hope that Lupe learns to speak his mind in a way that gives people a chance to hear him. Until then, I’ll chock this up to “Words” I wish he never said.
Following her record-breaking rack up of eight MTV VMA’s for her single “Bad Romance” and collaboration with Beyoncé on “Telephone,” Lady Gaga gave fans a taste of what’s to come when she belted out lyrics to her future single, “Born This Way” at the podium: “I’m beautiful in my way, because God makes no mistakes, I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.” The reigning Queen of Pop was escorted by three discharged US soldiers to her big night, a move made to raise awareness for the repeal of the controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy employed by the US armed forces. There’s no mistaking the pointed message of the song, but was it also a call to action to her fellow superstars?
It comes at the heels of a national string of gay suicides, most recently Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers student who leapt to his death after his roommate used a webcam to film him having homosexual sex. Clementi’s suicide was the fourth time in four weeks that gay youth suicide made headlines, prompting big reactions from some serious stars.
Ellen DeGeneres, Cyndi Lauper, Wendy Williams, Aubrey O’Day, Ke$ha, Ashley Tisdale, Leanne Rimes, Jason Derulo, Joe Jonas, Jewel and Eve are just a few of the stars who have lent their time and their stories in personal video messages directed at teens struggling with their sexuality and its harsh repercussions. Also reportedly in the works is a special episode of hit show, Glee that will broach the subject of bullying and tolerance.
Rumors are swirling that Pink, this year’s recipient of the Ally For Equality Award at the Human Rights Campaign’s 14th annual National Dinner in Washington, DC, will actually marry a gay couple in her next video, Raise Your Glass.
With today being National Coming Out Day, it seems that finally, the art reflects the time and artists and fans are uniting to be heard.
Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.