Music/musicians can be a force for social change and greater awareness in the public-at-large as we gave seen, but it/they can also purvey a form of expression conceived for entertainment purposes only. (Compare the music/activism of U2 and Bono with the music/image of KISS, for example). We’ve discussed songs about subjects as trite as cars, personally expressive love songs, songs about the gritty side of life, songs about dancing/partying, songs about social justice, and so forth. Lyrical content across the rock/pop music spectrum can and does reflect the gamut of human experience. Songs speak to activism, realism, escapism, etc.
I’d like you to critically discuss the importance of lyrical content/song subject matter using the following questions to guide your ideas: Should musicians assume responsibility for what they say and how it affects those who hear it? Is so, to what degree should this responsibility extend? Are musicians obligated to hold themselves up as role models, activists, purveyors of public awareness, or are they simply there to provide a form of entertainment. If an artist writes about a sensitive or controversial subject is he or she then “on the hook” to be held accountable for any resulting fallout or public backlash? Does composing a song with an important social or political message add legitimacy to the composer as a serious public figure? Should rock/pop/hip-hop musicians be seen as artistic envoys? What are the responsibilities of consumers of music in regards to these issues? To what degrees do lyrics matter to you personally?
For your assignment, choose one or two of the above lines of inquiry as a point of entry. You might compare and contrast lyrical content, weigh the impact and importance of lyrics or the lack thereof, discuss musicians who have assumed multiple roles/positions throughout their careers, discuss the various roles outside of music in which certain artists have placed themselves and/or the liabilities artists have had thrust upon them as a result of music that they have written, etc.
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