British music has never looked to be in better shape than it currently is. The successes of Adele, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, One Direction and now George Ezra look to have established British pop music as the best in the world.
Yet with increasing global disparity and the tightening of political, cultural, societal and racial tensions, a new generation of songwriters and musicians has stepped into the limelight. This generation is not contempt with solely achieving large record sales. For these musicians, the burden of the current global climate is too much to simply ignore.
With governments struggling to organise themselves, let alone their own countries, a group of musicians from varying backgrounds has seemingly taken it upon themselves to highlight the urgent issues currently dawning upon our lives.
This article looks at the blossoming generation of stalwart spokesmen by highlighting three key artists who have all aimed to shine light on previously taboo topics of conversation.
Dave – ‘Black’
A song vehemently defended by Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, ‘Black’ by South London rapper Dave acts as a visceral reminder that the issue of race will rightfully not be swept under the carpet. Whilst the single acts as a representation of the rapper’s struggles, it showcases a longevity of racial stigma, speaking of severed heritage, the loss of family trees, slavery and parenthood. As an education into the current life of a person of black origin, ‘Black’ acts as an intelligent message to those believing that the struggles of one black person are the same as another.
Speaking out about the issue of black criminals being targeted by the media, Dave states “A kid dies, the blacker the killer, the sweeter the news / And if he’s white you give him a chance, he’s ill and confused / If he’s black he’s probably armed, you see him and shoot.”
“Dave allows room to manoeuvre, offering celebrations of black culture”
From the offset, the track is clear in establishing itself as a voice for those previously unheard, as lyrics “Black is pain, black is joy, black is evident / It’s working twice as hard as the people you know you’re better than” showcase current inequality within British society. Whilst much of the track’s core lyrics tackle pertinent racial problems, Dave allows room to manoeuvre, offering celebrations of black culture with lines like “Black is growing up around your family and making it,” and with a though-provoking video engraving Dave’s message into the modern British psyche, his voice will now sweep across the nation as a defiant call for change.
Sam Fender – ‘Dead Boys’
It takes a lot to receive the attention that North Shields singer-songwriter Sam Fender has been receiving over the past six months. The 2019 Brits Critics’ Choice winner has been singled out as a youthful voice for the overwhelming masses in the indie-rock and pop scene.
“Lyrics ‘We all tussle with the black dog / Some out loud and some in silence’ highlight the current issue surrounding depression”
The ability to start conversation is so vital in modern songwriting, yet is so neglected, with many performers opting for optimal pop bliss in place of a more thorough investigation into society’s complex dilemmas. However, on ‘Dead Boys’, Fender directly challenges the naivety surrounding mental health. Lyrics “We all tussle with the black dog / Some out loud and some in silence” highlight the current issue surrounding depression, whilst the single as a whole sees the young singer challenging the archaic idea of how a man is supposed to conduct himself. This portrays how toxic masculinity affects the mental health and social position of many young men and children who feel that they need to conform to some sort of societal norm.
Whilst the track had been originally released in October 2018, the deaths of Mac Miller and Keith Flint only go to prove that the topic is as important as it has ever been. An artist whose ability to touch on the social consciousness and political awareness of a nation is beyond impressive, Fender has also managed to tackle the ever-widening generational expectations, using the single as a reminder for growing generations that it is OK to reach out for help, whilst calling out for a more conscious society as a whole.
IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance
In 2018, Bristol five-piece IDLES cemented themselves as the voice of a divided nation with the release of their second album. A true masterpiece in narrative songwriting, each single on the record offers a uniquely individual part to a delicately constructed puzzle.
Brash, brazen and often brutally honest, the record analyses societal divisions surrounding Brexit, death, addiction, toxic masculinity and an ever-unstable Tory government and harnesses this conflict into one gloriously purposeful rock record.
“IDLES’s status within the music industry has never been more important”
Whether it is by addressing immigration tensions with lyrics like “My blood brother is an immigrant” (‘Danny Nedelko’), highlighting gym culture’s dangers with lyrics “You look like a walking thyroid / You’re not a man, you’re a gland” (‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’) or the Grayson Perry inspired lines “The mask of masculinity / Is a mask, a mask that’s wearing me” (‘Samaritans’), IDLES’s status within the music industry has never been more important.
Amidst the ever-conflicted global climate, Joy As An Act of Resistance is an inspiring call-to-arms for the masses, rallying for change amidst the backdrop of IDLES’s snarling punk-rock sound.
Featured Image courtesy of Tekke via Flickr.
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