Thursday, May 18, 2006

Protest music boom reaches USA Today...

With Pearl Jam's first single reaching #1 in record time...with the Dixie Chicks topping album charts a month before their album's release (despite no radio play)...there are all kinds of signs pointing toward the revival of protest music. In fact, I wrote about precisely that about a month ago. Today, USA Today has a pretty good article about it (h/t Largehearted boy). Beyond PJ and Dixie Chicks, they talk about other artists I've been wanting to mention, including old fogies Neil Young and Paul Simon. I forgot to mention Simon's SNL performance in my Al Gore/SNL post from Sunday, but I must say I was impressed. Very Graceland-y, only with quite pointed lyrics. The radio version of his first single actually sound like it almost has a hip-hop beat in it...and it actually doesn't sound cheesy either.'s a blurb from the article...

Protest music is rallying on radio and charts, though little has shown the commercial clout of Green Day's 2004 multi-platinum American Idiot. The revolution-minded rock on Living Things' Ahead of the Lions has sold a modest 18,000 copies since October. The Coup's "raptivist" rap on Pick a Bigger Weapon has sold 6,400 copies since April 25. Anti-Flag's seething For Blood and Empire is heftier, with 38,000 since March, and a track, The Press Corpse, that hit the modern-rock top 40 chart this week.

Anti-establishment songs have been heating up at rock radio since Incubus' Megalomaniac struck two years ago, and at top 40 since the Black Eyed Peas' 2003 Where Is the Love, says Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming at Edison Media Research.

Lefty fare is still taboo at country, but a startling development came when usually conservative Hot AC stations jumped on Green Day's Holiday, with its "zieg heil to the president" line.

"That clearly means something," Ross says.

But does it necessarily mean that President Bush's declining ratings are emboldening artists and airwaves to unleash anti-war tunes?

Ross says, "I don't think it can be neatly tied into 'Things are getting worse and there are more people speaking out.' It took six to nine months for artists to figure out how to proceed (after the 2003 Iraq invasion), to get around to putting out records and for the lingering Dixie Chicks hysteria (when many country stations stopped playing the band after singer Natalie Maines made anti-Bush remarks) to wear off. It's had as much to do with the normal product cycle as anything else.

"And like anything else at radio, if it's not a single and it's not being worked, program directors don't go looking for it."

A 9/11 chill, when the "you're with us or against us" mind-set prevailed, might have stifled some artists, but Ross believes most just needed time to digest events.