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Music, politics and identity: from Cool Britannia to Grime4Corbyn

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Writers on the 'death of the protest song' suggest that the absence of similar contemporary artistic responses means that music today has become depoliticised. This is misguided, because it is based on a narrow definition of what constitutes radical music. Nevertheless, the dissenting tradition within popular music was disrupted during the 1990s as commercial imperatives and short-term success took precedence over established principles of DIY and independence; this was compounded when musicians from within one strand of alternative music, Britpop, aligned themselves with the governing project of Tony Blair's New Labour. Britpop and 'Cool Britannia' saw the promotion of apolitical or reactionary attitudes among musicians and the marginalisation or deriding of 'earnest' political convictions. At the same time there was a narrowing of the creative opportunities available to working-class artists. In spite of all this, music was and still is allied with oppositional politics in places beyond this arena. In particular, the advent of mass internet access and personal technology has altered the ways in which music is produced and consumed, rendering it in some ways much more democratic, diverse and accessible than previously. The most notable recent example of both these arguments has been the 'Grime4Corbyn' phenomenon, which has demonstrated the ongoing connection between subcultures, radical politics, and voices and identities that are otherwise ignored in popular culture and mainstream politics, as well as its potential to engage otherwise atomised individuals on a mass scale in a way comparable to 'traditional' protest music of past eras.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2017

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