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National Post

nparts:

The future of music is written by fortysomething artists
Imagine grabbing a CD by Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or any other young  hitmaker from our Age of Derivative. You hop into your Delorean and zip  back to 1991. Would our 2011 sounds truly dazzle and challenge the ears  of yesteryear? Would a single feather be ruffled, or a mind blown?

nparts:

The future of music is written by fortysomething artists

Imagine grabbing a CD by Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or any other young hitmaker from our Age of Derivative. You hop into your Delorean and zip back to 1991. Would our 2011 sounds truly dazzle and challenge the ears of yesteryear? Would a single feather be ruffled, or a mind blown?

PJ Harvey heralds the return of the protest song“Don’t you remember when you were young / How you wanted to set the world on fire?” sings Tim McIlrath on Endgame, the new album by punk band Rise Against. It sounds like a rallying cry for a generation of rockers who have been led to believe, by bling-addled hedonists and smug reality-TV judges, that popular music can’t be revolutionary.But revolutionary-minded music can certainly be popular: Endgame hit No. 1 last month in Canada, and No. 2 in the U.S.; Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers (No. 1 in the U.S. last month), finds the rapper railing against Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Barack Obama; Green Day’s new live album, Awesome as F**k, opens with a three-song tirade against apathy and fundamentalist religion; and this year’s most critically acclaimed and widely discussed album thus far is P.J. Harvey’s war-song opus, Let England Shake.Are we witnessing a new golden era of protest music, to accompany the global rise of protest movements? In North Africa, protest hip hop has been something of a soundtrack to revolution. But in the West, it’s unclear how much newly penned songs — even popular ones — can serve as catalyst for change. According to Dorian Lynskey, author of 33 Revolutions per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, “We’ve lost faith in the idea that rock stars might be revolutionaries.” Nonetheless, he says, there’s a “wide hunger” for politically engaged music, “as long as it’s clever.”Illustration by Kagan McLeod

PJ Harvey heralds the return of the protest song
“Don’t you remember when you were young / How you wanted to set the world on fire?” sings Tim McIlrath on Endgame, the new album by punk band Rise Against. It sounds like a rallying cry for a generation of rockers who have been led to believe, by bling-addled hedonists and smug reality-TV judges, that popular music can’t be revolutionary.

But revolutionary-minded music can certainly be popular: Endgame hit No. 1 last month in Canada, and No. 2 in the U.S.; Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers (No. 1 in the U.S. last month), finds the rapper railing against Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Barack Obama; Green Day’s new live album, Awesome as F**k, opens with a three-song tirade against apathy and fundamentalist religion; and this year’s most critically acclaimed and widely discussed album thus far is P.J. Harvey’s war-song opus, Let England Shake.

Are we witnessing a new golden era of protest music, to accompany the global rise of protest movements? In North Africa, protest hip hop has been something of a soundtrack to revolution. But in the West, it’s unclear how much newly penned songs — even popular ones — can serve as catalyst for change. According to Dorian Lynskey, author of 33 Revolutions per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, “We’ve lost faith in the idea that rock stars might be revolutionaries.” Nonetheless, he says, there’s a “wide hunger” for politically engaged music, “as long as it’s clever.”

Illustration by Kagan McLeod