Popular Music After 9/11: Puttling Politics Into Verse
Popular music critics have hijacked American audiences. Heralding Bruce Springsteen's The Rising as the definitive response to September 11th within popular music, critics would have audiences believe The Rising accurately embodies the emotions felt by survivors and witnesses to last year's tragedy. Like near-sighted lemmings, the critics rushed to applaud The Rising, giving little attention to the work of other artists addressing 9/11, as if Springsteen ushered in a new era of musical social criticism or a more valid musical witness to 9/11. A form of cultural imperialism, this universal praise underlines the serious lack of diversity within circles of popular music critics. The manner in which critics praised The Rising serves to grant popular music a deceiving sense of accomplishment and dangerously conditions appropriate social responses to 9/11.
Symptomatic of America's deeply embedded cult of the hero and cowboy tinged image of rugged individualism, the critic's search for salvation in one man is counter to the spirit of artistic expression within a greater framework and community of musicians. To truly allow response to September 11th within popular music to mirror our own emotions, audiences need to listen to an array of artists, genres, and sounds. The words of Paris or Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker are no less sincere and compelling than Springsteen's, but in a media-saturated, hyper-PC pre-war atmosphere, the "wrong" words are deemed treasonous, as Steve Earle found out, and the experience of a dynamic reflection upon the events of 9/11 within popular music becomes a scattered hunt rather than a communal moment.