Why Don’t Conservatives and Music Mix Well?

“I’m sure that many of the ‘liberal elite’ won’t like hearing this but the decentralization of media sources will also inevitably mean that more conservative music criticism is coming our way. Instead of a knee-jerk disgust with such an idea, I think it would be much healthier to actually welcome this (as long as it has some quality to it) because journalism should thrive on healthy debate and different perspectives.”

That’s me, making a prediction back in ’05 (about the 2004 writing landscape) and no, it didn’t happen. Maybe it was the flush of the election of Bush Jr for his (soon to be disastrous) 2nd term but I really did think that music scribing would be the next conservative frontier or at least that the party would be able to tweak pop music culture successfully.

But instead, when the GOP has mined popular music in the last several years, it’s been in a tin-eared and awkward way, by its leaders no less. Think of the last presidential campaign where not only McCain got sued for unauthorized use of a song at his campaign stops (Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty”) but Sarah Palin got called out for the same thing (Heart’s “Barracuda”). That’s not even mentioning the horrible dancing that Bush II did with Ricky Martin at his first inauguration party.

Part of the problem for the GOP is that like the movies, the music biz is also full of bleeding hearts. As such, it’s much easier to rant against it than to embrace it- witness R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s horrible Sept 2002 cover story about the death of rock and roll in his own publication, American Spectator. Even worse, he had to follow it up with the same byline to lambaste rock at least once more in 2006. Note that he had to turn it into potshots at the Democrats too, which he’s much better at doing than speaking knowledgeably about music. And so it goes, as with McCain and Palin- blindly using the music for their own agenda and just looking awkward at it. Not that the Dems haven’t done the same but at least they’re on friendlier ground- remember the impressive roll call of musicians that lined up for Obama’s inauguration?

As for music scribes who are out-and-out conservative, does J.R. Taylor have much company? The guy’s shtick is kind of amusing but not over the long haul and if you want a great contrarian, you’re much better off sticking with Chuck Eddy. I don’t think the shallow pool is thanks to some conspiracy theory about liberal gate-keeper editors keeping out GOP scribes so much as these scribes not feeling welcome or comfortable in this realm.

As I said in the original piece at the top, I think it would be helpful and interesting to hear from some of these right-wingers and their perspective on music rather than the echo chamber that we’re used to as long as they have something or interesting useful to say, which means that morons like Tyrrell need not apply. I mean, if we can appreciate good articles about artists or albums that we don’t necessarily like, why can’t we also appreciate alternate points of view from another political stripe?