Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Real Thing?

Now there's an interesting thing about popular culture in this country. It seems we like the idea of 'street culture' and art reflecting the true 'grittiness' and experience of urban working class life. You know the sort of thing - music which purports to be the sound of Britain's inner city estates, that sort of thing. At least, we like the idea in theory. Fascinatingly, when we do produce a music artist who actually does come from this background, they find they can't actually seem to sell a record in this country. However, perhaps bizarrely, they are embraced by the US record buying public. Such seems to be the fate of Lady Sovereign. I seem to recall that the only time she broke into the top ten of the singles chart was when the Ordinary Boys did a cover of one of her songs. Truly, a fate worse than death.

Equally interestingly, here in good old Blighty, we have taken to Lily Allen, who has been promoted as being some kind of authentically streetwise voice. In reality, of course, she's decidedly middle class (and actually pretty well spoken when I've heard her interviewed). It seems we like to play safe and stick with someone who might be able to speak the language of the streets, but only as a second language. The genuine article scares us - we'd rather stick with that nice middle class girl. She's less threatening. (Now, before any fans of Miss Allen who have strayed in here start castigating me, I'd just like to point out that I like Lily Allen - she seems a perfectly pleasant and intelligent person who has come up with several songs I've found very entertaining. I've even forgiven her for being Keith Allen's daughter (I really can't stand him). I'm just trying to make a point here about the mind set of modern Britain.)

Over in the US (and I'm straining my knowledge of modern popular music to the limits here), they seem to have no problem in embracing authentically working class acts such as Eminem and the like. Of course, these acts, in turn, have no problem whatsoever in embracing the extravagant lifestyles that their success buys them. They don't start producing albums bemoaning have changed and telling us how being wealthy is a drag. Perhaps, being less class conscious in the States, they're less worried by the idea of 'betraying your class' and 'forgetting where you came from'. (Both of which seem to be notions imposed by the middle class, projecting their anxieties about their lack of cultural and social roots onto the working class). Maybe it says something about modern Britain that the closest to a real working class voice we've embraced is Mike Skinner aka The Streets, purveyor of novelty records passed off as social commentary.

Then again, I'm probably just talking bollocks again!



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