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CMU Beef Of The Week #326: Musicians v Donald Trump (Round 2)

By | Published on Friday 7 October 2016

Donald Trump

It might say ‘Round 2’ in the headline up there, but we’re well beyond that really, in the race for musicians to distance themselves from Donald Trump. But somehow it’s only the second time we’ve taken a moment to have a round up here in the BOTW column.

More beef time was given to our own British political shambles of course, with that concert the Leave campaign tried to organise ahead of the European referendum, which kept losing its line-up once booked acts realised its political agenda. The increasingly unimpressive list of artists who were set to perform in support of leaving the European Union – as each new set of acts dropped out – was too funny not to cover ad nauseam (a phrase soon to be banned from the English language of course, on account of it being too foreign, so make the most of it).

The Bpoplive debacle seemed like a perfect representation of the entire Leave campaign. Misleading and chaotic, it was a venture surely no one in their right mind would ever sign up to. Except, of course, when it came to the big vote itself, lots of people did sign up for the misleading and chaotic option. As it turned out, pop couldn’t save us.

Not from Brexit, and not from the unelected bunch of rabid right winners who are suddenly running the shop, banging on about all the things that the referendum vote supposedly “clearly demonstrated”, when the only thing it clearly demonstrated is just how divided we all are on some fundamental issues.

So basically, everything is fucked. How are we going to get ourselves out of this one? It’s an utter fucking disaster and it keeps getting worse. It’s as if we’ve decided to prepare for the possibility of a Trump presidency by trying to make things so bad that we won’t actually notice. Maybe a Trump presidency is what the world deserves.

Luckily, not everyone has lost hope. Indeed, if he does get in, Trump will be able to build his wall along the border of Mexico out of the musicians who opposed him, so many having now formally joined that party. Katy Perry took her clothes off to try to convince Americans not to vote for him. So did Madonna. And Hillary Clinton supporter Pusha T will shake your hand if you register to vote in this most important of elections (and win a competition). Neil Young is currently on the anti-Trump list too.

Young’s name, of course, came up because his music had been used by the Trump campaign. This is how most musicians have ended up being forced to formally distance themselves from The Donald. Back when the 2016 presidential race first began in early 1847, or whenever it was, the businessman made his way around the US, leaving behind him a trail of musicians unhappy at being the soundtrack to his latest racist pronouncement.

This week The White Stripes joined that list – though rather than complaining about their music being used at a public rally (where music use is generally covered by blanket licences from the collecting societies, so as much as artists may gripe there’s not actual copyright issues), their song ‘Seven Nation Army’ was apparently used in a campaign video, where having an ASCAP and BMI licence isn’t a get out. Just ask Charlie Crist.

The White Stripes got on the old Facebook this week to post a statement on the matter, saying: “Regarding the use of ‘Seven Nation Army’ in a Donald Trump campaign video, The White Stripes would like to unequivocally state that they have nothing whatsoever to do with this video. They are disgusted by this association, and by the illegal use of their song”.

Strong words indeed. Although, as Pitchfork notes, it’s not entirely clear what video they’re referring to. An unofficial video using the song appeared online recently, but it’s not clear if the Trump campaign itself used it. “If you can’t find the video, great. Then our lawyers have done their job”, was all the band’s manager Ian Montone had to say on the matter.

Whatever, it turned out to be a great merch opportunity, which is something all the other artists sullied by Trump’s use of their songs seemingly failed to realise. Really though, what better way to protest Trump than through profit? So you can now pre-order t-shirts baring the slogan ‘Icky Trump’ – a play on the White Stripes’ ‘Icky Thump’ song title.

The back of the shirt features reworked lyrics to the song, reading: “White America? What? Nothing better to do? Why don’t you kick yourself out? You’re an immigrant too. Who’s using who? What should we do? Well, you can’t be a pimp and a prostitute too”.

They just need to use this as a platform for the long-awaited White Stripes reunion and the process will be complete. Not sure that’s going to happen. But, hey, it would be a long way from being the strangest thing to occur this year if it did.

It’s not just The White Stripes jumping on the anti-Trump bandwagon this week though. Of course U2 have as well. Still on a roll after suggesting that stand up comedians be airdropped into Syria to fight ISIS, Bono has now staged his own presidential debate with Trump.

Yesterday, the band posted a video from a recent show on their YouTube channel, in which Bono and Trump have a conversation on stage. Trump’s side of the debate is made up of edited clips displayed on a big screen, while Bono responds live as the other U2s lay down some slick reggae-funk fusion.

I don’t know if you watched the first actual presidential debate. It was quite something. Trump blathered and stumbled his way through, getting by mainly by shouting more than making any points. In one breath he complained that other countries were failing to pay America what it was due, then snorted “That makes me smart!” when he was accused of doing the same.

But while the actual debating Trump is mainly a ramble of nonsense, once his speeches are edited together by U2 he appears to deliver his core policies much more clearly and succinctly. So well done there everybody. Still, presumably the hope is that when clearly and succinctly presented, those core polices will be a big fat turn off. Yeah, here’s hoping.

Bono tells Trump that on his strict immigration policy to ‘send them back’ he is up against “everyone who loves the idea of America … everyone who believes what they read at the foot of the bottom of the Statue Of Liberty”.

That might be a stark misreading of the mood in the US of course, just as many people misread the mood in the UK earlier this year. Though, to be fair, while Bono talks about Ireland, France and Brazil, he never suggests that America itself “loves the idea of America”.

“Good people are not going to stay silent while you run off with the American dream”, the singer proclaims. “You hear me, candidate? You’re fired!” That’s a telly show reference there people, did you spot it?

Bono then gets an edited Trump to say that he wants to punch each member of U2 in the face, proving that what Cassetteboy do really is a lot harder than it looks. And we close with Trump chanting “Build that wall! Build that wall!”

I think Bono actually makes another point to conclude, but every time I watch it I get distracted by how weird it is when Bono refers to The Edge as “The Edge”. I know this is not a new observation by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever you actually hear it with your own ears, it really is fucking weird.

Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, can pop save us from Trump? Well, we’re now one month away from finding out. Acts like The White Stripes and U2 certainly have a sizeable audience to talk to. And the argument against Trump is a lot less complicated and nuanced than the argument against Brexit. Though, if we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that simply saying “if you vote for this clearly terrible thing everything will be terrible” isn’t a convincing argument any more. Maybe it never was.

It really is weird when Bono calls that guy The Edge though.