Ask yourself: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Are you still finding it as easy to attend politically inspired music events as you did during Obama's initial bid for the presidency? During the past two election cycles, rockers and rappers were stumping hard for their favorite candidates. But in 2012, only a handful seem to be rocking the vote.
A few days before he began playing special sets in the swing states of Ohio, Iowa and Virginia, Bruce Springsteen let his views on the upcoming election be known. Though his left-leaning opinions came as a surprise to very few, his words contained one interesting nugget as to why there aren't as many people joining in a chorus to get the youth to the polls.
"This presidential election is different than the last one because President Obama has a four-year record to run on," wrote Springsteen on his website. "Last time around, he carried with him a tremendous amount of hope and expectations. Unfortunately, due to the economic chaos the previous administration left him with, and the extraordinary intensity of the opposition, it turned into a really rough ride. But through grit, determination and focus, the president has been able to do a great many things that many of us deeply support."
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That "really rough ride" could be why only a few musicians have hit the stage for their candidate this time around. Acts such as James Tay-lor, The Walkmen, The National and Jim James of My Morning Jacket have played election events for Obama, while Kid Rock played a set before a Romney rally in Colorado earlier this week. But the message of hope that characterized Obama's 2008 bid for the Oval Office enchanted far more musicians into lending a hand.
This time, singers are raising awareness about the issues, rather than the candidate who supports them.
Earlier this week, a number of politically active women, including musicians Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Brownstein and Sia, po-sted a webcam montage of themselves lip-synching to Les-ley Gore's 1964 hit, "You Don't Own Me," as text flashes across the screen with this message: "Mitt Romney and the Republi-can Party plan to overturn Roe v. Wade, immediately defund Planned Parenthood, shut down the nation's family planning program and repeal the affordable care act. Let's send them a clear message on Nov. 6." At the end of the video, Gore says to the camera, "I recorded 'You Don't Own Me' in 1964, and it's hard for me to believe but we're still fighting for the same things we were then."
Interestingly, the political message is more strongly "don't vote for Romney" than it is "do vote for Obama."
Having FUN. with marriage equality
Another group focusing on the issues is the organizers of Freedom to Love Now! A Con-cert for Marriage Equality. The show, to be held Tuesday at New York City’s Beacon Thea-tre, features Rufus Wainwright, FUN. and Doveman (aka Tho-mas Bartlett), who organized the show with friends Brice Ro-senbloom and Simon Rentner.
Rentner says there’s a reason they made the show about the political issue rather than a politician: “The whole notion of having the freedom to marry and what that represents is kind of a conservative value. There are a lot of log cabin Republicans, and you can’t really pigeonhole who is into the idea of granting the freedom to marry for all people. … But obviously we needed and wanted to do this concert a week before the election because this election will have the opportunity to influence countless lives.”
Rentner stresses that the show is about shedding lght on what he says should be seen as a civil rights issue. It’s also about fun — or FUN., rather.
“Given the apathetic climate that we sometimes feel, especially during the reelection year of a candidate, hopefully [FUN.] can be a galvanizing force, especially for the kids.”
Henry Rollins is doing spoken word shows as part of his Capitalism Tour, leading up to the election. Though he tells Metro the tour is bipartisan, he isn’t shy with his opinions.
“Look at the numbers, look at the house bills,” says the former Black Flag singer. “I don’t listen to the vitriol, I look at the bills. Romney wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood, which is an amazing institution. That tells me a lot about you. You’re going to get what you’re going to get. Mr. Obama has brought a lot of change and a lot of people don’t like change. A lot of people are voting emotionally, or out of anger, and
often they end up with the president who’s going to make things worse for them.”
But like many of the other artists playing election shows, Rollins says what is more important than who you vote for is that you actually vote.
“It’s alarming to me that a large portion of people in this country who can vote don’t vote,” he says.