All posts by amyflanagan11

The Rejection of Political Suffocation

I never found much of an interest in politics until I started University and began to follow news sources on Facebook that kept me informed with what was going on in the world. Now it seems everyone has an opinion on everything and political involvement is as easy as putting an equal sign or a flag filter over your profile picture. Cayari (2015) outlines how Youtube has allowed for a shift from media to social media (#hashtag) that requires us to rethink spacial relations of communication and politics (p. 43).

Radiohead knows how to create a hype, that’s for sure! Seemingly dropping from the internet completely, to then dropping their new single and accompanying music video.

Initially I thought it was a ‘stick it to the man’ esque narrative. With some research I found it actually is a response to the current refugee crisis and the islamophobia that has accompanied that. The animator, Verpi Kettu, speaks of the “blaming of different people… the blaming of Muslims and the negativity.” With the intention of shocking viewers about the absurdity of the dank state the crisis has ended up in, Radiohead has opened up an opportunity for reflection and outcry.

In a less cryptic manner, M.I.A.‘s music video for ‘Borders’ similarly confronts the audience with imagery that compliments the lyrics about the perils of refugees en route to a better life through the legal system. She is renowned for her political music videos however specifically for borders, having been a refugee of war herself validates her reason to speak up. She says ‘…now I have a voice in a time when war is the most invested thing on the planet.’

Of course it’s not always as easy as protesting politics online with no consequence. Feminist, Russian group Pussy Riot (pictured in cover) found themselves charged of being ‘hooligans motivated by religious hatred’ because of the videos they had uploaded protesting Putin and his dictatorship (Scholar, 2013). Their video for ‘I Can’t Breathe‘ garnered attention as it was directed at the police brutality which caused the death of Eric Garner. This event was controversial already as a bystander had recorded the entire event and uploaded it for all of cyberspace to see and judge for themselves. PR’s video depicts them being buried alive while wearing Russian police uniforms with the last words of Garner played at the ending. It’s a very literal and confronting piece about the suffocation of civilians in dire circumstances with authorities. Part of what makes PR so successful in this regard is the hysteria they cause. In an interview, one member states how people ‘condemn them and wish for prison or death, without verifying anything or even watching the video. A complete information deficit’ (Scholar, 2013). The fear that is triggered when people hear how quickly their message travels when uploaded is exactly what gives this platform of cyberculture such an impact.

Reference List:

Cayari C (2015) Participatory culture and informal music learning through video creation in the curriculum, International Journal of Community Music, Vol. 8, Iss. 1, p41-57, source.

Scholar C (2013) Reinventing the Show Trial: Putin and Pussy Riot, TDR : Drama review, Vol. 57, Iss. 1, source.


Appreciation vs. Appropriation

While I have been collecting information to develop a research report, I’ve decided it makes more sense to construct a digital artefact in the form of a youtube video to convey the information and arguments I’ve collected and developed about musician activism through the medium of music videos.

This post will be focussing on representation of race and culture in music videos and the repercussions of the portrayal and application.

One of the biggest arguments circulating the internet at the moment is of cultural appropriation – be that a Kardashian braiding her hair or wearing a bindi at a festival, the list goes on. Cultural appropriation is the act of someone borrowing an element of a culture that does not belong to them. The more innocent minds of us may miss the point in thinking ‘it doesn’t harm the culture’ (p. 8, Rao P. V., Ziff B., 1997); a more appreciative outlook on the appropriated culture. The point in this argument, however, is the privileged people in power who are appropriating a culture without acknowledging the backstory and/or using their power to support the minority groups of that culture.

A recent video that has received backlash for cultural appropriation is Coldplay’s ‘Hymn For The Weekend‘ which features Beyoncé. This video actually goes two ways for this argument. From one point, it glorifies Indian culture throughout – mainly focussing on the slums and the people rather than the lavish architecture they could have used as location. Looking at the comments from viewers I found that people felt liberated and proud of their culture. The promotion and positive insight to this culture that the video garners provides enlightened outlook and aids in the removal of negative connotations.

From the other point, Beyoncé is targeted for appropriating the Indian culture with her stereotypical use of henna tattoos on her hands and traditional Desi clothing. This sort of appropriation begs the question; why wasn’t an Indian woman chosen for the role of Bey in this song?

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A still of Beyoncé from the film clip.

While Queen Bey was at the end of this pointed finger, her ongoing support of the black community throughout her work is unmatchable. She is nothing but meticulous in her practice and her recent reliance on video in her music pursuits has been no different. Creditable mention: Lemonade.

Artists will utilise their power to raise the issues of their own culture if they have seen first hand the inequalities, but it is always uplifting to see musicians who are unaffected yet still use their platforms to preach awareness. David Bowie’s music video for ‘Let’s Dance‘, for instance, directly addressed racism right here in Australia for Indigenous people back in the early 80’s. Bowie described Australia as ‘one of the most racially intolerant countries on the planet along with apartheid-era South Africa‘ (Wilson J., 2015). Ouch. Creating this music video allowed us to see what we looked like to outsiders which gave us an opportunity to change our ways in progress for equality between races in Australia.


Reference List:

Rao P. V., Ziff B. (1997) Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation, Rutgers University Press, USA.

Wilson J. (2015) David Bowie’s Antiracist ‘Let’s Dance’ Video Brought Outback To A Global Audience, Sydney Morning Herald Entertainment, accessed 1-5-2016, source.

Discovering Sexuality

The internet has been a game changer for the LGBT community with more resources than ever for people to find acceptance and support. In order to sexually discover themselves, it is easy for people to find information about what can be expected, what is not condoned and what people deem ‘appropriate’ (Dill, 2012). Despite the positive trajectory, we are still in a transition period which means awareness and understanding must be pushed to ensure an equal future for all sexual orientations and gender choices.

Lady Gaga is a known icon in the LGBT community because of her activism and is the queen of controversial music videos. Her track ‘Born This Way‘ garnered huge attention initially for the lyrics which directly speak of equality.

“No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life”

– Lady Gaga

However, here Zafar (2011) deconstructs how the video explores various historical and artistic references – such as Michelangelo, Bernini, Madonna and Alvin Ailey to mention a few – that reinforces her message. There is no direct correlation to the overall intent of the lyrics to the music video, however her references (once researched) provide clarity. Alternatively, her music video for ‘Poker Face‘ depicts the face value of the lyrics, when in fact the song was about her bisexuality.

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Lady Gaga in BTW compared to Bernini’s “The Ecstasy of Saint Therese”

Artists such as Hozier and Troye Sivan take a more literal approach in directing. Their music videos ‘Take Me To Church‘ and ‘Fools‘ portray realistic perils of gay men in the struggle to be accepted by family and the communities. Dill (2012) also mentions how the actions of people who are in the spotlight help adolescents ‘predict likely consequences of sexual beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours’ (p. 13) which is why visual representation can be such an important tool in this context.

While providing an awareness to the struggles the LGBT community experiences daily is definitely making a huge difference, sometimes simply acknowledging it as normal is all that is needed. Disclosure captures this perfectly in their video for ‘Latch‘, as does this lovely number below.



Author Unknown (2011) Lady Gaga Spreads Positive Message for Queer People; LGBT Advocates Applaud VMA Drag Show, International Business Times, accessed 31/3/16, available here

Dill K E (2012) Mass Media Influences on Sexuality, The Journal of Sex Research, accessed 1/4/16, available here

Zafar A (2011) Deconstructing Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ Video, The Atlantic, accessed 1/4/16, available here



More than Music

I have always had an intense obsession with the art form of music video. Rage influenced my childhood more than I’d like to admit – but it was never just about music (although Daft Punk at 9a.m. never hurt anyone). Film-clips gave musicians an additional platform to not only convey their tracks, but an effective tool they could use to speak to the masses that exceeded the lyrics of their songs. These days I feel it’s actually quite rare to find a film clip that correctly depicts the actual lyrics or narrative of the song. For my research project I want to analyse messages, statements and feelings that are conveyed in a variety of music videos and pinpoint the correlation to the lyrics if there is any. To do this I’ll be breaking it down into 3 categories (w4: gender/sexuality, w6: race/culture, w8: war/politics) and looking at them specifically. I have always thought of music videos as a powerful form of communication because of the influence that musicians have over such large populations. Now with access on every device we own through the youtube app, it is more relevant than ever.

We have seen this activism through music videos cover an enormous range of social, political, environmental and economic issues that need attention. Musicians and producers over the ages have found this loophole in an industry where shallow content is celebrated (now more than ever with money, hoe’s and substance abuse being a prolific focus) and refined it to convey important messages to the generations that can make a difference.

I think it would be interesting to study the comments on the videos, analyse the feedback the musicians are receiving and determine if the statements are being received in the intended manner and /or making a difference.

Stay tuned