Recently, I have partaken in several conversations about why 2016 is being so… 2016. While I can’t provide any reasoning behind why this had to be the year we lost Bowie, Prince and Cohen (amongst others – I cried when Terry Wogan died), I have been thinking up a musical analogy for why people may have voted Brexit or Trump. Call me controversial (or naïve), but I have a feeling they’re not all racists, sexist, homophobic bigots. Anyway…
In regard to Brexit, a vote for ‘remain’ was a vote to progress down the same neoliberal road the UK has been bumbling down for a while now. If you voted remain, you were probably somewhat voting from a point of privilege because you didn’t want anything to change. Leave voters, in contrast, wanted to shake things up and see what different felt like; good or bad.
Now, Brexit and Trump may be a casual, throwaway comparison to make but on some level people faced a similar decision in the US Presidential election. Hillary Clinton offered a predictable capitalist future, one with predictable progress and predictable prejudice and predictable upset, in the same way, somewhat, as Britain remaining in the EU did. Trump, however, may be a lot of things, but he is certainly a ‘wildcard’; you can predict he’s going to be terrifying but there’s no way of knowing that.
Here’s where my dubious analogy kicks in. A vote for Leave or a vote for Trump wasn’t a mindless decision. In fact, more thought was probably put in those choices than those who thought “obviously” about voting Remain and for Hillary. In the same way, thought goes into physical music purchases in a different way to adding a song to your Starred playlist does on Spotify; likewise, attending a gig is different to binge-watching music videos on YouTube. The internet is the more accessible, more efficient option and yet people still buy records and go to gigs.
Someone once told me that, by buying records, I’m proving that ‘our capitalist society’ has brainwashed me. I got my first record player when I was eleven and I wasn’t being brainwashed, I just liked having something that was a whole process. I feel the same now; you buy a record for the artwork, or for how the songs sound perfectly as an album. People still buy records because, in a world where neo-liberalism has made everything so mediocre and disposable, it reminds people that things do still matter.
Regardless of you feel about Brexit and/or the US Presidential election, you probably feel something. Up until 2016, I was forever mulling over how despondent our generation was and whether that was because we lived in happier times, or because there was no longer such an inherent crossover between the culture and the politics of this country.
Whatever happens next, just as when people snub Spotify for Sister Ray Records, people are crying out for something more. We may be looking at the beginning of the end and they may be disappointed, or we may be looking at the beginning of something better that has more substance.
Only time will tell. But let’s hope if we do have to retreat to a bunker, there’s a killer record collection and some good bands playing.