Artists Have Something to Say

The other night I went to the U2 concert for the Joshua Tree tour. I have always been a casual fan, but two years ago my best friend introduced me to the Innocence Experience tour, and I was hooked. I talked about going to this concert months leading up to it; even my students knew that I had plans to go. I love their music, and Bono has a set of pipes on him that fills a stadium. Their song lyrics are poetry (I mean that’s hard to argue with lyrics like this: “You say you’ll give me eyes in a moon of blindness/A river in a time of dryness/A harbour in the tempest”).

And I’ll admit I tend to lean toward his political leanings. There’s a moment in this tour when they play “Miss Sarajevo” that will forever give me chills. However, as we were leaving I heard someone say, “Bono really needs to shut up. Just shut up and sing. And he’s really political.”

Now I won’t even go into the fact that before you spend your hard-earned money you should do your research and understand what you’re plunking your money down for. And yes, that obnoxious lady that I overheard would probably argue that she came to hear U2 play music, not talk. To that I have an easy solution: Don’t go to the concert.  Stay home and listen to the album.

There are other albums and artists I listen to, and thoroughly enjoy, but not enough to spend an entire evening with that artist. Taylor Swift’s “1989” album has some great catchy tunes, but do I want to spend an entire evening immersed in T Swift? No. A concert is not just a time to hear your favorite songs, it’s a time for the artist to connect with fans. For example, besides the fact that I don’t like his music, I wouldn’t spend money on a Ted Nugent concert.  I have no desire to connect with Ted Nugent. A ton of great rock came out of the ’70s, and sorry Nugent fans, Nugent wasn’t one of them. And yes, I have no desire to hear what he says. And when you go to a concert you are paying to hear what the performer has to say. Songwriting is personal, just like all forms of art. A play? The playwright had something to say. Novels have themes, which is of course something the writer wanted to get across to their audience. Actors perform because they are expressing a part of themselves. The painter uses the canvas to express and escape. This is what artists do; it’s in our nature.

Everything is divisive now. We live in a time where the arts are constantly under attack; let’s not make it worse. Let’s  just agree to stop getting so angry when an artist has something to say. And that includes Kid Rock; his music may cause my ears to bleed, and I do not like what he has to say, but he’s an artist. Expression is kind of his thing.

Artists create. We write, paint, sculpt, sing, dance and act because there is something in our souls we need to get out and share with the world. So the next time you hear an artist create, don’t hate. And if you think artists should just shut up and do what you want — well, then you don’t actually get it.

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