In perhaps another example of how culture is downstream from politics, Billboard looks at how the big acts in pop music may react to the new political realities:
Whether you believe the arguments that difficult political times create great protest music by firing up the punk in all of us, there's no doubt that the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump is likely to unleash a barrage of heated anthems. Already U2 revealed that they have re-thought releasing their long-simmering Songs of Experience in favor of possibly going back into the studio to write tunes inspired by the current times.
Eminem weighed in back in October with his scathing eight-minute "Campaign Speech," which we can only hope is a first taste of be a precursor to his ninth full-length studio album. Singer Amanda Palmer recently said she thinks Trump is going to "make punk rock great again," but we'll have to wait and see if she's right.
Of course, punk rock was before Reagan and Thatcher, but don't expect this moron to know basic history. They can't even blame Nixon or Ford -- its anti-musical nihilism was a reaction to the larger sense of stagnation and doom during the Jimmy Carter years. Once Reagan and Thatcher took over, nihilistic punk and decadent disco fused into new wave, canceling out the worst aspects of both and producing a cautiously novelty-seeking tone that characterized the Eighties.
Another major change was away from the tortured urban beatnik in folk rock (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel), and toward heartland rock, with its non-ironic tribute to common people and everyday life outside of elite cities. Everyone knows John Cougar Mellencamp's wholesome vignettes in "Jack and Diane," "Pink Houses" ("Ain't that America?"), "Small Town," "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.," and so on. But just a year before the Reagan landslide, his first hit "I Need a Lover" was about the gritty city -- a winking celebration of faceless "human jungles", druggies, and empty promiscuity.
Still, I don't think we're in for a revival of the '80s atmosphere, as awesome as that would be. Reagan had the whole country on one side, so musicians really had no choice but to appeal to whatever it was that was resonating politically. The 2016 election is closer to 1968, when re-alignment was just beginning away from the New Deal / Great Society and toward Neoliberalism / Neoconservatism. It wasn't a landslide for Nixon, so musicians could go against the political winners and feel supported by a large chunk of the population.
It was also nearing a time of growing civil unrest, which according to Peter Turchin goes in roughly 50-year cycles -- which means we're due for another peak around 2020, after the last one around 1970. That kind of atmosphere naturally encourages musicians to act up more, whether the whole country is on their side or not.
So if anything, pop music is headed in a counter-cultural direction which middle America will largely tune out. And yet without the rising-crime and outgoing social behavior that characterized the mood in 1970, the coming counter-cultural moment will not be as exciting or thrilling, even for the participants.
On the plus side, we may get another "Sweet Home Alabama" in reaction.