Here at Sputnikmusic we have an unwritten editorial rule not to get involved in politics (at least as much that’s enforceable on a site staffed mainly by college-age pinkos) so I’m going to more or less throw this out without making reference to left or right, conservative or liberal.
Hell, I’m not even American – I couldn’t really give a shit what Congress does so long as it doesn’t show up on my doorstep.
However, I find something profoundly odd in ‘The Sarah Palin Battle Hymn,’ and it’s more than what musicologists often refer to “just being self-evidently dreadful.” It’s the myopic adulation of a popular political figure – in this case the lovely Ms. Palin – and her elevation to almost prophet-like status in its lyrics. This is made implicit by the choice of music: it’s a countried-up variation on ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic‘ (often known as ‘Glory, Glory Hallelujah), a Messianic patriot song from the American Civil War, now popularly used in religious services as well as Presidential inaugurations.
It would be easy to view ‘The Sarah Palin Battle Hymn’ as the work of a couple of mad oldies in a church somewhere, but it raises the wider point of how music is often used to serve a particular party-political agenda, and whether this is really something that we want to see more of. Many were similarly uncomfortable when, prior to the 2008 Presidential election, will.i.am and a cast of left-leaning musicians put together ‘Yes We Can,’ an unabashed endorsement of Barack Obama setting segments of his speeches to a musical soundtrack.
We often use music to express our deepest convictions, but when that conviction is focused so entirely on one person the line between homage and hero-worship can become all too blurry. This can be a wonderful thing, as evidenced by affectionate (and moving) popular tributes such as ‘Alex Chilton‘ (the Replacements) and ‘Kevin Carter‘ (Manic Street Preachers). However, when the focus is on a particular political candidate, particularly a divisive and emotive one like Palin or Obama, there always seems to be a more sinister undertone – one that demands conformity to a particular point of view.
It would be easy to blow the importance of this issue out of the proportion – it is just two people singing in church, after all – but in an age when many decry the death of the protest singer, it’s a reminder that sometimes we should be careful what we wish for lest it actually happen.