Is This Thing On? The power of musical activism

How would you feel if your best friend told you they didn’t vote in the last presidential election? Confused, maybe upset? Some might even ask, “Don’t we have a responsibility to use our voices?” I was reading a Tufts Observer article which asked a similar question: Do artists have a duty to be political? This could be the economics major in me speaking, but I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. However, I think we have to consider just how these stars got to be in such a position of power in the first place. They excelled at what they set out to do: create music. However, the unfortunate reality is that as artists gain fame, their careers become so much more than their talent. If you think about indie musicians like little start-up companies, stars like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are multinational corporations. They have public relations departments, sales and marketing teams, millions of fans to consider with each strategic decision. And while I applaud artists who go the extra mile and use their stardom to see tangible results, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize those who choose to focus on their artistry. That being said, let’s take a look at an example.

A friend of mine shared a remix of “Mi Gente” (2017) that hit the internet last week, completely unannounced. The new edition features Beyoncé alongside J Balvin and Willy William, who are Colombian and French singers, respectively. According to her Instagram post, Beyoncé will donate her “proceeds from this song to hurricane relief charities for Puerto Rico, Mexico and the other affected Caribbean islands.” The original song has enjoyed mainstream success since its debut in June 2017, yet the Bey-infused track has already racked up millions of Spotify plays since last Thursday and basked in the spotlight of celebrities sharing it online, including soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, DJ Steve Aoki and social influencer Lele Pons. It’s too early to tell how much philanthropic success we’ll see from the song, but I’m certain its impact will be significant.

All things considered, I was disappointed to learn that the collaboration was not Beyoncé’s idea, but that Balvin and William approached her. Still, her participation will definitely strike a chord with victims of the disasters and the global community alike. Over the past 35 years, only 15 non-English songs have made it to the Billboard Hot 100, with the last being “Despacito” (2017). With the percentage of U.S. Spanish-speakers on the rise, it certainly didn’t hurt to have the name recognition of Justin Bieber on the remix cast with Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi. Taking a play from their book, could Beyoncé’s pull on “Mi Gente” earn the track a coveted spot? We’ll keep an eye on it.

In other news this week, our childhood icons Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato each released their sixth albums last Friday. As two grads of the Disney singer-actress pressure cooker, Demi is now enjoying her recent ‘glow up,’ while Cyrus appears to have left her twerking days behind for good. Check out my highlights along with a few throwbacks on Spotify