Interested in the whole debate over cultural appropriation in music? Then read this.

The whole notion of cultural appropriation in music can make your brain explode. Are people no longer allowed to absorb influences from other cultures when making music? Or should there be rules regarding respect and exclusivity?

This article on cultural Marxism certainly provides some thought-starters on the subject.

Washington Post music critic Chris Richards has written a shameful essay.

Published on the Fourth of July, Richards’ piece addresses “The 5 Hardest Questions in Pop Music.”The questions are: Is culture appropriation ever okay? Should we listen to music against a dead artist’s wishes? Can today’s artists still sell out? How should we engage objectionable lyrics? Can we separate the art from the artist?

In the section on cultural appropriation, Richards makes the argument that musicians should self-censor themselves in deference to prevailing political orthodoxies.

If someone has ever made an argument more antithetical to the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, I haven’t heard it. Richards describes a band that so loved a record by an r & b artist that they wanted to cover it. They finally decided not to: “A band of white indie rockers performing the songs of a black R & B singer? No way. It would be seen as cultural appropriation.” Richards writes, “As badly as I wanted to hear their covers they were right.”

Richards argues that cultural appropriation is wrong and should be avoided when it feels like “taking” instead of “making.” “When Justin Timberlake beatboxes, or Taylor Swift raps, or Miley Cyrus twerks to a trap beat,” he observes, “it feels like taking. Nothing is being invented other than superficial juxtaposition. On the flip side, when the Talking Heads echo African pop rhythms, or the Wu-Tang Clan channels the spiritually of Kung-Fu cinema, or Beyonce writes a country song, it feels more like making. The borrowed elements become an essential, integrated part of a new, previously unheard thing.”

He adds: “We think we know this difference when we hear it, but sometimes we don’t—so there are more questions to ask, and many of them point toward an imbalance of power.”

In other words, pop music should submit itself to the tendentious social engineering of the social justice left.

Keep reading and feel free to fight it out.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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