On Art and Politics

by

Monday, February 11, 2019


While browsing the internet recently, I came across a headline that read, “Sara Bareilles Said Her New Music Will Reflect The Current Political Climate.” My heart sank. Being a long-time admirer of Sara Bareilles’ work, I was disheartened because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy her new songsand not just because I’m conservative.

Music to me is an escape. When I’m fed up with my friends, work, and especially Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I take a break and listen to some music. Having come from a musical theatre background, Broadway show-tunes hold a special place in my heart and Bareilles’ musical “Waitress” is, by far, one of my favorite shows. A heart-wrenching story about a young woman in an abusive relationship, “Waitress” has a pro-life twist.

But that era of Sara’s music is seemingly gone with the tide. Bareilles’ new music will be about Trump. Big, boisterous, YUGE, and sometimes, Sad!  

As a young writer hoping to make a career in political commentary, I get my fair share of the Donald each day and I sure as hell don’t need him in my music. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not boycotting Sara Bareilles and I’m not advocating that anyone else do so either. If anything, Americans today, left and right, are a little too boycott-happy. But, if by some incredible coincidence, Sara is reading this right now, I beg of you, just stick to what you do best: telling stories through music that no one else is talking about while everyone is talking about Trump.

Ravi S. Rajan, the president of my alma mater, wrote an op-ed in The Hill titled, “All good art is political.” This wasn’t a surprising take. As a “liberal-progressive president of a world-famous arts institute,” of course Ravi believes that all good art is political. He is responsible for maintaining the narrative that “good art” must always be a call to revolution. It’s his job to not only be the leader of the Institute, but the figurehead of the intersectional web that is CalArts.

But here’s what Ravi gets wrong: the art world is a free market just like any other. In the end, the consumer will dictate what constitutes “good art.” Sure, art critics and highbrow art school faculty can talk all day long about what they think “good art” is, but Banksy’s “Girl With Balloon” wasn’t worth a penny until someone ponied up $1.4M for it at auction. Of course, the Ravi I know wouldn’t have written an article as categorical as I’m making it out to be, so he includes this catch-22 in the fourth paragraph:

“All good art is political. This adage doesn’t simply declare that an artist, through their work, is taking a stance; it reveals to us that art attempting not to be political ends up endorsing the status quo and is, therefore, still political.”

That idea feels a little out of place in Ravi’s op-ed though, because he doesn’t make the argument that all art is political as a result of some Machiavellian logic-trap. Instead, Ravi goes on to insist that artists who make “good art” are artists who use their platform for activism, and activism in itself is what separates “good art” from just art. Toni Morrison was the one who originally proposed the idea that all art is inherently political, and it was clear to me that Ravi felt paying homage to a black artist would score him some clout within the intersectional coalition of academia.

Although I cannot speak for everyone, I don’t believe that I’d be off-base by saying that the majority of consumers don’t want the music they listen to at their leisure to be subverted by political activism. It’s up to the artist to decide how to use their platform, and I hope that musicians and visual artists alike can— at the very least —be selective of which messages they choose for their art to carry.

Niko Rakos is a libertarian-conservative writer, actor, and sociopolitical commentator. Originally from San Francisco, California, Niko is no stranger to being the lone conservative in the room. As a staunch proponent of individual responsibility—and freedom—Niko believes that there is no better decision-maker than the individual. In his free time, Niko enjoys singing (he’s studying it in school), playing the piano, and talking politics with his friends—and enemies.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Niko Rakos

California Institute of the Arts

Niko Rakos is a libertarian-conservative writer, actor, and sociopolitical commentator. Originally from San Francisco, California, Niko is no stranger to being the lone conservative in the room. As a staunch proponent of individual responsibility—and freedom—Niko believes that there is no better decision-maker than the individual. In his free time, Niko enjoys singing (he’s studying it in school), playing the piano, and talking politics with his friends—and enemies.

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