Yesterday I watched a documentary about Tony Blair's New Labour and the role of Britpop in the British landslide election of 1997. The film tries to reveal how New Labour, so to speak, abused artists such as Oasis, Pulp and Blur to win the hearts of young voters. "New Labour grabbed the moment" - as a music journalist puts it in the documentary - and began associating themselves with Britpop bands. And the artists went a long with it - for example the memorable moment of the Gallagher brothers praising Tony Blair at BritAwards.
The connection to Britpop enabled New Labour to reach an otherwise very political-cynical audience that was fed up with Thatcherism, suburbian life and American popular culture. But after the victory of New Labour reality struck the Britpop artists. "Maybe I was naive but I thought I had been taken in because they wanted to hear what I had to say. But once they were where they wanted to be it was just fuck-off," says Damon Albarn, former leadsinger in Blur. Blair was just a politician like the rest. The change the artists had advocated for didn't come.
But it is interesting to consider if the Britpop artists would have been able to initiate a social change by themselves. I guess, what they wished for was some sort of revolution - would they have the potential to fuel a revolution if Tony Blair had not been there? Or was being an ornament for New Labour as political as Britpop could get?
In my opinion the I-don't-really-give-a-fuck attitude of Britpop protagonist Liam Gallagher makes it pretty evident how unlikely it was that Britpop would foster revolution. At the end of the day Britpop lacked will and aims. Today, I think the same apathy goes for many Western youth cultures. It seems to me that the radical youth movements of my generation simply don't have the energy and the organizational skill necessary to actually make a difference. If New Labour had not taken advantage of the situation in the nineties then Britpop probably wouldn't have had political effect at all. How sad.