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Over the weekend, Nike unveiled their 30th-anniversary ad campaign for Just Do It with Colin Kaepernick at the center. It’s a powerful image of his unmistakable face staring straight at the viewer, with the caption refusing to mince words: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Interestingly, early reports are that Nike’s stock took a big hit as extreme conservatives around the country started burning their shoes and cutting the swoosh off of their socks. But as our own Steve Bramucci points out, the move was not made by Nike without careful market research, centering around the idea that being on the right side of history — or endearing themselves to athletes — is a better longterm strategy than trying to appease everyone. But even so, the sacrifice and risk on Nike’s part is real and observable, just not to the extent of their latest corporate avatar.
In the music world, it can’t be undersold what a privilege artists, critics, and just about everyone involved has to speak their mind. While there are examples of artists who have been unjustly blackballed for their political opinions (like the Dixie Chicks, for instance), for the most part it is viewed as an attribute to be outspoken, to stand up against injustice, and to make your beliefs a central part of the platform you are given. Over the last couple years, it’s generally more surprising when an artist doesn’t get political (see: Taylor Swift) than if they do, with ideas like “virtue signaling” coming into play when someone’s wokeness feels too performative or calculated.
This is the world that Bristol post-punk sensations Idles are existing in just as their career takes off. The band’s beliefs and stances are central to their character, a line in the sand that they are willing to use to separate an “us” versus a “them.” You could say it’s all right there in the title of their new album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance, but if you want to take a step further, it is really all there in their personal statement that precedes the record. Just the idea of a brief preceding an album is about as self-serious as it gets, but it also puts the band in line with a tradition, with artists like Liturgy and Savages as recent examples of artists who felt the need to put their own work into context.