If you had the pleasure of tuning in to the Republican National Convention Monday night, you might have noticed that when Donald Trump came out on the stage a hit song was playing. That song was Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” Not long after, Queen took to twitter to say “An unauthorized use at the Republican Convention against our wishes – Queen.” Now this is nothing new, especially during the political seasons. Politicians have always used songs in a way that almost seems like the band is endorsing the candidate.
It all comes down to licensing and mistreatment of an art form. Queen’s music is owned by a company called BMI, and according to the company Queen had objected to both Trump’s campaign and the RNC’s use of their music. The RNC, however, has what is called a ‘political entities license,’ and if they have a license for public performance then nothing really can be done about stopping them from playing Queen or anyone else’s music for that matter. Remember, this was all against Queen’s wishes. They did not want it to look like they are supporting the Republican party or Donald Trump.
“We Are the Champions” is by no means a political song. What the RNC did is covertly try to make the song propaganda in nature. Songs are not written like they used to be. “We Are the Champions” was written back in the late 70’s, while in the decade before most rock songs were political in nature. In fact, most were labeled as protest music. It was music that was against the system and the government. That was the intended use for most rock songs back then, but that was not Queen’s intended use for their art. To try and misinterpret their music in any other way than its original use is both disrespectful and harmful to the artist.
Then we see artists like Third Eye Blind take a stand against the RNC. The band was playing in Cleveland Tuesday night when their show went viral, and for all the right reasons. Frontman Stephan Jenkins began the night by telling the crowd that the band stands against everything the Republican Party stands for. The band was even booed when they asked the audience if anyone believed in science.Third Eye Blind are no strangers to being tied up in politics and have been involved in some activism in the past. One of their hit songs “Jumper” was written about a gay family member of Jenkins and is about believing that everyone should be treated equally. That is something that the band says the Republican platform is not in support of. This is what led the band to not play any of their hit songs. These were the actions of a band who was not going to let anyone at the RNC misappropriate their music beyond its intentional meaning.
This is what more bands need to do; stand up and fight for their music. In every election cycle it is easy to get swallowed up in the politics, especially to the point where even the art isn’t safe. If politicians and parties represent ideas or platforms that an artist doesn’t agree with, then they shouldn’t be allowed to use that artist work. It is a simple fix to a huge problem of misinterpreting entire works of art. If a band ever states that their music shouldn’t be used, then they have the right for their work to not be used in that way. Unfortunately for Queen, it was a recording of their song. They were not as lucky as Third Eye Blind who were performing and who made the conscious decision not to play some of their music. Not all music is up for interpretation, and it really is simply just black and white sometimes. We have a responsibility as consumers not to take music or art further than its intentional use.