Can Artists Save Us?

By Jessica Müller

How much do celebri­ties, influ­encers, and social media actu­al­ly impact us? The way we con­sume media has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly over the past decade, and while many of these changes come with a mul­ti­tude of new chal­lenges, social media has also enabled us to com­mu­ni­cate on a glob­al scale. Celebri­ties, influ­encers, artists and the work they pro­mote and pro­duce direct­ly and indi­rect­ly influ­ence our soci­ety and our behav­ior towards our planet.

A while back, rap­per Lil Dick­ey released a song in col­lab­o­ra­tion with thir­ty famous artists and celebri­ties in order to raise aware­ness for the issue of cli­mate change and the dam­ages it pro­duces. Lil Dickey’s song imme­di­ate­ly went viral, and mil­lions of peo­ple watched it. But what is this song actu­al­ly good for? Will it change any­thing at all?

It remind­ed me of sev­er­al oth­er inci­dents in recent his­to­ry when celebri­ties attempt­ed to change our world for the bet­ter, such as the idea of gen­er­at­ing mon­ey for a good cause by Band Aid with the song “Do they know it’s Christ­mas?” and Michael Jackson’s “We are the World.” These exam­ples indi­cate that, at least from a finan­cial point of view, that char­i­ta­ble projects can gen­uine­ly impact our world. By donat­ing the mon­ey gen­er­at­ed by his song to the Leonar­do DiCaprio Foun­da­tion, both artists and audi­ences con­tributed to fund­ing much-need­ed projects to save our plan­et from our­selves. Even more impor­tant­ly, Lil Dickey’s song ini­ti­at­ed a dis­cus­sion about cli­mate change.

Yet, it also served as a pow­er­ful exam­ple that round­ing up some of the most famous celebri­ties might not be enough. In addi­tion, all of the songs were crit­i­cized for their hyp­o­crit­i­cal lyrics – while gen­er­at­ing a lot of mon­ey, they dis­tort­ed the orig­i­nal­ly well-intend­ed mes­sages by dis­play­ing both a naive and offen­sive west­ern view of the sit­u­a­tions they were try­ing to improve. Lil Dickey’s “Earth,” for instance, can be crit­i­cized for its ques­tion­able use of swear words and sex­u­al­ly implic­it lyrics, which make the song and its mes­sage unavail­able for the entire group of chil­dren and young adults, a group the video seems to be tar­get­ing. Still, it did and does cap­ture the atten­tion of those it is like­ly aimed at.  While politi­cians will most like­ly not be impact­ed by Lil Dickey’s song, his mes­sage that sav­ing human­i­ty from going extinct is now cool and has the poten­tial to increase aware­ness for cli­mate change.

In the end, that is what good artists do: They change the minds one at a time to help the rest of us see what they see. They share with us their vision of how our soci­ety can improve and inspire us to right the wrongs of the past. “Earth” might not sin­gle-hand­ed­ly save human­i­ty, but it might have inspired many young minds to think about what’s impor­tant to them and imag­ine a future that’s worth sav­ing. Besides, it’s also a very catchy song.

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Jes­si­ca Müller is a stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tübin­gen where she stud­ies Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Amer­i­can Stud­ies in her fourth semes­ter with a focus on domes­tic pol­i­tics and inter­na­tion­al rela­tions. In her free time, she likes to go for long hikes, read, and keep up with the news (as much as pos­si­ble) with­out los­ing her mind.