Pussy Riot and the art of the release

Pussy Riot and the art of the release

MusicAugust 08, 2018 By Brian Frederick

Pussy Riot knows what’s up. The collective of Russian activists use music, specifically a new brand of punk rock, to try and garner awareness from the rest of the world to overthrow an oppressive regime. They also cause mischief on a global scale to get the brand in headlines. For almost a decade, Pussy Riot has been a sharpened thorn in the side of everyone’s favorite shirtless hunk of a dictator, Vladimir Putin. 

And by God, it actually works.

You probably saw a few of them last month running out onto the World Cup finals field dressed in police attire during play, high-fiving the players and smiling widely as they were hauled off by security.

What you probably didn’t see, was that Pussy Riot released a music video two days later when the group’s name was fresh in the media. It’s called “Track About Good Cop,” and demands that the imprisoned members be freed, for police to stop mass arresting protestors, to “stop fucking with Navalny,” and that likes and reposts shouldn’t be criminal actions (they are in Russia). As of press time, it had over 100k views in just under a few days. 

Not bad for a relatively unknown group with no major label backing. 

We have it pretty good in America. Yes, even now. Never before has there been so many opportunities for its citizens to truly express their right to free speech, especially with music and the widespread reach of the Internet — something every artist today can thank gangster rap for.  

It all began in the early ‘90s, when artists like Tupac Shakur, Ice-T, N.W.A., Public Enemy, Luke Skyywalker (of 2 Live Crew) and others were battling political figures in high office over what is and isn’t considered art. Republican Vice President Dan Quayle at the time called Tupac Shakur’s 2Pacalypse Now a disgrace. “There is absolutely no reason for a record like this to be published,” he said. “It has no place in our society.”

He and his bipartisan cronies were, of course, fighting against the black experience. Still drowning their voices with “decency” rhetoric standing on the shoulders of decades-long whitewashing of a harsh reality politicians themselves had created by imprisoning generations in underfunded ghettos. Yes, both the left and right are to blame. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. But holy shit, that’s a whole new Oprah. 

So, it isn’t perfect here, not by a long shot. But American artists aren’t really fighting off oppressive regimes anymore or spending years behind bars for performing at a church screaming lyrics against a ruthless dictator (which Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova recently did). Our artists fought for freedom, and they won.

Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? Maybe the world doesn’t need any more songs about how rich they are and poor you are. (They shut down the Louvre!!) Or why another predictable breakup happened in Hollywood. (He doesn’t cuddle!!) It’s unfortunate, what Pussy Riot and groups like it have to do in 2018 to be heard. But maybe it’s found the answers. Maybe music can once again be both political and entertaining. It works.

Pussy Riot sure knows what’s up.

[cover photo courtesy Pussy Riot]