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So… What Do You Think of This Target Christmas Compilation?

wavves easy money twitter So... What Do You Think of This Target Christmas Compilation?

You’ve no doubt seen a lot of the chatter online concerning Target’s streaming yule-time compilation The Christmas Gig, featuring the Bradgelina of indie rock – Wavves and Best Coast – performing a duet that has taken up some face time on the blahgosphere. Additionally, you may have seen a number of decriers on the social networks criticizing the move as a “sell out” sort of thing. While I, under normal circumstances, find the Best Wavves Snacks Complex the most annoying personality in music, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no such thing as selling out anymore when considering you can’t sell albums like you could a decade ago. While I defend artists perusing placements in many cases, the Interwebs are missing a more important point here – one that leads me to take serious issue with all the artists who participated in this project.

This year, shortly after the Supreme Court struck down the ban on corporate campaign contributions, Minneapolis-based Target was one of the first major companies (if not the first) to take full advantage, floating a cool $150,000 to staunchly conservative Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer is not just passively LGBT-unfriendly… he is actively anti-LGBT rights. His friends and financial beneficiaries even moreso. Did everyone forget about this piece of news?

Perhaps you might not care about gay rights, but I do, espeically in light of current events.

The state is still recounting the votes from this month’s election, and it looks close. Emmer vowed in his campaign that, if elected, he intends to push legislation through that “protects” the “sanctity” of marriage in his state – a nice throwback to the culture wars of 2004 – in addition to blocking same sex couples from parenting. Compared to the various financial crises our country currently endures, it seems that Emmer should have bigger fish to fry. That’s another conversation though.

Though it’s reasonable to infer that Target’s contribution was motivated by his pro-commerce platform, you still tacitly approve of both the economic and social issues of a candidate when you donate money, particularly such a large amount. What a shot in the ass too, considering Target’s demographic is probably younger and more progressive than comparable big box stores.

This, of course, led to a nationwide and highly publicized boycott of the store last summer, and one I currently participate in. The Awl sums up the call to action rather nicely:

By approving direct influence on elections in Citizens United, the Supreme Court handed power to corporations. But at the same time, when they do so, corporations abandon their old black-ops approach and make themselves unusually transparent. This actually puts the true power in the hand of the consumer.

So: “Target supports causes and candidates based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests.”

Target is giving every American, nearly literally, a vote with his or her dollar. So, self-respecting progressive Americans who profess to support the gay community, it’s put up or shut-up time; here is your chance to go beyond complaining about the Citizens United ruling and actually act to define what a strict “business interest” is.

TargetDog So... What Do You Think of This Target Christmas Compilation?Dawwww… who knew the folks with such a cute puppy could be responsible for such nefarious shit?

So this brings us back to Nathan, Bethany, and friends. Knowing that a substantial group of rational people found the connection between Target, their political activity, and the social views of Tom Emmer offensive enough to take a stand with their wallet, isn’t it also fair to find the contributions of these artists, many of whom probably have a sizable LGBT and LGBT-ally fan base, in poor taste? Particularly when considering what Target has come to represent for a segment of the population in 2010?

I would argue yes. This compilation, while free to stream, still promotes Target and their brand identity, ultimately leading to sales. And we now know where some of that money – our money – goes. Were these artists uniformed, or did they not give a shit? It’s hard to say what the motivations of Best Coast, Wavves, et al. were when they agreed to participate, yet the news about the Target boycott was almost certainly widely disseminated by the time they signed on to The Christmas Gig. Even if they weren’t sure what they were getting into, I do feel it’s unequivocally socially irresponsible for anyone to not to be aware of the corporate culture of the companies one agrees to do work for – especially when providing something as personal as art or music. It’s part of being an informed, contributing member of society, something that’s reasonable to expect from well-liked artists.

At least that’s how things should fall into place. I can’t remember who said it, but I always enjoyed the addage “morality is the way the world should work, economics is the way it actually does.”

With that said, perhaps it’s unfair to single out Wavves and Best Coast among the other artists who appear on this project, but since they seem to be the crowning jewel in this collection of songs, at least if you pay attention to the blogs and press releases… well, that’s part of the gig when you become a public figure. Life is hard.

I have argued in past conversations that you can always, when following the money, find yourself sending your hard-earned dollars toward something you don’t morally or academically agree with. I still feel this way, and there are certainly countless examples. However, in this small albeit noteworthy scenario, the controversial move on Target’s behalf was too highly publicized, too incendiary, and, most importantly, too direct to ignore. In other words, “too soon.” I wish someone within these artists’ professional circles had thought such issues through before moving forward. Maybe they figured no would would care, notice, and/or discuss it. Guess they were wrong.

So I’d like to hear what you all think. How far can you, feasibly and sensibly, follow your dollar and attention up the ladder? Since this compilation is not directly related to the political happenings within Minneapolis, is it fair to hold these artists socially accountable? Or is this simply the case that these artists needed some, as Mr. Williams so eloquently articulated, “E Z $”? I guess it’s hard to think through the implications of the message you send, inadvertently or otherwise, when you’re stoned out of your dome off the fresh ground dank you enjoy daily (via your own custom grinders replete with the visage of shorty’s cat). Rippin’ on Nathan aside, there’s certainly a lesson to take from this that deserves some good conversation.

At any rate, a finer holiday treat is Low’s Christmas EP, which Kranky recently made available on vinyl for the first time ever. It’s my favorite contemporary holiday jam, and you can rest assured that your money is well spent. Kranky doesn’t donate cash to candidates who don’t support uniform equality – partly because they don’t necessarily have a shit-ton of money anyway, but mostly because they have strong values, you dig? Something Wavves, Best Coast, and the rest of the gang would do well to take some notes on. But that’s me.

  • Donuts333

    My God this is asinine. How many employees does Target have? Do you think maybe one or two are LGBT? Don't you think more people will watch, or at least discuss the video as a result of your article? Does that mean you support Emmer indirectly?

    Nathan Williams has specifically said that he is just an idiot kid with a guitar who likes to smoke weed and play video games, and that he has been miscast in this role as a rock star. They don't have to be moral compasses just because they're minor celebrities. And even if they did, they could make up for the infraction of selling a song to a corporation that contributed money to a conservative politician (which may or may not make the corporation money in the end) by giving a gay person a hug. I'd say that would equal them out, given the severity of the crime.

    If you're serious about LGBT rights, don't waste your time (and ours) with non-stories like this. Go after the actual bad guys and gals, don't shit on young artists trying to make ends meet in a dying industry.

  • Donuts333

    My God this is asinine. How many employees does Target have? Do you think maybe one or two are LGBT? Don't you think more people will watch, or at least discuss the video as a result of your article? Does that mean you support Emmer indirectly?

    Nathan Williams has specifically said that he is just an idiot kid with a guitar who likes to smoke weed and play video games, and that he has been miscast in this role as a rock star. They don't have to be moral compasses just because they're minor celebrities. And even if they did, they could make up for the infraction of selling a song to a corporation that contributed money to a conservative politician (which may or may not make the corporation money in the end) by giving a gay person a hug. I'd say that would equal them out, given the severity of the crime.

    If you're serious about LGBT rights, don't waste your time (and ours) with non-stories like this. Go after the actual bad guys and gals, don't shit on young artists trying to make ends meet in a dying industry.

  • kenny_bloggins

    The day that Mr. Williams signed a contract with a record label and publicist, to ensure his career would take off (which it did), he lost his privilege to be just a kid who likes to smoke weed and play video games. That was a choice he made, he didn't just fall into it. I'm sure he's doing just fine making ends meet with that Mountain Dew cheese at any rate.

    And yes, I certainly agree that we should go after the real bad guys. But this is a music blog, not Politico, so it wouldn't be prudent to talk about Mr. Emmer and his contemporaries day in and day out. My friends at the Louisville Fairness Campaign are better at that sort of thing anyway. But when the two spheres merge, I don't think there's anything “asinine” about pointing out these inconsistencies. Whether you agree or not is a separate issue.

  • My Name

    Nathan Williams is not an idiot kid with a guitar. He's crafted this persona that you fell for so idiot kids can relate to him. When the cameras are off, he's a very different person.

  • http://hi54lofirecords.tumblr.com/ HI54LOFI

    Wow. That was all very well said and I completely agree with you. The internet has made it possible for creatives to be way more in control of the work they need to do in order to not have to eat out of a dumpster. 'Selling' doesn't mean 'selling out' and the quote about morals and economics sums it up really well, even though 'morals' can be a tricky word. But, the unclearness on morals is mostly because corporations like Target (and the people who write their checks) can still get the cool kids to help them be cool. Which isn't cool.

    Great post, I really enjoyed it.

  • kenny_bloggins

    Not surprising

  • kenny_bloggins

    Not surprising

  • Highhead

    *YAWN*

    Everyone has an agenda. Everyone hates something that isn't “right” in this world. Tying Target to some government official and then trying to link it to some random artists on a compilation is so weak. Get over this hate and move on. There are so many other things in this world that are so much more important. Like the fact that hangnails can kill you or how much belly button lint one can collect in a year. Sheesh…

  • http://twitter.com/footvillage footvillage

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  • http://twitter.com/footvillage footvillage

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  • Asdasfsf

    You're deluded if you think Waves and Bethany didn't know about this connection just because it's news to you. The real problem here is that the cool culture you inherited and take for granted is being swallowed by these people while you still don't know what Citizens United is, and you're like, whatever, too chill to think about that. There's a name for people like you: BRAINWASHED.

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