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In Praise of Billy Talent

posted July 22, 2015, 7:18 am by madelainej | Filed Under Editorial, Music News | comment Leave a Comment


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While walking downtown, a car passed me blaring the songs of Billy Talent. At first I thought this quite odd, since the band’s popularity has been waning since their debut album in 2003. But this incident also forced me to reflect on the band itself. Billy Talent has never struck me as exceedingly musically challenging, nor have their lyrics struck me as incredibly deep or shallow. They seemed decidedly middle of the pack in most aspects but one. Their sense of social responsibility is prolific. They have consistently drawn attention to social issues addressing most Western societies without being too political, like Rage Against The Machine. From their debut album (as Billy Talent) in 2003 they have taken the side of the underdog with songs like “Nothing to Lose.” This song brought attention to bullying, gained attention from the general public and the music video even donated money to Kids Help Phone. This song encapsulated the desperation forced on by isolation and bullying. “River Below” disturbingly got inside the head of a person who felt ignored and wanted to gain attention by detonating a bomb. The character in the song believes “[They]’ll take all the blame, the front page and the fame.” “Standing in the Rain” similarly brought attention to missing persons (“milk carton mug-shot baby, missing since 1983”) who fall victim to the streets: “20 years of dirty needles,” and are left waiting on street corners in the rain.

Billy Talent’s second album in 2006 was similarly occupied with issues no one wanted to talk about, but which the band help bring to the forefront of the general public’s consciousness. “Devil In A Midnight Mass” brought attention to child abuse at the hands of religious authority. “Fallen Leaves” brought attention to the number of people who fall through the cracks; drug addicts, the homeless, and the mentally unstable. No other band I have come across has consistently brought attention to such controversial and vital issues with as much success as Billy Talent.

This band is not popular on the backs of others’ hardships. They draw attention to those hardships and inspire change with their songs. They also don’t run the risk of being too specific. They don’t point out specific policies which have let people down, they don’t call out government officials, or put a name to the places their characters reside in. The people they sing about reside everywhere and seem to face the same problems throughout Western societies. Billy Talent makes it impossible to turn a blind eye to the social issues confronting our society. While Bono is meeting with politicians trying to force change as a musician, Billy Talent is merely drawing attention to issues many don’t wish to confront. They let the listener make their own decisions about what is to be done. While some may criticize Billy Talent for pointing out these issues without offering a solution, I believe this is an asset. Billy Talent are musicians and artists. I would criticize them if they thought they could find a solution for the problems they are singing about. Their ability to even bring attention to these sensitive issues is a big enough mountain to climb. I also find it humbling that they don’t think they have the answers to these issues. They are offering up a side of society people either ignore, wish to remain ignorant about or which they don’t want to discuss. It is a testimony to society that Billy Talent’s songs have become so popular. We need to hear about these issues and we need to pay attention. Similar to the campaign in Africa which asked musicians to sing about Ebola and ways to prevent its spread, Billy Talent have taken it upon themselves to educate the public about issues surrounding our society. However, we need to be the ones who take responsibility for it and find a solution.

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