You can't fight the power of the Public Enemy-Paralympics vid
CAN PUBLIC ENEMY save the Olympics? As the commercial takeover by sports-shoe manufacturers and makers of sugar-laden drinks gets underway today, one unlikely and highly surprising benefactor of the “greatest sporting show on earth” is a heavily politicised New York rap group who formed all of 30 years ago.It’s all to do with the London 2012 Paralympics, which begin on August 29th. Channel 4 (official broadcaster of the event) decided, with Public Enemy’s help, to do something about the desperately low profile of the event, which is marginalised and typically patronised by the mainstream media.
To this end Channel 4 has just launched one of its biggest-ever marketing campaigns, with the premiere this week of its breathtaking video, Meet the Superhumans, across 78 television channels. The music in the video is Public Enemy’s Harder Than You Think – not one of their best-known tracks but easily one of their best.
You really have to press pause here and go over to your local, friendly, video-sharing site to take in the sensory experience that is Meet the Superhumans. It’s just one-and-a-half minutes long but already it’s being labelled the best music/sports video of all time thanks to the meshing together of the potent and penetrative Public Enemy track and the visuals of the Paralympic athletes in action.
An instant viral hit, the video begins with the silhouette of a Paralympic swimmer approaching the camera as the song’s electric guitar rhythms begin. Later, the song’s distinctive bassline is mixed with a bomb exploding as two soldiers are thrown back by the force of the blast. As the track rumbles on there is footage of a car overturning on a motorway and a pregnant woman being shown an ultrasound of her baby.
It is these backstories about how people became Paralympians that chime with a song from the band’s 2007 album, How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul???, a recurring theme of which is how we need to look beyond mainstream images to discover the real truth.
Whether it’s the Paralympian rugby player doing chin-ups as Chuck D bellows out the words, or the bits where the song’s key lyric, “Thank you for letting us be ourselves”, hits in to dramatic effect, this is one of those rare moments where you can thrill to the sheer visceral power of music.
“It’s time to do battle. Meet the superhumans,” is the closing line as the song fades out. Public Enemy have never made so much sense.
The unprecedented amount of interest in the clip is now spilling over into purchases of the track itself and a renewed interest in Public Enemy’s work. At a time when most of the big hip-hop stars seemingly view their musical output as just part of a business portfolio to be filed alongside their fashion line, Public Enemy (a band not without controversy due to the nature of some of their public comments) offer a welcome reminder of how music can be imbued with all manner of commentary and not just act as a backdrop for a Vogue fashion shoot
It would be a very good thing if people download the song (it costs 99 cent on iTunes) and put it right up at the top of the charts over the coming weeks. Music can say something and it can mean something when used as artfully as this. Believe all the hype about Meet the Superhumans.
Recorded for John Murray’s RTÉ radio show, the version of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary by Little Green Cars is a thing of wonder. Hear it now at their Bandcamp page.
Plan B accidentally wore a Skrewdriver T-shirt for a magazine shoot. I presume Ben Drew didn’t know what that vile band represent, but he really should have.