It used to be that selling out meant signing with a major label. Not anymore. The tire fire that is 2020 has introduced us to new ways for musicians to leverage their creativity for cash.
Over the past year, we’ve witnessed Travis Scott collaborating with McDonald’s, Post Malone partnering with Crocs, even Bob Dylan—Bob Dylan!—lending his image to menswear brand Barking Irons. Now, Yellow Fang, arguably the best indie band to spring up from the post-Nirvana generation in Thailand, has produced a track for a property developer: “In Between feat. AP Thailand,” part of the firm’s #makelivinggreatagain campaign.
Look, everybody needs to get paid. We understand that as keenly as anyone. Writers, painters, filmmakers—at some point, everyone in the creative industries will face the same dilemma Yellow Fang has. But this specific collaboration is problematic for several reasons. For starters, they have thrown their tacit support behind a company whose sole impetus is razing the city to build sterile apartment complexes that drive up property prices and force out low-wage earners, a category that historically includes creative types like independent musicians. AP has also tried to co-opt Donald Trump’s “make America great again” rallying cry. Anyone paying attention to American politics, however, would realize that no one can filch the language that appeals to Trump’s base. The very attempt at doing so amounts to lazy marketing. But above all, anytime a brand gets involved, what would otherwise be independent creative endeavors get compromised. Trust us on that.
The three women who form Yellow Fang must have struggled with AP’s offer. These are the same people who had the chutzpah to name their debut album “The Greatest,” after all. To write a native ad masquerading as a song meant to “inspire everyone…to make life more meaningful again” is akin to waving the white flag and admitting: “there is no other way for independent musicians to make it.” Either that, or you realize that you’ve compromised your creative integrity and really don’t care what consumers think. What’s even more unsettling, however, is that AP has clearly encouraged the band to use the above language to support a boring brand ploy at a time when suicide rates in Thailand are soaring (according to Thailand’s Department of Mental Health, the suicide rate increased 22 percent between March and September this year).
Oh, the song, you ask? It sees Yellow Fang continuing their recent embrace of synthesizers. It’s spit-shined to a glossy sheen, cleaner and tighter than many, if not all, of their past tracks, but overall it’s a tepid effort from a band that boasts street cred in cities like Bangkok and Tokyo. It lacks the heartstring-pulling crescendo of standout single “If Only,” the honest, lo-fi melancholy of “I Don’t Know,” the emotional authenticity of “Dusilong,” a track that features Gene Mahasamut, who is an actual icon of the indie scene and not, you know, a property developer.
Ultimately, if this is what it takes for talented musicians to feel as if they’re making it in Thailand, then maybe we should be reexamining the way the music industry operates, not leaving them with little other choice than to cave to the pressures of late-stage capitalism.