"Good Times for a Change": Song Lyrics as Sites of Memory in The Smiths and slowthai
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The United Kingdom has a lasting legacy when it comes to popular music, politics, and cultural memory: the country has a rich history of bands openly criticizing systems of government and voicing their discontent with the fabric of British society. In this thesis, I offer a transhistorical comparison of two alternative artists that have expressed their critiques of British society in their song lyrics: the 1980s rock-band The Smiths, and contemporary Grime/hip-hop artist slowthai. Using theories on cultural memory by Ann Rigney, Pierre Nora and Astrid Erll, this thesis analyses how the song lyrics of The Smiths and slowthai serve as manifestos of dissent, and how this results in the construction of ‘sites of memory’: their lyrics serve as a device which remember and mediate a version of Britain’s past. Through close reading of the song lyrics of The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead and slowthai’s Nothing Great About Britain, I argue that by painting a picture that highlights the struggles of the working class and shows an underside of Britain which counters the dominant imaginary, both The Smiths and slowthai – albeit in different ways – shape how we remember the state of Britain in the respective time periods.