Politically Incorrect: The Music of PJ Harvey and the Danger of Opinion

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Man Alive!. PJ Harvey. 2008. Web. Flickr.com.21 May. 2016.

It’s been a long time since I listened to the music of PJ Harvey with a near religious fervour, but still – over the years – she’s retained the quality of being one of the most powerful, honest and insightful musicians I’ve ever come across. From the first time I heard the threatening slither of her voice as she sang “I’ll make you lick my injuries” on Rid Of Me, I was sold on her unparalleled power, a kind that compares in no way to the type (so popular now) that can be easily disassembled and marketed piecemeal.

While, early in her career, Harvey won many accolades because of her unguarded innocence and throat-tightening female admissions (Dry and Rid Of Me), her course has changed a little in recent years. Past the introspection and literary-style storytelling of early albums, she’s left much of the personal-is-political approach behind and has broached broader issues on her most recent album and 2011’s Let England Shake, a critical exploration of her country’s dark history.

Harvey is the only British musician who’s managed to win the Mercury Music Prize twice since its inception in 1992, but in recent months she’s received more publicity on this side of the pond for a song on her latest release, The Hope Six Demolition Project. “The Community of Hope”, written about a neighbourhood called Ward 7 in Washington, D.C., has been seen as a critical take on the re-development of a community. As a result, a number of officials in Washington have critiqued Harvey, with the political consultant Chuck Thies saying that, “PJ Harvey is to music what Piers Morgan is to cable news.” Hehe. Sure, Chuck.

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