YouTube knows that i love Tracy Chapman. My top advertizer-approved recommendations these days (outside of the political world) are usually pop artists that were big in East Germany who have paid whatever Google tax that lets them get played over here. But Tracy Chapman slips under the radar. Maybe her label paid the Google tax. And Fast Car keeps coming up.
I posted it, drunk, a while ago, with some kind of upper middle class justification. Here's another upper middle class justification, after reading some of the YouTube comments.
Something that most Americans don't get, something that even Canadians and Australians also don't get, is that Brits of my cold war generation grew up idolizing America. We believe in the American Dream more than any American actually does. That's why Kim Wilde's Kids in America is a thing. That's why Holly Johnson's Americanos is a thing. That's why people like Louis Theroux and Stephen Fry and Andrew Sullivan and John Oliver are fascinated by the place. Brits both love and hate America. Americans are racist, they're homophobic, they're jingoistic, they're interventionist, they're ignorant... but they have the American Dream. Brits love the American Dream. Brits only wish they had the American Dream. And YouTube knows it.
So Tracy Chapman's Fast Car keeps getting recommended for me. In reality it's a pretty depressing song about the cycle of poverty. But for me it's a song about the American Dream. Yeah, it's a failed American Dream. But the idea of just taking your car and driving, just keep on driving to the next big city, maybe this time it'll work out... Marc Almond and Jimmy Somerville and plenty of other British artists have sung about moving to the city for their big chance, but leaving a shite northern town for London so you don't get gay-bashed is hardly the American dream. Fast Car is about this amazing world that Americans enjoy where you can fuck up, drive somewhere new, fuck up again, and drive somewhere new again. Even if it keeps fucking up you can keep on driving.
A lot of Americans don't understand how romantic and appealing that fantasy of freedom is to people outside of the country. And, in reality, America probably isn't that free at all. But that's the dream that you sell. That's what we want America to be. That's why i wish i was in America. It's the land of freedom. The land where you can just drive wherever, go anywhere and rebuild your life. Even if it fails, the dream is the freedom. Is that realistic? Probably not. But that's why something like Tracy Chapman's Fast Car is an inspirational anthem for me, and perhaps also for other Brits, whereas for the American working class it's a sobering dirge.
It's all about escape. For me, it's always about escape.