Music Review: Dirty by grandson

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Jordan Benjamin is the artist known as grandson to most of the world. He’s an activist and a musician, and he’s released some of my favorite songs to date. His unique voice coupled with lyrics that push at the core of hard-hearted people make his music a force to be reckoned with. If you want to know more about him, I’ve written an article that goes more in-depth here. For now, I want to review his single “Dirty” from the album Death of an Optimist.  

“Dirty” appeals to our common duty to work together to face social and political issues. Basically, the song is screaming, “If you don’t care enough to get involved for yourself, then do it for your neighbor who can’t.” 

As Jordan put it for an interview with SubstreamMagazine.com – 

I wanted to personify those different roads that our lives could be led down as these two different characters. With the grandson character and this other manifestation of my anxiety or my fears in this character “X,” each of the videos from this album has placed that antagonist in different positions of power that I have struggled with in my life, whether it’s a teacher or a religious figure, and in this particular video, he’s a politician.

grandson

From what I can tell, this “X” character represents the appeal of ignoring or denying the problems that confront people in this world or refusing to take blame and responsibility. It’s a character we’ve come to know in our lives and we have to ask ourselves – Do we want to become like this? Or do we get up and do something about the wrongs that we KNOW are happening around us?

The video is telling and explains the music through visual means very well. And the song itself, with the up-tempos? The expressive transitions? It’s candy for the ears. 

The video shows cubicles in an office building – something a lot of us are familiar with. And most of those cubicles have mannequins in them. Yeah… people are so happy to go to work, keep their head down, and pretty much become faceless; nearly mindless slaves to the work they do. They don’t want to lose financial stability, so they don’t speak their mind or get involved in controversy… they just let things go. He’s the one moving… asking, “is there anybody out there that’s paying attention?”  

Are you a mannequin or are you going to move, speak, question, and do something to help? 

After that we see him being dragged by X’s bag-masked followers into an interrogation room, we see both X and grandson asking the same question of one another. The director has done a good job of coaching Jordan on his acting here in the interrogation scene, because in both personas, he seems to show different emotions – grandson stubborn annoyance and “X” has this incredulous expression on his face. 

“Tell me what you tryin to hide? And what you running from inside? ‘Cuz I got a surprise. We might not make it to the morning, so go on and tell me now…” 

This leads into the chorus – 

Do you have enough love in your heart,

to go and get your hands dirty? 

It isn’t that much, but it’s a good start, 

So go and get your hands dirty.

So you love your neighbor? 

Is it in your nature?

Do you love a sunset?

Aren’t you fed up yet?

Do you have enough love in your heart,

to go and get your hands dirty? 

And then? There’s also a very funky transition with the music into a dance break made by blasting trumpets that I find captures your senses. I really love this part. 

I definitely see “X” in this as an authoritarian political figure, considering he’s questioning grandson’s resistance to apathy. Once the tables turn in the video and the “X” character is trying to appeal to his people, grandson fights off the injection and delivers it to “X”, making his public persona melt in front of the camera – showing people his true evil. The audience begins pointing out the scene to other people around them, even though many of them are also already mannequins. 

This resonates with many of us, whether we are progressives or not. Those of us who want to see change, but are we willing to work for it? And if we are, we often find ourselves surrounded by people who just want the status quo, or worse – mannequins that refuse to even see what we’re seeing from politicians these days – poison pouring from them. 

This is not the first song about activism and a call for change to come from grandson and I know it won’t be the last. Jordan has said he grew up in a progressive family, where activism was celebrated. I’m forever a fan, now and I hope that his music continues to enlighten and encourage people to stop being apathetic.  I also hope that his movement XXRESISTANCE which helps fund social and progressive causes continues to flourish. 

You can find grandson’s music at all of the major retailers and through his website. 

Rachel Adams

I would have previously thought of myself as an audiophile. But by gaming and listening to my children and their friends, I've been introduced to an entire realm of artists that are not on the radio.