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Britpop & National Identity

Note: Although there were hundred of British bans involved in the Britpop era, either successful or otherwise, this study will focus on what Dower calls: "The Holy Trinity of Britpop: Blur, Oasis and Pulp." (Live Forever: 2003) This is largely due to the fact that they were most successful bands of the genre, and that both Pulp and Oasis, both from working class, Northern backgrounds, epitomised the identity of the genre.

It could be argued that British national identity has long been evident in the music produced in the UK. Whether this manifests itself in the musings of Morrissey and The Smiths on tracks such as "Shoplifters of the World Unite," or the angry anarchy of The Sex Pistols, musicians in the Britain appear to be able to 'put their stamp' on music in a uniquely original way.

It is also worth noting that the furore surrounding Britpop, Cool Britannia, and ultimately British national identity brought the attention of British music to America, essentially the "Holy Grail" of the music industry. Previously, the most successful British band in America had been The Beatles, and rock and roll bands of the 1960s such The Rolling Stones, bands that Oasis in particular had often cited as a crucial influence. The comparison was made by many, as Dower claims: "Suddenly places that had been marginal, people that had been marginal were producing the most exciting British music since the 60s," (Live Forever: 2003) and this comparison was inevitably used on both sides of the Atlantic to portray Britpop as the dominant national identity - the essence of Britain as "a place to be," that had only been apparent in the 1960s.

In conclusion, Britpop accentuated British national identity be making the arts within the UK something to be proud of. It allowed Britain to be seen as cutting edge and at the forefront of the industry, usually something only afforded to America. The furore also developed national identity in the UK to mean much more than aspiring to be wealthy and upper class, essentially something that much of the British public are not. Instead, Britpop allowed the nation to embrace the working class identity, a vital part of the make-up of Britain as a whole, and a more realistic version of the country's identity. Ultimately though, the era of Britpop was fuelled by competition. And when the competition began to fade away and the drugs became more common, the image of the genre fell apart along with the national identity. Britpop had been a success and its class diversity had been something to be proud of. But as Robert Del Naja (also known as 3D) of Massive Attack, a band at the forefront of the movement argues, "The UK today is not so different from the increasingly urbanised, bland, synthetic place that Albarn, the Gallaghers and Cocker railed against in the 80s." (Dower: Live Forever: 2003) Gordon supports this claim by suggesting that when Britpop "ended with a clink in 1997, a boy-band groomed Robbie Williams ready to usher in the full blown age of celebrity." (09/02/03) What came with this celebrity was an era of Big Brother, Heat magazine and the Asbo (which arguably at least one of the Gallaghers' would have been sporting if Britpop was introduced today.) Although Britpop enhanced a national identity for a short time with elements of pride and hope, the shame of a Government that still could not control the country, a youth that still faced unemployment as call centres were redirected from Britain to India, and a music industry that had fallen back "on the default setting - which is bland pop." (Louise Wener of Sleeper in Live Forever: 2003) there was no longer anything for a disaffected youth to be proud of. Although Britpop won the battle for national identity for a short time, it will take another genre of music to win the war.

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