The Republican National Convention has provided a few oversized reminders of how popular entertainment belongs not to its makers but to the public, which is mostly free to do whatever bizarre thing it wants with it. There was Donald Trump using Queen's “We Are the Champions” to address an arena that had ratified anti-gay policies. An RNC official invoked My Little Pony to defend Melania Trump's plagiarism. Melania herself contributed to the ongoing memeification of Rick Astley’s career. All this, paired with the long history of left-leaning music from Bruce Springsteen to Rage Against the Machine being re-appropriated by conservatives, was enough to make you wonder whether creators’ intentions really ever matter at all.
But last night in Cleveland saw a strange reassertion of the artist as unfiltered political messenger, through an act that few casual listeners associate with the words politics or, really, art: the ‘90s pop-rockers Third Eye Blind.
Headlining an RNC-affiliated charity event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they committed the worst possible sin a nostalgia band can commit: playing everything but their hits. That is, until they brought out the 1997 single “Jumper,” about a gay friend of the band who killed himself. The frontman Stephan Jenkins told the crowd he wished they would welcome people “like my cousins who are gay into the American fabric.”