Not cool, Kimbra: Racism in “Goldmine”

22 Dec

Mildly curious about the musician behind the voice in Gotye‘s “Somebody that I used to know” (ahh, 2012), I had a listen through Kimbra‘s The Golden Echo. All seemed innocuous enough (generic synth pop, if presented by subpar vocals) until I hit Track 4: “Goldmine”, and felt immediately uncomfortable.

Let’s talk about the racism in “Goldmine” by Kimbra – because apparently (at least according to Google) nobody else on the internet is.

“Goldmine” appropriates the sonic aesthetic of “chain gang music… the music of the slaves” (in Kimbra’s words), whilst drawing lyrically on imagery of slavery in gold mining to represent a kind of inner strength in the face of adversity. Smiling sweetly (and ignorantly) in the video below, Kimbra explains that “it’s kind of the song that’s my, like, protest for strength and empowerment”. The song even features the lyric “we about to be delivered” (was that an appropriation of AAVE? Yes, I think it was).

In light of the legacies of colonialism and slavery black people throughout the world continue to suffer with today and every day – consider the countless cases of unwarranted police brutality against black people in the US, as just one example – it is extremely insensitive for a successful white pop singer to appropriate colonial struggle imagery to express her “hard times”, whose hardness is softened in innumerable ways by her whiteness.

I am not denying that life can be painful and difficult for a white person. What I am saying is that appropriating struggle narratives from a system of oppression by which you benefit is not an acceptable way to express this.



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