Sunday, 15 February 2015

Music news with Sam Smith

When I was a regular classroom teacher, my favourite time of the day/ week was Current Events.
It was that timetabled but fairly unplanned slot when we'd look at what was going on in the world and have a bit of a chat about what that all meant.

So I thought that this year, I'd try it out with my Year 8 classes.
I call it music news and although it has a planned start, it can end up anywhere.
This week it has mainly been about Sam Smith.

There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, as you can see, he won an armload of Grammys, so that's kinda newsworthy.
Then there's the fact that one of the songs he won a Grammy for was actually written by Tom Petty in 1989.
So that's got us talking too. I play them the recording I linked above and ask them if it's fair that Tom Petty gets a share of the songwriting. I also point out that 12.5% of the the songwriting royalties (which Sam Smith and Tom Petty have agreed to out of court) is not a a big slice of the pie.

But for me, the reason to keep this guy in my Music News section has more to do with his acceptance speech when he thanked the man who he fell in love with and who broke his heart.

Because for a lot of my students, that's a newsflash.

A singer they adore is gay!

I know I'm on dangerous ground here as a primary school teacher but this is an issue that I unashamedly push.

If a student wants to down-vote an artist on our Cool Wall "because they're gay", as often happens I'm going to challenge their thinking on that with "Tell me what you mean by gay?"
Normally the student means gay as in crap and uncool.
Which I understand but wont accept because it's lazy and insulting.
I'll ask for a better description of the artist.

On occasions, a student has gone for the more literal "I don't like him because he likes men" argument and I've seen their classmates shoot that argument down. Which was great. And it's great that we're talking about it at this age.

But there is a long way to go. Out and proud genuine pop stars like Sam Smith are still a rarity.

Elton John, George Michael and Freddie Mercury ran a flamboyant campaign for decades before declaring their sexuality, once and for all,  in the twilight of their careers (and in Freddie's case, life).

Morrissey and Michael Stipe both ran interference by being obtuse and/or enigmatic with the media because while flirting with the idea of being gay was good for sales, actually coming out risked bursting the bubble.

The few out and proud acts from the Village People to Scissor Sister, have been left with camp disco as their genre and niche.

So I like Sam Smith, not only for his music but because as a gay soul singer, he's teaching some kids a little about tolerance.

And I won't back down.

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