Brent Cobb takes the dismissive phrase “shut up and sing” — a popular retort to musicians who dare talk about politics or social issues — and turns it on its head in his new song, appropriately titled “Shut Up and Sing.” It’s the latest release off the Georgia songwriter’s new album Keep ‘Em on They Toes, out October 2nd.
At first listen, it’s hard to parse Cobb’s view: Is he lobbying for artists to stay mum? Hardly. But he is saying — to paraphrase Aerosmith — that it’s OK to let the music do the talking. According to “Shut Up and Sing,” it’s the responsibility of art to speak truths when those in leadership roles fail to do so.
Listen to this string of lyrics, in which Cobb, after ruminating on advice to not raise his voice (“put a plug in what you think”), decides what kind of song he’ll write to get his views across:
“I wondered what I would shut up and sing
[spoken] And then it hit me…
Shut up and sing, ‘Lord have mercy, all us earthly fools/there’s poison in our rhetoric and bullets in our schools’
So I sing, ‘What the hell is going on around here?’/Let’s take these blinders off our eyes and pull the cotton from our ears.“
“Shut Up and Sing” arrives with a potent lyric video that intersperses images of a Flint, Michigan, water tower; marches in support of equal rights and gun control; and police patrolling schools with the titles of “message songs” on a jukebox: Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”
“Anything I have to say about the song will hopefully speak for itself. So, I’ll just shut up and sing…,” Cobb says in a statement.
Keep ‘Em on They Toes was produced by Brad Cook and will be released on Cobb’s Ol’ Buddy Records label, via Thirty Tigers. It’s the follow-up to 2018’s Providence Canyon.