We often feel that a popular singer in some indistinct way speaks for us as individuals. This is a pleasant experience, overall, but there is a less attractive interpretation. Far from being an altrustic representative, the singer can be seen as a demagogue that charms and attracts the listener through the offer an overwhelmingly attractive fantasy of identification with a dominant will in active control of an audience. The listener is encouraged to project themselves into the role of monologuist, voicing the will of the crowd, and suppressing dissenters. This paradox explains the otherwise peculiar experience of that listener, who is passive and subservient but nevertheless believes that the experience is one of liberty.
While the singer is a focus for projection, and open to every one of the audience, a toll is extracted, which is in part economic, through ticket prices and the cost of recordings, but also entails a more insidious loss of freedom. In this respect the resemblance to the political orator and demagogue is very close; the speaker makes it possible for the individual members of the audience to project their will on to others through the medium of that speaker, but they sacrifice a great deal of their actual personal freedom in order to obtain this sensation of powerful independence and realised expression.
There is, however, this difference between singers and politicians; the latter make little or pretence to deep significance, and their influence is shallow even when widespread, and they retain no long term purchase over their listeners. The singer, by contrast, asserts and through the traditionally successful methods of metrical language and musical accompaniment, they suggest extreme profundities and can consequently exert a long term directing power on the mind. Only time, or a competing fantasy, typically another singer, dislodges the controlling form.
Moreover, the singer's authoritarian voice denies significance to all others; it drowns out competition and by the use of music even achieves hints of supernatural power. The singer is a jealous god. Lend me your ears said the orator, but the singer will return nothing once given, the mind in total must be surrended; "Subdue your will to mine", says the singer, "and become free".
But serious though this is, the most damaging aspect of contemporary song is the credibility that it gives to the concepts of central, authoritarian control. It seems possible that these fantasies of extreme and hypnotic power are in part responsible for the steady erosion of personal freedom evident all around us. The singer-audience relation is so dominant a cultural structure that it has come to suggest that the most intense form of freedom is to be achieved through the medium of the singer, and that the individual can only be free by limiting the acts of others via a collective organism, the "singer" or the state.