“Price Tag” — Jessie J ft B.o.B.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn’t say money is the root of all evil. It says the love of money is (1 Timothy 6:10 if you want to check it out).

That Bible verse, and Jessie J’s song “Price Tag”, have been going round in my head over the last few days as I read news reports about CEOs on multimillion dollar salaries voting themselves millions more in bonuses and dividends at the same time as they laid off half their workforce.

Even scummier CEOs use government bailout money to pay their own bonuses and dividends while leaving their front-line staff to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile healthcare workers are dying because too many hospital penny-pinchers thought ordering stocks of protective equipment wasn’t a good use of their budgets.

Don’t think for a moment I’ve got anything against capitalism. I’m old enough to remember socialist Britain in the 1970s and it was an unmitigated disaster. The level of political strife and economic incompetence I saw in my childhood surpassed even today’s pretty spectacular levels of political and economic ineptitude.

But what we have in too many places at the moment isn’t capitalism. It’s the sort of narcissistic pocket-lining, jobs-for-the-boys, vote-the-party-line nonsense that brought down much of British industry in the 1970s and 80s, and did the same for the world’s banks in 2007/8.

Capitalism is, I firmly believe, the best way to run an economy. Although admittedly it’s a bit like Winston Churchill’s comment that democracy was the worst way to run a country, except for all the other ways that had been tried.

It’s got its blind spots. And one of those is falling in love with money.

Or, as Jessie J might put it, getting more obsessed with the price tag than with the joy something can bring you.

Joy comes from sharing things with others. Sharing your company. Sharing your expertise. Sharing your financial resources, where you can. Sharing your compassion with the less fortunate. Sharing your spirit with those toiling on the front line to keep us all safe.

I don’t think anyone gets much joy, beyond the first few minutes perhaps, from being locked in a bank vault for the rest of eternity with only a pile of cash for company.

As Jessie J puts it…

It’s not about the money money money
We don’t need your money money money
We just wanna make the world dance
Forget about the price tag

I think we’d all appreciate being able to make the world dance at the moment.

I’m a famously appalling dancer…so much so that I refuse to even try on the rare occasions I’m somewhere dancing takes place any more…but even I’d try to have a bit of a boogie if it would help the world out at the moment.

Instead of strife and discord, imagine a world where sentiments like these were more common…

Why is everybody so obsessed
Money can’t buy us happiness
Can’t we all slow down and enjoy right now
Guarantee we’ll be feeling all right

When Jessie J released “Price Tag” in 2011 she captured the prevailing mood for many people in the immediate aftermath of the banking crisis of the late noughties. “Price Tag” went straight to Number One in the UK and many other territories around the world.

Sadly, she only made it to Number 23 in the Billboard Hot 100, but “Price Tag” was still a monster international best-seller for Jessie J and remains her signature song to this day.

I can’t help but feel the world might not be in as much trouble today if only we’d heeded Jessie J’s advice from nearly a decade ago…

Seems like everybody’s got a price
I wonder how they sleep at night
When the sale comes first
And the truth comes second
Just stop for a minute and smile
Why is everybody so serious
Acting so damn mysterious
Got shades on your eyes
And your heels so high
That you can’t even have a good time

Yes, I know some people would say that’s a bit idealistic. But so was “Blowin’ In The Wind”. Nearly 60 years on, very little of that wind of change has blown through society either.

All I know from history is that all empires crumble the same way.

There become too few “haves” and too many “have nots”.

Loyalty to the emperor, or the party, is prized over technical competence.

Dissenters and people who, however mildly, dare express a view different to the party line are crushed.

Petty functionaries produce statistics to show they’re doing a great job, even though everyone in the real world knows the wheels came off long ago.

And ultimately the currency is debased through a combination of reckless money printing and uncontrolled government spending so those in power can keep their positions and privileges for as long as possible, until the Barbarians literally are at the gates to overthrow the empire.

This isn’t a left vs right argument. Both follow exactly the same playbook. The closer you get to the last days of the empire, everything looks depressingly similar whether that empire was built by the right or the left.

The world is a better place when we remember…

Ain’t about the uh ca-ching ca-ching
Ain’t about the yeah the bling the bling
Wanna make the world dance
Forget about the price tag

It’s not too late, but we’re running out of time.

Whether you go back to 2011 and Jessie J’s “Price Tag”, or 1963 for Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind”, or the early 1940s for Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”, the themes remain broadly the same.

We’re all better off, materially and psychologically, when we work for one another, when we help those who need it, and when the motivation of the people at the top is primarily to give, rather than to take.

Humanity has recovered from dark times before and I’m convinced we’ll do so again.

But we’ll get there a lot faster if we help make the world dance, and forget about the price tag…

Here’s Jessie J, featuring B.o.B., with her international best-selling single, “Price Tag”…

If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/2fTsFCKRFQ5M0igJgabnLA

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Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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