Story Stream
recent articles

Chapman and Combs Prove Excellence Through Unity Works

February 08, 2024

I love the business of culture. When executed successfully, it can provide a template to tackle more complicated issues involving dire geopolitical implications. It can also remind us of America’s great potential when we work together, and a five-minute Grammy performance this past Sunday did exactly that.

Transforming the Grammy stage into an epic showdown against division, Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs came together for a duet that was as unexpected as it was awesome. On the surface: Chapman, known for her powerful songs about justice and equality, joined forces with Combs, a country music star, to sing “Fast Car.” But it wasn’t just another performance. Instead, it was a declaration: Despite all our differences, there’s something special that can unite us all.

Their collaboration lit up the stage, proving that the business of culture has a higher calling, bringing people together even during times when it feels like we’re all drifting apart. “Fast Car,” Chapman’s anthem, hasn’t lost a beat over the years, continuing to resonate with folks from all walks of life. Its themes of hope and the relentless pursuit of something better have been the soundtrack of many an American dream.

To the layperson, pairing Chapman, a troubadour of social justice, with Luke Combs, a titan of country tunes, could’ve looked like mixing fire and ice – but the massive cover hit that Combs made of Chapman’s legendary ballad came to life perfectly in Sunday’s magical duet performance, emitting a warm, inviting glow of complementary, yet drastically diverse voices. This fusion of musical genres and narratives is a testament to America’s storied tradition of blending the seemingly blend-less, a beacon of unity in an ocean of division. Or, in a cliché sense, the melting pot of America worked remarkably well together, achieving A-Game performance – American excellence at its best, at least in cultural terms.

But let’s zoom out for a moment. This musical mash-up wasn’t just about entertainment. It was a mirror reflecting the larger global superpower chess game, with the United States and China moving pieces across the board. Beijing, with its finger always on the pulse of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War,” sees our nation’s internal squabbles not just as theater but as Trojan-horse-type openings, chances to advance its own plot towards global supremacy. And though Beijing’s threat upon America isn’t that of a true enemy, it is definitely that of a formidable competitor and primary rival. One we must beat on the global playing field. And to do so, America must play its very best.

Therefore, if we don’t all start singing from the same song sheet as a nation, we’re in danger of becoming the Dragon’s prey. After all, American division since the turn of this century has been fully feeding China’s rise. The discord that has become more and more of our daily bread is all music to Beijing’s ears. It fuels China’s ability to play a strategic game of chess against a superior opponent overcome by immense distractions inflicted by every note of daily division.

The Chapman-Combs collaboration wasn’t just a feel-good moment. It was a clarion call to action. It showed us, in living color, that despite our mosaic of backgrounds, beliefs, and political stripes, we’re all players in the same band. The values of creativity, resilience, liberty, and solidarity instinctually represent our common ground, having long defined the American ethos. They offer a beacon of hope in these highly divided times, reminding us that our national harmony lurks behind the shadows of division, hidden as a powerful and positive coil, restlessly hoping to be unleashed.

As we stand at these crossroads, faced with the task of navigating through the fog of global uncertainty, let’s take a page out of the Chapman-Combs playbook. Their Grammy moment transcended both the music and that pivotal cultural moment, providing a vital lesson in unity. It was an important reminder that together, America is a force to be reckoned with. In the face of external threats, especially those emanating from China’s strategic playbook, our unity is our strength and our most potent weapon. United, we do indeed stand!

So, as we chart our nation’s course forward, let’s draw inspiration from this unlikely duo. Their partnership on the Grammy stage was more than a lesson in musical harmony – it was a roadmap for our collective journey toward a more united, resilient, and thriving nation. And one that can play its A-Game against our superpower rival across the Pacific. In the endeavor we witnessed on Sunday, the power of culture to unite and heal simply cannot be overstated. It’s through our shared commitment to these values that we can bridge the divides that threaten to tear us apart. And as a hotly contested presidential election approaches this November, we MUST remember that. We have no choice.

This is truly our moment, America. A call to rally, to band together in the face of adversity, and to remember that in unity, there is an unbeatable strength. Let’s not just have watched the Chapman-Combs performance; let’s live it moving forward, embody it each day, and commit to being a united, indomitable force for good. By doing so, we will secure our hegemonic place on the global stage, leading the world towards a better future, rather than succumbing to Beijing’s intense competition and becoming another of the Dragon’s prey.

Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs powerfully displayed the template. The fast car of American excellence rides on its immediate execution. The time is now.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.


Chris Fenton is a longtime media executive, producer, and author of “Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA, and American Business.” As an informal advisor to Congress’ Select Committee on China and a member of the U.S.-Asia Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, National Committee on U.S. China Relations, and Third Way Think Tank, he founded his own firm, FENTON · International Business Strategy & Communications to help the private sector and Washington navigate America’s complicated relationship with non-allied nations. Follow him on X @TheDragonFeeder. 

Newsletter Signup