Taco Hemingway Agonizes About His Role in Poland’s Culture Wars

“Polish Tango,” Szczesniak’s first single from that album, made his new musical direction clear. Its impact came partly from timing, he said: It was released two days before Poland’s presidential election in July. The song does not actually mention the Law and Justice party but its video had a clear reference. At the end eight stars appeared, an internet meme meant to be a censored version of a sexual expletive and then the governing party’s initials.

“I just wanted to vent for a second. And I wanted my friends to vent as well,” Szczesniak said.

The song got over five million views on YouTube in its first weekend. “It was quite a shock because it was Taco,” said Cyryl Rozwadowski, a music journalist for the Poptown.Eu website, in a telephone interview. “His music had been becoming more and more egocentric, and just marketed to young girls.”

Initial praise was soon followed by criticism on social media and in Poland’s conservative press. “Taco, you freak!” read a headline for an article on Niezalezna, a conservative news site, accusing the rapper of “boorish mocking of national symbols.”

Szczesniak said he got threats via social media because of the track and found himself embroiled in numerous conspiracy theories. Many claimed his girlfriend’s father, a journalist and famous critic of the government, was behind the song. “The backlash was too big — I couldn’t ignore it even if I tried,” Szczesniak said.

“Polish Tango” was followed by a double album, the first half of which (“Jarmark”) is political, with the second half (“Europa”) arriving a week later, and designed to be all fun. Together, the albums spell the name of a former market in Warsaw. The narrative heart of “Jarmark” is three songs called “The Chain,” which describe anger passing from person to person in a Polish city, from a newspaper seller to a student to an immigrant Uber driver to a businessman, in a never-ending cycle.

Many fans had expected the album’s political side to be one long attack on Poland’s government, said Rozwadowski, and for them, the result was disappointing. There were songs that criticized the government and the church, he said, but it avoided topics like the Polish government’s use of homophobic rhetoric.

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