I firmly believe artists should use their platform to make a difference. If that means getting involved with issues, divisive or not, they should. It’d be a waste to have an audience and not make their voice count. Respect is given for their music. Equally, I salute the principles they stand for. Here are 15 times musicians got political.
This is America by Childish Gambino
Don’t let the cheerful and upbeat tone of “This Is America” fool you. It is anything but happy and satisfied. Childish Gambino makes a commentary on the tragic African American experience that seems evident to most but often ignored and left unresolved by society at large.
Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley and the Wailers
Listening to Bob Marley on the weekend is like hanging out in heaven. All I hear are good vibes and inspiration for a better tomorrow. In “Get Up, Stand Up,” he calls on us to make a stand and not leave our destiny to the gods. It’s an anthem he made back in the 70s. And its timelessness is proven by our need to still stand up for minority rights today.
Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine
No band better represents anti-establishment than Rage Against the Machine. Their best-known hit, “Killing in the Name,” has one of the most memorable guitar riffs heard in rock. And it serves as a middle finger to police brutality. The build-up to the climax captures the anger of people reaching their boiling point when faced with injustice.
Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell
Way before Greta Thunberg sailed the seas, and the Counting Crows and Vanessa Carlton made a cute pairing, Joni Mitchell was already advocating for the environment through “Big Yellow Taxi.” The enemy has taken many forms. But the underlying issue persists – people take for granted the Earth we inherited.
American Idiot by Green Day
Back in the 2000s, I’m sure Green Day expected George W. Bush to be the most prominent American Idiot. I’m writing this article in 2020, and I’m confident Billie Joe Armstrong would feel differently. The stupidity is overtaken by Trump’s recklessness in foreign affairs, misinformation in the media, and his draconian policies on immigration.
Alright by Kendrick Lamar
In this day and age, no one will vouch for racism. Yet, it insidiously persists in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Kendrick Lamar created a masterpiece that depicts the struggle and gives a battle cry for people facing oppression. In the end, they continue to fight and are confident all will be fine.
Imagine by John Lennon
Even though it’s a dream, the vision that John Lennon had imagined is one we all share. Differences keep us apart. But we have more in common than we don’t. You can puke while reading this. But I’m an idealist at heart. And I feel we all are. So just because it’s impossible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it.
Formation by Beyonce
Beyonce already cemented her position as one of the most successful female artists of all time. Instead of shying away from politics, she got involved and made “Formation.” She has never embraced her roots as explicitly as she did and has now acknowledged the role African American women played in the fight against racism.
Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2
If there’s one group that’s not afraid to use their platform for advocacy, it would have to be U2. Bono goes on to preach the word of love and unity in his music and his shows. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is the sound and messaging the group is still known for. It’s rock and peace, jiving together perfectly.
Zombie by The Cranberries
I don’t believe any war is worth waging. I’m angrier thinking about the collateral damage it brings, especially to vulnerable sectors like women and children. If logic and compassion won’t do the trick, maybe the angst and pain conveyed by the late lead singer of the Cranberries would be enough to make you think again.
Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
Many perceive “Born in the U.S.A.” as a patriotic anthem of US pride. But all over Bruce Springsteen’s words are the tragic stories and realities of the Vietnam War. The song has been misinterpreted too many times that even Ronald Raegan used it for his campaign. The Boss put a stop to it.
Paper Planes by M.I.A.
Despite immigrants dominating industries providing essential services, xenophobes still exist. People from other countries apparently take away jobs (ones that xenophobes view to be useless). Foreigners perpetrate crime – as if that would help with their legal status. M.I.A took the s*** right out of their mouth and put an addictive gunshot hook to it.
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye
We inevitably ask the question Marvin Gaye posed. After all, the world is f***** up you’re bound to ask how we ended up in this situation. Human behavior is not dictated by logic. And I don’t expect that to prevail. But there are days when hate trumps love. And those are days we collectively lose.
The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan
As the saying goes, the only permanent thing in life is change. And when I see the world I was born in, as opposed to the one I’m living in today, it rings true. The anthem from Bob Dylan is universal and stands the test of time. And it represents how our priorities as humankind should continuously shift and evolve.
Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Many criticize without having been in the field. But John Fogerty, a war veteran himself, has a shield that many critics use to discredit artists. Creedence Clearwater Revival brings a perspective we often forget – the ones waging war aren’t necessarily the ones fighting them.