Check out our curated playlist on Spotify with 10 classic and contemporary songs of our time from rappers, folk singers and rock bands who have all utilized the power of music and words to create social and environmental awareness. Enjoy!
“Love It If We Made It” by The 1975
The 1975 are no strangers when it comes to speaking up about political issues. This ardent track highlights the overwhelming feeling of the internet in the current political climate and how modernity has failed us. In the third verse of the song, frontman Matt Healy screams the line, “I moved on her like a bitch!”, an excerpt from President Donald Trump’s interview with Access Hollywood back in 2005. The passion and anger from Healy’s voice stem from his frustration that the media seems to sweep this under the rug and continues to leave Trump in power. How can American citizens be more outraged by a man peacefully protesting rather than a political figure who mistreats and degrades women? Healy also references football player Colin Kaepernick’s protests about police brutality in the line, “Kneeling on a pitch.”
“God Control” by Madonna
The ’80s pop star icon has created a controversial song that graphically brings light to America’s issue with gun control. She wanted to address that she is aware that it could be crushing to see and hear, but mass shootings happen every day. As time goes on, mass shootings seem to be a regular thing happening in America and people are living in fear of the next mass shooting. What will the future be like if we don’t take action?
“American Oxygen” by Rihanna
Inspired by the 1984 single “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen, Bad Gal Riri’s track discusses chasing the American dream in modern-day society. Listening closely to the lyrics, you can hear that Rihanna is telling a story through the perspective of an immigrant. Our founding fathers built the foundation of what the American dream is supposed to be, but over time Americans have sought to achieve their own interpretation of what that is. In this track Rihanna expresses freedom, equality for all and achieving happiness.
“Wild Life” by Wings
Paul McCartney and his band, Wings, released this momentous anthem back in 1971, advocating for animal rights. McCartney talks about taking a stroll in an African wildlife park and coming across a sign that stated: “The animals have the right of way. The word ‘wild’ applies to all of us, as we are just like these wild animals invading their space and taking their territory.” Later, McCartney sings, “You’re breathing a lot of political nonsense in the air,” an extremely direct critique for listeners to reflect on the environment we live in.
“This Is America” by Childish Gambino
Unless you live under a rock there is no way you haven’t heard of this instant classic. From police brutality, weapon ownership, referencing Jim Crow and the 2015 Charleston shooting in his controversial song, Childish Gambino sheds light on the horrors of America. His intense, truthful lyrics bash social media culture and how we become desensitized by heartbreaking events when clips of them get uploaded online. American citizens are obsessed with the idea of the superficial environment, and while we are so caught up in it we don’t take the chance to look at the real problems.
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
This powerful song about police brutality was released back in 1971 and still resonates with America’s society today. Composer Renaldo “Obie” Benson felt heavily inspired after witnessing a police brutality incident. In the 1970s, America dealt with racial misunderstandings, drug addiction and a bemusing war. Gaye created a soothing track that raises awareness for the unjust situations African Americans have been put through by the police, sparking a national discussion on how social problems should be tackled.
“The Times They Are a-Changin'” by Bob Dylan
When you think of a political anthem, this might come to mind. For decades people have been influenced by the song’s universal lyrics. Dylan helped younger generations voice their opinions to push social change all throughout the world. In the fourth verse Dylan sings: “Your old road is rapidly agin’ / Please get out of the new one / If you can’t lend your hand.” He was referring to the World War II generation, pointing out that their social norms were coming to a halt. Younger generations are not interested in the old regimes and are not afraid to create change.
“We the People….” by A Tribe Called Quest
The political rappers from New York hit the hard topics such as xenophobia, racism, misogyny and homophobia in their 2016 track “We the People….” Group member Q-Tip references the Preamble to the Constitution, a piece of history our Founding Fathers wrote in the hopes of leading us and giving us a pleasing outlook on humankind. The rap group has gathered all the communities Trump targeted during his presidential campaign in their lyrics: “All you Black folks, you must go / All you Mexicans, you must go / And all you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways / So all you bad folks, you must go.” The track is clearly anti-Trump and leaves you thinking about his bigoted agenda and the hateful remarks he has made all throughout his career.
“Land Of The Free” by The Killers
The band’s newest single is quite ironic because it depicts the depressing reality of living in America, especially if you are a person of color. The band is censuring Trump’s border proposal, racism and our government’s failure to take action on stricter gun laws. Brandon Flowers sings: “So how many daughters, tell me how many sons / Do we have to put in the ground / Before we just break down and face it / We’ve got a problem with guns?” In addition, writing from a white man’s perspective he states, “When I go out in my car, I don’t think twice / But if you’re the wrong color skin / You grow up looking over both your shoulders.” The band is trying to convey that if we are a country who is supposedly built on freedom, hopes and dreams, then our nation needs improvement. What we see in the news today does not look like liberty and independence.
“Mother’s Daughter” by Miley Cyrus
As everyone knows, the ex-Disney star is not afraid to speak her mind. “Mother’s Daughter” is a bold declaration tune supporting gender equality and protesting discrimination and sexual harassment. With Trump in office, the topic of abortion rights has been very hot. Ever since Alabama passed a law that states a woman can receive up to 99 years of jail time if she decides to get an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, there has been major outrage and a push to fight for women’s rights. Politicians, especially male politicians, have no right to dictate what women decide to do with their bodies. The main theme of Cyrus’s new single is that anyone that identifies as female has the right to own their body. The female body is not just for the male gaze.