The political playlist of 2019

What‘s most significant about 2019? It is arguably the rise in demonstrations. People marching on the streets for their political aims and beliefs. Especially the “Fridays for Future” movement grew in it’s dimension and is still finding more and more supporters. 

Alongside demonstrations, what is another important form of expression through which we can gain consciousness? Right: music. 2019 is characterised by many new political hymns that deal with the climate change and issues of their respective countries, mainly immigration policy and treatment and gun violence. 

Climate Change and what we can do about it

1975 & Greta Thunberg: The 1975

In the self-titled song by The 1975, the band features Greta Thunberg giving a speech about climate issues and what will happen, if we do not change our policies regarding the climate. The track opens up slowly with accoustic piano chimes and amplifies with Greta Thunbergs intense monologue about the current climate crisis. While explaining the ongoing issues she foreshadows what is going to happen, if we do not protect our Earth and climate and the respective consequences, but still offers glimpses of hope. She encourages us to take action and “rebel” through protests and voicing our opinion so the political agenda changes.

“We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis, and we need to call it what it is: an emergency. We must acknowledge that we do not have the situation under control… We must admit that we are losing this battle. We have to acknowledge that the older generations have failed. All political movements in their present form have failed, but Homo sapiens have not yet failed…We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands, but unless we recognise the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance…”

Lil Dicky – Earth

The charity single “ Earth” by Lil Dicky and numerous famous artists was discussed a lot by the broad public as it draws attention to the climate issue with its music video depicting each celebrity as a wildlife animal that will be endangered in the future, if we humans do not act against climate change ( e.g. Justin Bieber as a baboon or Ariana Grande as a zebra). The lyrics are somewhat controversial and ambiguous but basically just want to emphasise that those animals are endangered in their survival.

What up, world? It’s your boy, just one of the guys down here. Well, I could be more specific. Uh, I’m a human, and I just wanted to, you know, for the sake of all of us earthlings out there, just wanted to say: We love the Earth, it is our planet/ We love the Earth, it is our home…“

Under the official YouTube video one can find a link to get more information on how to tackle climate issues, as well as measures to reduce your own carbon footprint and how to take action.

Our differences unite us 

MARINA – To be human

“To be human” is a song by MARINA about trying to break down emotional walls between people, signifying that we are all the same and representing a longing for unity.

The music video offers a compilation of historic events worldwide and sequences of protests. It appeared on her LOVE+ FEAR album of 2019. Marina herself described it as the following:

To Be Human is probably the most important song on this record for me, because thematically it sums up the head space that I’ve come from in the past 3 years. I think the subject matter is really important, it talks about unity. I name-check a lot of places around the world São Paulo, Verona, Angola, Chicago, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Greece. When I was writing that I wanted to create this picture of humanity, because in our political climate we are constantly being made to see other people as ‘other’. If you’re from a different culture, you’re seen as different and potentially dangerous and I really hate that. I really think that’s a sad way to see humanity. So I wrote this song really thinking about that, and for that reason it really forms a core part of the record.

Furthermore the first verses and the chorus mention several places, their characteristics and culture.

There were riots in America/ Just when things were getting better/ All the things I’ve done and seen/ Still I don’t know what life means

All the people living in, living in the world today/ We’re united by our love, we’re united by our pain (ooh)/ All the things that I’ve done and I’ve seen/ Still I don’t know, don’t know what it means.

The song symbolises that even throughout our differences we should be looking at each other as the same, as humans.

Discrimination and gun violence in “the Land of the free”

The Killers – Land of the free

The song “Land of the free” by the American rock band The Killers is a political song, talking about many issues of the United States which is often referred to as the “Land of the free” because of the American belief that people are free and able to pursue whatever dreams they have, a patriotic slogan which is sarcastically apprehended by The Killers. Their stance on the US biggest issues, like gun violence and the hatred and reluctance towards immigrants is made very clear. The music video displays several scenes from refugee camps, protests and many people from Central America at the border.

Within the first verse front man Brandon Flowers explains that he himself is from an immigrant family, originally from Lithuania, who were seeking the american dream for which in order to make it happen they worked in coal mines.

The second verse rather emphasizes racial discrimination and comments on the different treatment of citizens in the USA. The song mentions how having a different skin colour affects you in everyday life gives examples of police violence in the American justice system and suggests that incarceration seems like a “big business” nowadays.

When I go out in my car, I don’t think twice/ But if you’re the wrong color skin (I’m standing crying)/ You grow up looking over both your shoulders/ In the land of the free/ We got more people locked up than the rest of the world/ Right here in red, white and blue/ Incarceration’s become big business/ It’s harvest time out on the avenue

Gun violence is mentioned by the musician through his utter sadness while askingSo how many daughters, tell me how many sons/ Do we have to have to put in the ground before we just break down and face it/ We got a problem with guns”  

Furthermore he mentions the many issues of migration and how president Trump is aiming to build a wall at the border to Mexico. The constant repetition of the phrase “land of the free”, especially in the chorus, accentuates that America should be “the land of the free” as everyone should be able to live their American Dream. However, the core values, the USA was once based on are not anymore represented in “the land of the free”.

The front man Brandon Flowers said, he wrote the song in regard of the aftermaths of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting 2012 and in regard to several recurring mass shootings, police brutality, injustice towards immigrants, thereby dishonouring the values the US was founded on and is supposed to act on.

Lana del Rey – Looking for America

Lana del Rey had a similar approach to discuss the Politics of the United States, specifically towards gun control and regulations. She wrote “Looking for America” as a direct response to two separate mass shootings, which led to 32 people dying on the first weekend of August 2019, one took place in El Paso, Texas and the other one in Dayton, Ohio. 

She voices her dream of a better America, “one without the gun, where the flag can freely fly” and mass atrocities through guns are not happening anymore. She feels the constant fear of having to think twice before going to certain places and dreams of how it used to be when she was younger. She is melancholically dreaming about this notion of a gun free America.

No bombs in the sky, only fireworks when you and I collide/ It’s just a dream I had in mind/ It’s just a dream I had in mind

The arising of a new protest wave against political and global issues of atrocities and climate change?

A new wave of political songs in order to protest governmental actions and climate issues emerged. But we should not forget that music has always existed as a medium to express emotions and feelings, especially about social injustice and unfair policies. Take Bob Dylan´s “The Times They Are A- Changin´” or Tracy Chapman´s “Talkin´Bout a Revolution” as examples. And it is so important that it stays that way and that new artists come up with songs tackling current issues to make the broad public eye aware of certain issues. It does not get easier than raising awareness through 3 min long songs that everyone can listen to repeatedly.

 

by Elena Wasserzier

Photo credits:

Greta Thunberg in Paris, february 22th, stephane-p, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Land of the Free, Kevin Spencer, CC BY-NC 2.0

Too late, Andrew Gustar, CC-BY ND 2.0