Many of us are music lovers, yet we often listen to songs without analyzing their lyrics or considering the societal implications that may result. For me, music provides an escape from the world’s problems, however, I also seek it to gain more clarity about a situation.
As a political science student, I’m always tuned into the news and constantly follow social media to stay informed about current world events. Sometimes, it’s difficult to comprehend the motivations behind certain policy decisions. I become frustrated and struggle to understand how countries will thrive when individuals only act in their own interests.
Fortunately, music has played a big role in furthering my understanding of politics. Here are two songs that have motivated me to keep believing in the power of change:
Chained to the Rhythm by Katy Perry (ft. Skip Marley)
While I’m not the biggest fan of this song, it’s still relevant to the current political climate. Katy Perry was one of Hillary Clinton’s most vocal supporters during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, so it’s only fitting that she released a song in protest of the American public’s behaviour towards President Trump’s administration. This song can be interpreted in several ways; for myself, there was one message that immediately stood out: people can’t continue to be complacent and live their lives as if all is well.
“So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble / So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble”
“So put your rose-colored glasses on / And party on”
“Turn it up, keep it on repeat / Stumbling around like a wasted zombie”
These lyric samples perfectly describe the reality that we are facing. By being closed off from the rest of the world, we think that our lives will be safer. The reference to “rose-colored glasses” is also fitting – if a difficult situation arises, people simply refuse to face the problem at hand. Katy Perry explains that if this type of behaviour continues, everyone will start to act like “zombies” – we won’t have the capacity to think for ourselves, instead choosing to live with a benign acceptance of our current political and social situation.
Dear Mr. President by P!nk (ft. Indigo Girls)
P!nk released this song in 2006 as a criticism of former President George W. Bush’s administration, however, it can also be applied to Trump and other groups in the world that only care about furthering their own interests. “Dear Mr. President” is a powerful ballad that represents the voice of the people – it challenges governments to create policies that benefit all citizens, not just the country’s elites.
“What do you feel when you look in the mirror? / Are you proud?”
“How do you sleep while the rest of us cry? / How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?”
“Can you even look me in the eye / And tell me why?”
These three samples were picked from the chorus, which I believe is the most powerful part of the song. P!nk is daring Bush to look within himself; she also asks how he can live with his actions. I won’t comment on Bush’s policies (that’s a topic for another post entirely), however, it’s clear that P!nk is encouraging us to always hold decision-makers accountable. This song is great because it perfectly encapsulates the concept of political participation; sometimes, we have to ask the hard questions to enact change.
There are many other examples of politically-charged songs that I could have mentioned, however, in my opinion, “Chained to the Rhythm” and “Dear Mr. President” best represent the deep friendship that music and politics share. My hope is that by listening to these songs, you’ll come to realize that the world isn’t only defined by the actions of a few. Everyone has the opportunity to play a role in politics, regardless of age, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.