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The piece of political music I chose is “Zombie” by The Cranberries.” The song has a direct purpose as it’s written about the internal war in Ireland in the 1900s. This conflict has been the primary cause of violence and death in Ireland. This song specifically is written about two boys that were killed by IRA bombs emphasizing the negative side effects of war. The musical genre is Rock, which has a long history of calling out substandard behavior in society. Many rock bands such as The Bettles, The Rolling Stones and Green Day have symbolic songs that involve politics as well.
When listening to the song there is a lot of direct lyrics that vividly express the situation. “But you see, But you see, it’s not me, it’s not my family In your head, in your head, they are fighting. With their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns. In your head, in your head, they are crying.” When reading these lyrics the singer is disassociating herself from the IRA and explains that killing innocent lives shouldn’t be the cost of freedom. Some symbolism is also used in the song as the word zombie is used in the chorus multiple times. According to Genius zombies are the supporters of war that are incapable of understanding anything else but killing. We can further emphasize this by the next lyric “What’s in your head, in your head? Zombie, zombie.” I believe an important musical characteristic is the use of dynamics in the song. When the band is playing the verses the singer and the band is usually quieter and softer. Then slightly before the chorus, the music slowly gets louder until it reaches its climax in the chorus. This can also reflect her anger towards the propagators of war because of how loud she gets to the point where she is almost screaming to get her point across. The use of dynamics plays a good role in highlighting the sentiment of the song
Childish Gambino released a song in 2018 names “This is America”. The popular artists song became popular and widely known due to the song itself, video, and message. The message put across was to speak out about racial discrimination towards African- Americans. Some interpret certain scenes in the video as a message stating that American gun laws are more protective than laws protecting people themselves. Also, some believe the video points out that entertainment has been used as a way to get our minds off of political conflicts and bigger world problems. Many speculate that Gambinos dancing in the video displays the distraction from political and societal issues, through the entertainment industry. This song is listened widely for musical enjoyment, the message is underlying and many people do not notice the lyrics relating to the message. Repetition is used to reinforce important lyrics and made the song catchy and widely appealing. Some repeating lines are “ Don’t catch you slippin now” and “Look what im whippin now”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY
The piece I decided to discuss is “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, which became associated with may different rallies with in the Black Lives Matter movement, and talks about police brutality as a whole against primarily African Americans. Lamar was inspired to write “Alright” by a trip to South Africa, and was inspired specifically by the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. In addition, Lamar told NPR in a 2015 interview that he was thinking about the history of chattel slavery in America, and explains how even 400 years later, we still need joyful songs and music to heal. He talks about the injustices that African Americans faced from police, using verses such as “Uh, and when I wake up, I recognize you’re looking at me for the pay cut, But homicide be looking at you from the face down, What MAC-11 even boom with the bass down?” which explains how homicide is a constant threat for black people, and more verses such as “N****, and we hate po-po, Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho”, which references that seeminglyw clockwork killing of black Americans by the police. Protesters from the Black Lives Matter adopted this song as their anthem, following killings of African Americans like Sandra Bland (a black woman who was found dead in a jail cell in Texas after she was arrested at a traffic stop) and Tamir Rice (a black 12-year-old who was playing with an Airsoft gun outside a rec center and was shot and killed by police). The song is an part of the hip hop genre, although it carries characteristics from the spiritual/gospel genre, such as the humming of voices in the back. The song includes a very noticeable saxophone in the background, which fades in and out throughout the song, alongside drums, and the hums of what sounds like a choir in the background. However, its actually Pharrell Williams who sings the chorus, the memorable “N*****, we gon’ be alright”.
The political protest song I will be discussing today is “Where Is The Love” by Black Eye Peas which was released in 2003. The song was created when the Iraq War had begun, when the u.s had announced to be going into war with Iraq after 9/11 there were several protests against the action itself. While this song does talk about the topic of war it also bring attention to our own issues in the u.s such racism and discrimination, “but if you only have love for your own race, then you only leave space to discriminate and to discriminate only generates hate”. This also introduces ideas on how gang, violence, and media can impact the youth negatively when it is said, “With on goin’ sufferin as the youth die young…kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema.” It brings up how in times of pain and tragedy , love and unity should be spread instead of hate. This song also tackles the idea of going into war when saying, “overseas yeah we tryin’ stop terrorism but we still we still got terrorists here livin’ in the The USA, the big CIA, the Bloods and the Crips, and the KKK,” which means how we should focus on the main issues impacting our own society instead of getting into conflict with others.
“Where is The Love” is still a song that can relate to issues in the world as it includes numerous topics. This song can be used as comfort to one and also reassurance questioning which is the love or where is the unity in iMessage of tragedy. For example, in May 22, 2017 when a suicide bomber had caused in an explosion after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester while fans were leaving the venue, causing 23 deaths and 139 wounded. In response to this, Ariana Grande had held a concert in honor of those killed in Manchester with other artists and named it “One Love Manchester” in reference to the song’s line which says “We only got one love.” In times of tragedy people go back to this song as a reminder, even in today’s current events such as the issues surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
The musical element that’s is used in the song is rhythm more specifically it’s tempo. Throughout the song the tempo is kept as a slow pace, this pace doesn’t change which can be in order to focus on the message more which the slow pace can allow listeners to do so. A focus on the lyrics can create a clearer image for listeners in contrast to having a lot going on.
A popular political protest song I chose to write about is “Imagine” by John Lennon. The political purpose of this song was that we as a society can achieve peace in the world if we imagine it. A way in which listeners added their own political purpose to it, is that every listener is from a different country around the world. Bringing a mix of backgrounds can ironically unite everyone since peace is a factor we all want in our lives, no matter where we are from. This song falls under the category of rock music for genre. It also has some aspect of blues, since it has augmented chord changes, and sudden shifts in musical direction. One stanza of lyrics that stood out to me was the following:
“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one”
This stanza refers back to the idea of peace. John Lennon is trying to explain how positive thinking and determination can make a political change. If we can imagine a new world, we can achieve it. There are so many different religions and countries that can blur out this concept (similarly to how the music video began), but that is exactly why we need everyone’s contribution. He as a singer has a role of authority to write this song since the ex-Beatle would work with leading figures of the British Left, including Tariq Ali, who interviewed him for the influential Marxist magazine Red Mole. The first musical characteristic I realized was the rhythm. Throughout the song there is a steady beat that is heard. The measures have a group of strong beats, and the tempo is played with two beats in measure.
In this unit, we considered how music comes to carry political meaning. In some cases, different groups of listeners will hear completely opposite political messages in the same song, like Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the USA”.
Find a piece of political protest music that we haven’t discussed in class–a song that was either created for or became associated with a movement to bring about political change. To learn more about your piece, I recommend looking up some news articles or other sources. Making sure to include a Youtube link to your music choice, answer the following points:
- For what purpose, political or otherwise, did the artist create this piece of music? Did listeners add their own political purpose to the music?
- What musical genre is the piece part of? Is the genre itself political?
- If there are lyrics, include and explain excerpts that are relevant to the political message of the music.
- Discuss at least one musical characteristic of the piece that makes it a useful tool for political protest.
This blog is due Wednesday May 6 at 11:59pm. Don’t forget to leave a comment on a classmate’s post.