If there is any medium that has helped summarize and critique the politics of a given era, it is that of popular music. Whether it’s commenting on political instability or making people own up to their wrongdoings, musicians have always had their ear to the ground when it comes to politics. As this election season comes closer to the fateful Nov. 6, here’s an in-depth playlist, including everything from 1960s hits to present tunes, hip-hop to country. This is likely to get you thinking about the government, but in a good way.
The Managing Editors, who put together this playlist, each had a couple of songs that stood out as their favorites.
“American Idiot” Green Day
For me, there is no other song that better expresses the political unrest of the mid-2000s than “American Idiot.” While others chose to avoid talking about the war going on both abroad and at home, Green Day called out the passivism of the American public in the face of injustice and challenged them to get angry. With the most recognizable guitar riff of 2004 and the bold proclamation of an “idiot America,” Green Day perfectly captured the tension and unrest of present, and subsequent, years.
“When The Ships Come In” Bob Dylan
There are many many brilliant Bob Dylan songs, but this one will always be my favorite. Performed at the March on Washington, this ode to the oppressed serves as a beautiful reminder that those trying to keep people down will always have to face a fight. Nothing better sums up the attention drawn to the Civil Rights movement and could apply to other struggles for rights in America’s history than the lines “And the ship’s wise men/Will remind you once again/That the whole wide world is watchin’.”
“Ashes of American Flags” Wilco
For me, few albums have been able to paint a more honest depiction of America today than Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” The eerie but coincidental connections that have been drawn between 9/11 and lyrics on the album (completed earlier in 2001) have made the album an indelible part of our history. Yet, on it’s own, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is a restrained ode to America filled with cynicism, celebration and nostalgia. In “Ashes of American Flags,” lead singer Jeff Tweedy communicates a sense of regret and decay, as he contemplates how trivial things like consumerism have warped what it means to be an American. His last line about saluting “all the fallen leaves filling up shopping bags” drives this sentiment home beautifully.
“Loose Lips” Kimya Dawson
I will always love Kimya Dawson as the big-hearted lady she is, whose songs about wearing bunny suits and playing video games added an air of innocence to “Juno.” But after I listened to Dawson’s album “Remember that I Love You,” the song “Loose Lips” had a chance to shine (instead of being hidden under “Your egg-o is pregg-o” dialogue). The song is surprisingly political and directly calls out President Bush on his role in the Iraq War. But, what I love most about this song is its overall message. In her own quirky way, Dawson wants people to know that a force of good can’t be stopped. She supports people who are fighting for change because, as Dawson says, “your thoughts and words are powerful.” Only Dawson could write a song like “Loose Lips” that is fearless, yet still brimming with humor and optimism.
“Americano” Lady Gaga
In “Americano,” Gaga addresses some of the most pressing issues in our country today — immigration and gay rights. As a very outspoken pop star, Gaga was inspired by the the turbulent Mexican border laws and the repeal of the California Proposition 8, a controversial ballot proposition defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The song captures the struggle to live in this country without being limited by your ethnicity or your sexuality. With influences from Latin music, Gaga manages to make this political statement a club-worthy dance hit.
“Imagine” John Lennon
Instead of focusing on the negative, Lennon decides to instill hope in his audience, which is why “Imagine” has become an anthem for peace. Take a break from the tragedies of the real world and be an idealist. Whether you vote for Romney or Obama, try to imagine the world that you want to live in. After all, Lennon isn’t the only dreamer.
Contact CU Independent Editor-In-Chief Amanda Moutinho at Amanda.Mountinho@colorado.edu, and Managing Editors Isa Jones at Alexandra.I.Jones@colorado.edu and Stephanie Riesco at Stephanie.Riesco@colorado.edu.