Political Melodies

Staff Writer: Ian Clark

If compared to weather, today’s political climate is perfect for a shower of commentary. With the current U.S. president being politically inexperienced, innocent citizens being wrongly profiled and (in some cases) killed, and youth of the U.K. being underrepresented, the conversation that comes with it is inevitable. Official news broadcasts are becoming more unrightfully biased by the day and as it is with many situations, music may be the answer. 

“Modernity has failed us” Matty Healy (lead singer of British band, The 1975) sings on the single, “Love It If We Made It.” This statement leaves the listener with an echoing thought: a question of the world’s current state. Healy’s songwriting evokes a sense of rising urgency, listing situations in which the world has gone wrong. At first listen it may seem to be a series of worst-case scenarios, but it becomes apparent to the listener that we are beginning to live in a world of worst-case scenarios. 

1975

The 1975, arguably the most controversial band of the decade. Credit: Rebeka Brylewski. Courtesy of udiscovermusic.

The song begins with a line about drug use and fornication in inappropriate situations. In an interview with Genius regarding the song, Healy says “I was in a world where everything is designed to grab your attention within the attention economy. So, I was like, ‘Well, I’ll do that then.’” The 1975 is almost undeniably one of the most controversial and honest music acts currently out, and it’s important to have these types of influences, but this archetype isn’t new.  

It’s 1977 in the UK. The monarchy is corrupt, and the youth has no voice. Punk acts of London were here to counteract this minuscule role that youth played in the country at the time. “God save the queen; She ain’t no human being; And there is no future; And England’s dreaming.” front man Sid Vicious, of extremely impactful UK band, The Sex Pistols rants on “God Save the Queen”, which is quite the political statement of a song. The song changed the position that political statements could play in music. It struck fear in the elders of the UK, it was a sign of rebellion. The youth was tired of being oppressed, they wanted a voice and it showed. 

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

The cover for “God Save the Queen” portrays the former queen censored by the title of the song, and the band’s name. Credit: Jamie Reid. Courtesy of The Telegraph

Clearly, the UK knows about the corruption of the world, but this leaves a question unanswered: What about America? Hip-hop (currently the dominant music genre of the mainstream) has never had a good relationship with authority. There was N.W.A.’s fiery anthem of subversion, “F**k Tha Police” (released on their 1988 LP, “Straight Outta Compton.”) where Ice Cube chants: “F*** the police! Comin’ straight from the underground; A young n***a got it bad ‘cause I’m brown; And not the other color, so police think they have the authority to kill a minority.” This line was outlining the epidemic of police brutality, and use of excessive force towards minorities, during the late 80s and into the 90s. Of course, this problem hasn’t necessarily slowed down. With the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and 1132 other men in 2015 alone. This number only accounts for young black men in one year, so considering that it’s only currently late 2018, the number hasn’t seen any significant signs of decreasing. With a song that is still relevant 20 years later, N.W.A. created a hit, an influencer, and a song that survived the test of time. 

nwa

N.W.A., the rap group known for popularizing vocal rebellion against police brutality in America. Credit: Gerrick Kennedy. Courtesy of Tidal.com.

Fast-forwarding 18 years after the release of the N.W.A. song, Donald Trump announces that he’s running for president. Many people thought that Trump as a presidential candidate, was a blasphemous joke, until Trumps blatant and obvious racism started spewing out of news sources left and right. He went so far as to refer to Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, which obviously didn’t sit well with many people. This statement pushed famous rapper YG to release a track by the name of “FDT”. The track is notoriously controversial, being picked up, reviewed, and censored by the secret service for YG’s threats towards the presidential candidate. In an interview with First We Feast (a branch of Complex News), YG says that the Secret Service contacted his record label, Def Jam, and requested that he change or censor the lyrics. This resulted in multiple malicious lines of the songs being censored by TV static or changed. Two of these lines being “Surprised El Chapo ain’t tried to snipe you”, a visualization of the empirical Mexican drug lord murdering Trump and “Black love, brown pride in the sets again”, imagery of opposing gangs coming together to overthrow Trump. 

fdt

The cover of YG’s “FDT”, in a similar manner of the Sex Pistols’ artwork for “God Save the Queen”, depicts the president being censored. Courtesy of Def Jam, CTE World and Pushaz Ink.

Music is one of the most powerful forces of media. It enforces abstract ideas, with the artists knowing full well that there could be consequences. Artists put aside their reserved fear of punishment in order to speak their minds and publicize an issue that deserves attention. The Sex Pistols, The 1975, N.W.A., and YG did it: and it won’t stop, because as Matty Healy says: the poetry is in the streets.

 

 

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