11 recent songs to keep you calm and engaged in the current political climate
The resistance is in full swing, with late-night talk show hosts railing against Donald Trump’s total incompetence as president and oppressed communities uniting to rally for equality. But they’re not the only ones giving freedom, fairness and unconditional-love-for-all a voice as this current administration continues to roll back to medieval times — powerful anthems and hopeful paeans to keep the momentum going no matter how world-weary we may get are coming from all sides, many sides. So, next time you find yourself falling down the dark, divisive abyss of state-of-the-world despair, crank up one of these pick-me-ups — from Pink’s new rally cry “What About Us” to Miguel’s powerful Black Lives Matter anthem — and pull yourself up and out. We need you.
Pink, “What About Us.” Just days after Heather Heyer was killed for standing up against hate-spewing white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., Pink’s call-to-action video for the first single from her upcoming album, Beautiful Trauma, was chillingly art imitating life, the rich choreography mirroring the emotional fervor resulting from minority persecution. No stranger to political smackdowns — Pink’s “Dear Mr. President” slammed George W. Bush — pop’s fearless rebellion doesn’t shy from cutting remarks about our new non-leading leader (You sold us down the river too far). Feeling duped, she scolds, Enough is enough, before taking the impassioned track’s melancholic and Trump-confronting lyrics to the frontlines of freedom: It’s the start of us waking up… are you ready? I’ll be ready. The answer is: Yes, Pink, we’re ready.
Tori Amos, Bang.” “Bang,” from Native Invader, Amos’ newest and most political album to date, confronts political hot topics head on — no fake news here. But somehow, while ripping into the White House’s white politics and acknowledging Trump’s failed ban on immigrants (that’s who we all are), the equal-rights advocate and outspoken feminist takes a break from the broken world to find stillness and beauty in a shooting star, an offering of much-needed healing. Her sage advice is to “out-create,” but finding that star can’t hurt.
Kesha, “Woman.” You don’t have to be a woman to enjoy the hell out of Kesha’s raw, lit ode to all the (single) ladies of the world. I’m a motherfucking woman, baby, that’s right, she defiantly roars, wielding themes of self-love, individuality and getting your own weed while sticking it to the patriarchy over a saucy brass track sure to put pig-headed men in their place. Take heed all you nasty women… and nasty men who love those women to pieces.
Tyler Glenn, “Devil” and “John, Give ‘Em Hell.” During “Devil,” a bit of hard-earned joy from Tyler Glenn’s Excommunication album, the Neon Trees frontman casts a side grin at the religious right when he says, I think the devil made me, before acknowledging that abandoning the Mormon Church permitted him to fully accept himself as a gay man. Much like “John, Give ’Em Hell,” written for John Dehlin, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who was excommunicated from the church in 2015, it’s hopeful and nurturing.
Lana Del Rey, “Change.” Never the optimist, the brooding singer-songwriter felt her latest album, Lust for Life, was not complete without one last song… and it’s hopeful? Indeed, it is; that song is the brighter-days rumination “Change,” wherein Del Rey is all of us, except with a pretty piano melody that you’ll want to loop until a real leader can actually fulfill his promise of making America great.
Beyoncé, “Freedom.” Is there anything more Beyoncé than Beyoncé serving womanly willpower while refusing to bend to her oppressors? “Freedom,” an explosive Lemonade touchstone, is the thunder during the storm, marching on like a modern-day civil-rights anthem and featuring a fiery rap from Kendrick Lamar. Freedom fighters, get in formation.
cupcakKe, “LGBT.” You can count on Chicago-based rapper cupcakKe’s ally anthem “LGBT” to keep you feeling fierce. Her rainbow-flag-waving celebration of all things queer comes at you fast and hard with a bangin’ bassline and the perfect sentiment for anyone who dares mess with the spitfire’s underdogs: Fuck out my way when you see me, I’m rollin’ with the LGBT.
Miley Cyrus, “Inspired.” When you’re not coming at Trump’s America like a wrecking ball, take a deep breath and let Adult AF Miley inspire your queerness by sheer example. While seeking answers to questions that seem unanswerable and finding refuge in happy memories with her father, Cyrus also reminds us all that just merely being ourselves can turn the tide: Pull the handle on the door that opens up to change, I know that sounds so strange, ’cause you’ve always felt so small, but know you aren’t at all.
Miguel, “How Many.” You know that prayer-hand emoji “do-gooders” post to their socials as if that’s the answer to hurricane relief and equality? R&B singer Miguel denounces said futile sentiments on “How Many,” a powerful protest song instilling sense and ownership into those blind to this country’s troubling race problem.
Andra Day, “Rise Up.” Andra Day has the right idea: We’ll rise up in spite of the ache. During the global women’s march in January and a Muslim-travel-ban march shortly thereafter and every Black Lives Matter march, we have; and with this soaring soul ballad offering mountain-moving fortitude, we will continue to rise and resist.
— Chris Azzopardi