Some artists like to keep politics out of it, but not these ones! Check out these political anthems by artists like P!nk, Demi Lovato, and Childish Gambino.
Music can be used for so many different things. It can make you happy or sad. It can make you dance. It can also help convey important thoughts and ideas, which is why it’s always been used for things like protests and political messages. There will always be people who think that artists should just focus on music and stay out of politics, but thankfully, many artists like to use their voices for good.
With the United States presidential race quickly coming to a head, there’s no better time to explore some of the best political songs. Some are recent and some are classics. There are songs that comment on the state of American society, others that are preaching peace, and some that make a plea directly to the president.
“Commander in Chief” by Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato is never one to shy away from speaking her mind, whether she’s talking about her sexuality, her struggles with mental health, or, apparently, politics. The singer released “Commander in Chief” in October as a direct message to President Trump. She talks about the exorbitant death toll of COVID-19 in the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more, asking him how he can sleep at night. The video ends with a simple message: “VOTE.”
“Not Ready to Make Nice” by The Chicks
If anybody knows how to make a political statement, it’s The Chicks. Formerly The Dixie Chicks, these ladies got themselves into hot water after criticizing former President George W. Bush, saying “…we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” It’s rare for country artists to speak out about Republican politicians, so you can imagine the outrage that followed. Their 2006 song “Not Ready To Make Nice” was their message to the world following the controversy, telling us all that they’re still mad as hell and they’re not ready to back down!
“Dear Mr. President” by P!nk Feat. Indigo Girls
P!nk is another artist who has never been afraid to speak her mind. “Dear Mr. President” was her criticism of the Bush administration, including commentary on the Iraq war, his opposition to gay marriage, and the No Child Left Behind Act. The song gets really personal when P!nk shouts the line, “You’ve come a long way from whiskey and cocaine,” referencing Bush’s alleged substance abuse issues. The song feels especially personal for the artist, and not like she’s hopping on a bandwagon, which makes it feel even more powerful.
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
Political commentary in popular music is nothing new. Marvin Gaye released the song “What’s Going On” back in 1971, and the song was inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by songwriter Renaldo “Obie” Benson. The incident happened at an anti-war protest, but he insisted the song itself wasn’t a protest song, but rather a song about spreading love.
The song was re-recorded as a charity single in 2001 to benefit AIDS programs in Africa, but following the September 11 terrorist attacks, it helped raise money for both causes. It featured artists like Britney Spears, Destiny’s Child, Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado, Backstreet Boys, Ja Rule, Nas, Jennifer Lopez and more.
“F**k You” by Lily Allen
You don’t need to be American to make a statement about the state of American politics. Lily Allen’s (explicit) 2009 single “F**k You” was written as a statement about George W. Bush, despite her being from the United Kingdom. The song talks about how he craves his father’s (George H.W. Bush) approval, how she thinks it’s distasteful that he’s against gay marriage, and questions his call to war. In the end, it ends up being a fun middle finger to anyone who gets on your nerves!
“This Is America” by Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino wasn’t holding back when he released “This Is America.” The track was his commentary on being a Black man in the United States. It touches on police brutality and gun violence in the country, which are both hammered in by the themes in the music video. The video also has references to racist Jim Crow caricatures of Black men.
“Give Peace a Chance” by Plastic Ono Band
“Give Peace a Chance” might be one of the most famous “protest” songs of all time. Written by John Lennon and performed by John along with the Plastic Ono Band, this track was an anti-war anthem that was first performed in Montreal, Canada during John and Yoko Ono’s “Bed In” for peace. They were speaking out against the Vietnam War and quickly became the song of the anti-Vietnam movement. Even in 2020, it rings true: Give peace a chance.
What are your favorite protest songs? Let us know!