Protest music, past and present, from Pitchfork
December 8, 2017 9:24 PM   Subscribe

The Year in Protest Music 2017 -- A list of 20 urgent tracks that spoke truth to power this year. Pitchfork has had a few other lists of protest songs in the past few years: We Shall Overcomb: Music as Protest at the Women’s March (Jan. 25, 2017) and 15 Ways to Protest Trump by Buying New Music (Jan. 20, 2017), and earlier with Protest Soul: Music for Healing a Broken World (Dec. 14, 2016), Sounds of Black Protest Then and Now (Sept. 15, 2016), and The Sounds of Black Lives Matter (Oct. 17, 2016). Handy song links listed below.

The Year in Protest Music 2017 by Stacey Anderson and other Pitchfork staff writers
This year redefined our notions of politically reactive music: what it sounds like, who it comes from, and how much identity ignites its contents. Unlike other modern eras of American populist resistance, there was no single, centralized scene for discordant song: Instead of looking to waifish folk bards to deliver broadsheet laments, as in the 1960s, or hoarse hardcore punks to rail against Reaganomic hypocrisies, as in the ’80s, we took solace in a wide range of styles.
Listed alphabetically, the following 20 songs showed what protest music could be throughout the year. In 2017, in Trump’s America, this is what democracy sounded like:
  1. 21 Savage: “Nothin New
  2. Broken Social Scene: “Protest Song
  3. Downtown Boys: “A Wall
  4. Eminem: “The Storm” (covered previously)
  5. Fever Ray: “This Country
  6. Fiona Apple: “Tiny Hands
  7. Hurray for the Riff Raff: “Rican Beach
  8. Ibeyi: “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms” (Spotify; live at Brooklyn Steel, 2017
  9. J Balvin, Willy William, and Beyoncé: “Mi Gente
  10. Jay-Z: “The Story of O.J.
  11. Joan Baez: “Nasty Man
  12. Joey Bada$$: “Land of the Free
  13. Kamasi Washington: “Truth
  14. Kendrick Lamar: “XXX.
  15. Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Almost Like Praying (feat. Artists for Puerto Rico)”
  16. Margo Price: “All American Made
  17. Open Mike Eagle: “Happy Wasteland Day
  18. Perfume Genius: “Go Ahead” (Spotify; live at Union Transfer, taken from the full live performance recording)
  19. Priests: “Pink White House
  20. Vince Staples: “BagBak
And listen to selections from this list on Pitchfork's Spotify and Apple Music playlists.

We Shall Overcomb: Music as Protest at the Women’s March (by Jesse Jarnow, Jan. 25, 2017)
Musicians played a role at the center of the Women’s March on Washington this past weekend, with main stage speeches by Alicia Keys and a many-fucks-given Madonna, performances including Janelle Monáe and Amber Coffman, and an after-party featuring Sleater-Kinney and the National. But, out in the March itself, music functioned in many other capacities, often having less to do with protest songs or individual statements so much as a tool for protest itself, building on strategies as varied as those marching.

Though plenty have pointed out and questioned the lack of contemporary protest music (yet)—including a whole Tumblr dedicated to such anti-trend pieces—a preliminary survey of events around the Women’s Marches and Donald Trump’s inauguration suggest that music’s relationship to dissent has perhaps merely evolved. Already, music has played a vibrant part in the emergence of the Black Lives Matters movement. Now that Trump has taken office, it’s more likely that musicians will respond in real time with songs and performances, but the connections between music and street action from everyday citizens remain rich. With amplification systems often banned from marches, it opens up a wealth of creative possibilities for the use of sound and music, but it’s most likely not going to come from those with access to a microphone. This point is underscored by the viral success of MILCK’s original composition “I Can’t Keep Quiet,” which the Los Angeles-based musician rehearsed with collaborators online before staging flash mob-style performances throughout the Washington march.
Lots of links in the long article. Bonus link: Air Horn Orchestra on Bandcamp.

"The Trump administration might not be good for music (or much of anything), but music will surely be good for it."

15 Ways to Protest Trump by Buying New Music (by Sam Sodomsky and Amy Phillips, Jan. 20, 2017)
Earlier today, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. This week, many artists have released new music to coincide with the inauguration, with proceeds going to organizations fighting for causes threatened by Trump's presidency. We've compiled a list below, including Arcade Fire, Angel Olsen, Carrie Brownstein, United Nations, Mount Eerie, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and lots more. Many artists are also performing at benefit shows this week and going forward to support these same causes.
  1. Arcade Fire wrote a new song, “I Give You Power,” featuring Mavis Staples. The song is available from various digital platforms, with all proceeds going to the ACLU (tweet)
  2. The Our First 100 Days compilation is fully* available now, featuring tracks from Mitski, the Mountain Goats, Whitney, and more, with benefits going to All Above All (referenced previously), Cosecha, Hoosier Action, People’s Climate Movement (referenced previously), and Southerners On New Ground (previously) (*PWR BTTM was Day 2, but have since been removed from the complication; PWR BTTM previously)
  3. Barsuk Records’ Bandcamp sales proceeds went to ACLU, including the then-new Sad! compilation that was made specifically to support the ACLU, which features tracks by David Bazan, Mates of State, Nada Surf, and more
  4. Don’t Stop Now is a collection of covers by Radiator Hospital, Jeff Rosenstock, the Menzingers, Swanning, and more, with proceeds going to the ACLU.
  5. Allergy Season and Discwoman’s Physically Sick compilation features tracks by Max McFerren, DJ Stingray, John Barera, and more, with proceeds going to the ACLU, Callen-Lorde, The National Immigration Law Center, and Planned Parenthood
  6. Emma Ruth Rundle released the song “Forever, as the Setting Son,” with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood
  7. Taking Back Sunday's John Nolan has announced Music for Everyone: A Compilation to Benefit the ACLU, featuring songs by Taking Back Sunday, Anti-Flag, Potty Mouth, and more
  8. Trouble in Mind Records were donating 100% of sales from their website to the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center
  9. 12XU will was donating (tweet) all sales from their website to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU
  10. United Nations (the Brooklyn band) have a new song, “Stairway to Mar-a-Lago,” with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
  11. Gezellig Records’ compilation Is There Another Language? features new songs by Mount Eerie, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Surfer Blood, with proceeds being donated to the ACLU
  12. Stephen Malkmus, Carrie Brownstein, Doug Martsch, and more appear on Battle Hymns, a new compilation benefiting the ACLU
  13. Austra released their new album Future Politics, with proceeds (initially) going to Planned Parenthood
  14. Wren and Shark Record Collective released Wren & Shark & Friends Volume One, a new compilation featuring contributions from Bon Iver collaborator S. Carey, Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg, Will Johnson, and more, as pay-what-you-want, with proceeds benefit the Natural Resources Defense Council
  15. Jeff Rosenstock released Live and Acoustic at Vinyl Paradise, a live album recorded on the night of the final presidential debate at his friend’s Long Island record shop. It features songs off his album WORRY. and is available for free download, with 100% of the donated proceeds going to the Immigrant Defense Project
Bonus growing playlist (Spotify): 30 1000 days 30 1000 songs, which features some overlap with Our First 100 Days.

Additionally, some artists donated their tour proceeds to ACLU starting in January 2017.

Protest Soul: Music for Healing a Broken World (by Rebecca Bengal, Dec. 14, 2016).
Lately, we’ve come to know “A Change Is Gonna Come” in the context of sorrow and solidarity, but two elections ago, when soul singer Bettye LaVette sang Cooke’s song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, her performance transmitted a sense of joy and hope. In two days, America would inaugurate the first black president. You could even excuse the oddness of the choice to make Jon Bon Jovi her duet partner because of the sheer sense of joy and hope that he, too, radiated in that moment.
A history, both personal to the author and for Cooke, of "A Change is Going to Come," tracing its musical history to "No More Auction Block For Me" (history of the song by Alexander Billet) by way (auto-trans.; orig) of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", and Cooke's experience of being arrested for trying to get a motel room in Shreveport (Google books preview; New York Times archive preview). Various renditions of "A Change is Going to Come" are referenced: Bonus rendition: Al Green at the United We Stand concert benefit after 9/11

Sounds of Black Protest Then and Now (by William C. Anderson, Sept. 15, 2016)
The sounds Black people make are the brick and mortar of the United States. Literally. The enslaved African’s singing was a driving force for the free labor that built a young nation and put it at the forefront of empires. Historically, Black Americans have been amongst the primary influencers of music culture. The genres that were born of Black misery, triumph, endurance, protest, and expression have changed the way the entire world sounds. But it’s undeniable that many of these songs were and still are shaped by the fatigue of the constant protest that comes with Black existence.

As the son of a Black Southern Pentecostal minister, I’ve had the privilege of sitting among the serene sounds of praise that birthed a nation of noir notes. Just about every genre that has risen to popularity is from the offspring of the Black church. If you listen closely enough, you can hear Black American beginnings on this continent in our cultural songs: one part culture, one part community, one part family, one part fear of fire and brimstone.
Referenced songs: The Sounds of Black Lives Matter (by Corey Smith-West, Oct. 17, 2016)
As high profile and acclaimed as they are, the latest albums from Beyoncé, Kendrick (Lamar), D’Angelo, and Solange represent just a fraction of the contemporary music linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. Each senseless murder has been met with a musical outcry, whether it’s Dev Hynes’ tribute to Sandra Bland or Miguel’s call to action in the wake of Alton Sterling’s death. Even musicians who haven’t addressed the movement on record regularly come forward to speak out through other means.
An alphabetical playlist:
posted by filthy light thief (6 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

Great post.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:25 PM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, this is a fantastic post.

I'm a little surprised to not see anything from Billy Bragg's "Bridges Not Walls" project showing up anywhere above, so I'll just drop it here (and heartily recommend a listen).
posted by vverse23 at 10:39 PM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah I'm going to be working through this one for a while. Good job. I'll be back once I've finished working my way through it.
posted by Start with Dessert at 10:57 PM on December 8, 2017

Okay, put in favs. This will take me awhile.....
posted by bjgeiger at 9:15 AM on December 9, 2017

Wow, how did they miss this?
Algiers - The Underside of Power
posted by superelastic at 5:02 AM on December 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I freaking *love* when King Kunta comes on my work out play list. It gets me fired the eff up. Thank you for this-I'm adding several of these.
posted by Bacon Bit at 11:20 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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