A playlist honoring those who speak up.
BOB DYLAN – “Hurricane” – as described by nick burns
As well as a favorite Burns family car ride sing-along song, “Hurricane” is post-1965 Dylan at his frankest and most socially conscious. Unlike (even I have to admit) some of Dylan’s longer songs, this nine-minute ballad never loses steam in its furious and chilling indictment of the corruptness of the American justice system through its telling of the true story of a black boxer framed for a triple murder. “To see him obviously framed, couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed / To live in a land where justice is a game,” Dylan sings. “But the DA said he was the one who did the deed / And the all-white jury agreed.” Forty-two years later, this song has not lost an ounce of relevance, nor of incendiarism. As old and mean and quasi-mythical as he’s now become, Dylan is, after all, still in some way the conscience of America.
BRIGHT EYES – “When the President Talks to God” – as described by ena alvarado
A few days after last year’s presidential elections, I spent a day in San Francisco. On my way to the city, I overheard a worn out woman pleading with her animated daughter in the train. “Let’s refrain from using the ‘T’ word, alright honey?” The imploration seemed childish to me at the time, and I suspect it still would if I heard it tomorrow. I wonder what Conor Oberst might have thought, though, listening now to his impassioned censure against Bush. After all, the stakes seem higher today, and it matters what you call a thing.
JOHN LEGEND – “Love Me Now” – as described by loralee sepsey
As much as I absolutely detest the neoliberal notion of “love trumping hate” and its dismissal of civil disobedience and protest, this video is so unapologetic with its use of love among marginalized groups that the song becomes radical. We never see this love represented in film, art, music, and to see it in front of you, viewed 55 million times and counting, is political in itself. Especially love the shoutout to #NoDAPL.
GIL SCOTT HERON – “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” – as described by elisabeth dee
“The revolution will not be right back after a message
About a white tornado, white lightning, or white people…
The revolution WILL put you in the driver’s seat
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live”
DIXIE CHICKS – “Not Ready to Make Nice” – as described by kevin garcia
The most distinct memory I have of coming into my budding political consciousness during my preteen years centered around this song. It was sometime in the summer of 2006 that I got into my first politically charged argument with my mother who loathed the scandal surrounding this song and claimed that artists should “shut up and do their job.” Much love to my moms, but the job of the artist has always been political. Here’s to four long years of art as a means of resistance, radical self-love, and politics.
SWET SHOP BOYS – “T5” – as described by katie lan
In a day and age where TSA profiles people based on race, we need the dynamic duo, Riz MC and Heems, clever raps to navigate the blatant racism in the US. “T5” is a protest anthem with the poppin’ beats and thought-provoking lyricism. My favorite moments in the song are when they slip into arabic and do some witty word play. With the shehnai in the background and the politically-charged raps, Riz MC (or as he likes to call himself the “brown Eddy Snowden”) playfully exposes the racism against South Asians who are constantly stopped at airports.
KENDRICK LAMAR – “Alright” – as described by sophia laurenzi
In July 2015, protestors in Cleveland sung the chorus from “Alright” in response to police harassment.
SOLANGE feat. SAMPHA – “Don’t Touch My Hair” – as described by anthony milki
To many, Solange overshadowed her big sister in 2016. Using music’s best secret-weapon, Sampha, helped her fight the power while keeping the sound cookie butta luscious.
KILLER MIKE – “Reagan” – as described by katie nesser
I of course didn’t live through the Reagan era, but in the past year, through researching his handling (or lack thereof) of the AIDS crisis, and viewing Ava DuVernay’s wonderful, harrowing documentary 13th, I’ve come to feel a pretty violent disgust at the guy (yes, I know the situation is a lot more nuanced than that, capitalism and imperialism are more to blame than any individual, etc etc). Killer Mike, who grew up in the 80s, captures the anger of a generation of people who were never a part of the America Ronald Reagan supported. As an immensely privileged white woman living in 2017, my emotions are displaced from the pain Reagan caused, but Mike’s words and feelings are direct, and all the more affecting for it.
Image from here.