Saying that it’s been a bad week would be an understatement. Saying that it’s been a bad year would be too. As we grieve this madness and try to brainstorm ways to move forward, we find ourselves blasting music to drown out the noise–and find some hope in the darkness.
If you’re just looking for a sign that the universe hasn’t yet ended, or if you’re looking for some more powerful and revolutionary tunes, you have got to start with these 11 totally radical musicians!
1. Ani DiFranco, “Play God”
Ani DiFranco is the feminist rockstar we all need. For surviving post-election depression, we recommend 1 dose of “Amendment,” a soothing bath to “Angry Anymore,” an angry dance session to “Which Side Are You On,” and a healthy heaping of “Play God.”
2. Tracy Chapman, “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution”
Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we’re not the first, and we won’t be the last, ones to be “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution.”
Tracy Chapman sings that revolution so often “sounds like a whisper.” That it doesn’t always happen in war or the great pages of history textbooks, but “while [people a]re standing in the welfare lines/crying in the doorsteps of those Armies of Salvation.” It’s an empowering, but honest, reminder that generations after generations have hoped for social justice–we’re but the next in a long line of change.
3. Shostakovich, Symphony No. 7
This one’s for all the classical music nerds in the house. If you don’t know him, let’s just say this is a man who slept with his suitcases packed and ready to run. Shostakovich found all kinds of clever ways to denounce the Stalin regime in Russia while composing under the oppressive government.
He knew just how much to change a traditional song or patriotic march to make it rebellious. That’s a kind of intelligent dissent we can’t even imagine matching.
4. The Indigo Girls, “Let It Be Me”
The Indigo Girls are kind of the dream team of politically-active, socially-conscious, folk rock goddesses. Not only are the Girls active in environmental, LGBT, abortion, and Native American rights movements, but they also have actively protested wars and the No Child Left Behind Act. It doesn’t hurt that their music sings to our activist hearts too. Check out “Let It Be Me,” where they sing: “Sirens wail/History fails/Rose-colored glass/Begins to age and crack
While the politicians shadowbox/The power ring/In an endless split decision/Never solve anything/From a neighbor’s distant land/I heard the strain of the common man.”
Ugh. It’s too perfect: folksy and lyrical and politically expressive.
5. Lin-Manuel Miranda, “My Shot”
We’re still not quite sure how Lin-Manuel Miranda turned white-washed American history into the perfect “coming to America” immigrant story, but he did. Jam out to “My Shot” and “Washington On Your Side,” grieve to “It’s Quiet Uptown,” and get to work with “Non-Stop” and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Then find LMM on Twitter and Facebook for eternal hope and compassion.
6. Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are a-Changin'”
Whether or not we lived through his hay-day, we all recognize the name Bob Dylan. Here’s how you’re going to absorb all of his protest music awesomeness: let out those tears with “Blowin’ In The Wind,” get mad with “Hurricane,” “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” and “Oxford Town,” and then get busy with “The Times They Are a-Changin.'”
7. Pete Seeger, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”
Pete Seeger sings about peace and love with the passion of a proper 1960s folk musician. His “Bring ‘Em Home” and “What Did You Learn In School?” call out the pain and normalization of war, “To My Old Brown Earth,” reminds us to take care of our planet while we still can, and his “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” makes us cry everytime.
8. Aretha Franklin, “Respect”
Sometimes when you’re a woman–and especially when you’re a woman of color–calling for some “Respect” is a radical act in and of itself. We don’t even have to get into how great her voice makes us feel and how ready it gets us to act, this song speaks for itself.
9. Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the U.S.A.”
The thing that’s just so great about Bruce Springsteen is that he is the white, American, working-class man, yet he stands for everything but those stereotypical conservative American views. He’s proof that so-called “middle-America” can be progressive. Check out his commentary on “sweat[ing] it out on the streets of a runaway American dream” in “Born to Run” and his anti-war and anti-imperialism rhetoric in “Born in the U.S.A.”
10. Green Day, “American Idiot”
Want to flashback to those good old days when all we had to worry about was George W. Bush? We never thought we’d say so, but we miss those days when he was the biggest “American Idiot.”
Oh, how far we’ve fallen.
11. Beyoncé, “Formation”
We don’t need to say much here because Beyoncé speaks for herself: “Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation!”
These are going to be some tough days ahead. Make sure you have the perfect protest playlist ready to help you get through and stay strong.