Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where Are The Protest Songs?

As we quickly approach the end of the year I find myself asking the same question I have asked myself the past few years. Where are the protest songs? I look at America and see Her engaged in two wars, broken economically, homeless, without adequate health-care for many of it's people, and I see Her college students rioting over their education costs. Social tension is extremely high in this country right now, and I keep asking myself, "Why aren't there any songs being written about this?"
I love indie rock, I feel the bands of the past decade have offered a lot of positive things to the long history of music in America, however I do feel there is a disconnect between the world many artist's portray and the world that we actually live in. I have heard many love songs in recent times, and songs about nature, but hardly any political topics are being discussed. Is this the artist's choice? Are they afraid to? Especially this past year I have found it hard to connect to many of the summery lo-fi pop bands that are coming out of the west coast and New York, mainly because their music does not speak to the world that I live in. It is not the happiest of times, why are we being bombarded with light-hearted music? Is it to act as an escape from reality? To make us feel like things are better than they really are?
In the 60's and 70's political music served as a strong voice for civil and social change. Protest songs were something that people really could rally behind. Even Hip-Hop and Rap in the late 80's and early 90's were extremely influential in their communities. Artists like NWA and Public Enemy served as a beacon that African Americans could relate to. Why haven't I, in recent times, heard a well-written politically fused song on the radio? And I don't mean those superficial repugnant Rock Against Bush punk albums. Saying "Fuck The President" over and over again doesn't help your cause. Honestly, other than Bright Eyes' "When The President Talks to God" I can not thing of one good protest song in the past ten years. Have you?
To further my point, I have posted "Outside of A Small Circle of Friends" by genius folk artist Phil Ochs. In the 60's Phil released Americana classic that serves as an attack on social apathy in America fueled by the stabbing of Kitty Genovese. This song is packed with imagery, and protest both straight forward and tongue-in-cheek. This is the kind of songwriting that our recent generation of artists need to incorporate and evolve to meet the needs of today.

Download via Mediafire:
Outside of A Small Circle of Friends

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