Words: Olivia Weaver
Political pop went out of the window for a while. There was a time, as recently as a few years ago, when it was deeply unfashionable to make ‘protest music’ – Plan B’s incendiary 2012 pop petrol bomb ‘Ill Manors’ burned bright in such a conservative landscape – but all that has changed. Perhaps it’s because, what with having reality TV star as President of the United States and Britain teetering on an economic cliff edge with Brexit, there’s simply too much at stake to keep quiet.
And, in 2018, we’ve been blessed with some absolute political bangers. Here are five of our favourites so far.
Childish Gambino, ‘This Is America’
What’s it about? ‘This Is America’ is a direct, political think-piece cleverly placed within the easily accessible format of a YouTube-shared, radio-broadcasted pop song, which successfully entered and remained in international charts soon after its May 5 release date this year. The emotionally and politically-charged, intense rap lyrics candidly and theatrically expose the most inflammatory issues within 21st century America, including police brutality, racism and gun violence.
The song conveys the bleak message that the United States has drastically devolved. History repeats itself, and racists are cockroaches that never die, scuttling out of the woodwork when they recognise kinship in the current leader of the Free World.
Key lyric: “Look at how I’m livin’ now / Police be trippin’ now”
The 1975, ‘Love It If We Made It’
What it’s about? Matty Healy is one of the most political, self-aware and culturally sensitive songwriters out there right now. ‘Love It If We Made It,’ from The 1975’s upcoming new album, takes inspiration for its stream-of-consciousness lyrics from the likes of Allen Ginsberg’s Beat Generation poem ‘Howl’ – both present an enlightening, if rambling, commentary on the world’s perceived prominent ills. Yet, the violently loud, grey thunderclouds present on ‘Love It If We Made It’ are silver-lined. The insistent chorus, on which Healy repeatedly chants “And I’d love it if we made it”, becomes a powerful rallying cry of hope.
Key lyric: “The war has been incited and guess what? / You’re all invited”
King Princess, ‘1950’
What’s it about? ‘1950’ is the song that gained King Princess very worthy praise and recognition from the likes of Harry Styles, who tweeted a lyric from the song. It also caught the ear of Mark Ronson, who signed her to his new label, Zelig Recordings, after hearing her music. The result: 73 million Spotify streams and counting. And no wonder. The song is a beautiful homage to the LGBTQ+ community of the past and present, but especially to those who couldn’t be openly gay in the past, hence the significance of the title ‘1950.’ King Princess cleverly parallels unrequited love with the love shared between queer people during the times when being gay was breaking the law. Long live King Princess and her reign over #20GayTeen.
Key lyric: “I like it when we play 1950 / So bold, make them know that you’re with me”
Logic ft. Alessia Cara and Khalid, ‘1-800-273-8255’
What’s it about? Is mental health a political topic? In the current climate, without a doubt. Politicians are taking notice and realising that they need to include the topic in their manifestos, campaigns, and speeches. The song is a shining example of how music can be utilized as a powerful tool for good: to educate, invigorate, and inspire impressionable young minds. And when you combine Logic with Alessia and Khalid’s voices of reason, you end up with pure musical magic.
Key lyric: “The lane I travel feels alone / But I’m moving ’til my legs give out”
Bea Miller, ‘S.L.U.T.’
What it’s about? This track is all about celebrating so-called “sluts,” also known as… confident women. The powerful pop song is inspired by a derogatory hate comment on an image of Bea wearing a skirt and a bodysuit, which she had posted on her Instagram account. An Instagram user called the singer a ‘slut’ and disapproved of her skin-baring clothing choices. Rather than respond with more hateful words, Bea retorted with a cool comeback in the form of her this song. Thus demonstrating how to deal with internet trolls and refuse to let people’s outdated beliefs dictate how you live, and instead express yourself.
Key lyric: “We gotta learn to stick together / Love your colour, gender or whatever”