Nobody would play his inauguration party for love or money, and Madonna recently got in trouble for saying she considered “blowing up the White House.” Needless to say, the 45th President of the United States doesn’t cut the most popular figure amongst musicians. His name’s not on the list for Coachella, and chances are he wouldn’t make it through the door of a free gig in Brooklyn. Everyone hates Trump, and they’re not afraid to put these feelings to tape.
Even before he was elected, the likes of Adele, Queen and the Rolling Stones all told Trump to get his his “pussy”-grabbing mitts off their tracks when he attempted to use them at his rallies. The perverse upshot of having a walking Trigger Warning as a President is that it’s inspired a surfeit of protest tracks.
With Trump visiting the UK this week, many are backing Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ to get to number one. But if you’re looking for some newer tunes, here are some of the best protest songs to emerge so far.
Death Cab For Cutie
‘Million Dollar Loan’
Like an advent calendar of misery, the 30 Days, 30 Songs project is counting down to the election with a different anti-Trump anthem each day, from artists such as REM, EL VY and Moby. First out of the traps were indie stalwarts Death Cab For Cutie, who don’t exactly need an excuse to sound melancholy. Tipping its ‘Make America Great Again’ hat to an anecdote from the first Presidential debate where Donald inspirationally claimed he self-made his fortune with just a “small loan of a million dollars” from his father, it hypnotically rams home the point that he wasn’t born with a just a silver spoon in his mouth, rather the whole damn cutlery drawer.
Anti-Trump Rating: 7.
“A million dollar loan/Nobody makes it on their own/Call your father on the phone” – Ben Gibbard throws shade with surgical precision.
I’m With Her
“One, two, three! Who do we want? We want HRC!” So chants Kathleen Hanna and co on this surprise pro-Hillary electro-bop. Known for championing feminism and LGBTQ issues, it’s fitting that Le Tigre’s first new material since 2004’s ‘This Island’ was inspired by America standing on the precipice of electing either their first woman president or a man who has bragged about sexual aggression. With a video that features the trio in tribute pantsuits, it has an infectious beat that would prompt their idol to shimmy.
Anti-Trump rating: 8.
As they seethe, “Trump thinks Putin is a very strong leader/Just like him a fascist bottom-feeder”, it’s clear the only person who hates Donald more is his hairdresser.
Flying the flag for UK Trump vitriol are Franz Ferdinand, mocking Trump’s IQ, rhetoric, narcissism – and debatably small hands, yet the off-beat bleepy strut of a tune might cause even Trump to download it from iTunes – then make a Mexican pay for it.
Anti-Trump rating: 9.
“It feels so good to be dumb,” coos Kapranos. “From the Wall/Straight to La Cuenta, those pussy-grabbing fingers won’t let go of me now.”
Grab Em By Da Pussy
With Trump proving so unpopular with musicians, he put together his own group, The Freedom Girls, instead – three pre-teens decked out in stars’n’stripes singing ‘The Official Donald Trump Jam’. Kanye West producer Mike Dean starts by sampling their toothsome trilling, then Trump’s vile “locker room” talk, accompanied by a house beat that comes on sleazier than The Donald at a father-daugher dance.
Anti-Trump Rating: 8.
Not to be confused with will.i.am ft Al.de.ap and Liane V’s GRAB’m by the PU$$Y for Funny or Die which is so awful, Hillary should add Black Eyed Peas to her “basket of deplorables”.
Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World previously took Bush to task on 2004’s ‘Futures’. Here, they warn of the “dangerous and very real consequences of using fear of ‘The Other’ to motivate a potential electorate” over a righteous emo-racket.
Anti-Tump rating: 6.
Jimmy Eat World take the moral high ground: “Think enemies surround you/Everyone, except yourself”. In the climate of this election, it comes across as a bit like bringing a Simon Schama book to a knifefight.
DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels
Donald Trump frequently used to crop up in rap tracks in flattering terms – as a byword for wealth and success. Not anymore. Killer Mike is one of the most potent political voices in rap, so it was only a matter of time before the real life Scrooge McDuck got a musical hazing from Run The Jewels.
Anti-Trump rating: 10. It’s a throwaway reference but a sucker-punch nonetheless. “Flame your crew quicker than Trump fucks his youngest.” See also ‘Talk To Me’ – a taster from upcoming album ‘RTJ3’– which kicks off with: ‘Went to war with the devil and Satan/He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan.”
Eminem – once no stranger to accusations of sexism and homophobia himself – takes aim at Trump in a eight minute tune-free freestyle. Trump supporter David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK, got his white sheet in a twist over it, tweeting: “For years, Eminem has been poisoning the minds of our youth”. Interestingly, in 2004, Donald endorsed Eminem for President at a mock-convention. Who’ll be the next person Trump’s worked with to release a diss track? Grimace from his McDonald’s advert?
Anti-Trump rating: 7.
“Run the faucet, I’ma dunk / A bunch of Trump supporters underwater / Snuck up on ’em in Ray Bans in a grey van with a spray tan / It’s a wrap, like an Ace bandage.” Later, he spits: “Consider me a dangerous man / But you should be afraid of this dang candidate / You say Trump don’t kiss ass like a puppet? / ‘Cause he runs his campaign with his own cash for the funding? / And that’s what you wanted? / A fuckin’ loose cannon who’s blunt with his hand on the button / Who doesn’t have to answer to no one? / Great idea!”
YG and Nipsey Hussle
‘FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)’
As subtle as the title suggests, West Coast rhyme-slingers YG and Nipsey put a target on Trump’s “racist ass”, calling him a “cancer”, declaring “I like white people but I don’t like you”, and admitting, “He got me appreciating Obama way more.”
Anti-Trump rating: 10.
So angry that YG alleges that the Secret Service contacted Def Jam to view the content of his album.
Swet Shop Boys
MC/actor Riz Ahmed’s collaboration with former Das Racist member Heems begins with a news report about Trump’s call for Muslims to undergo a US loyalty test, then launches an attack against racial profiling.
Anti-Trump Rating: 8.
Contains the winning line from Riz – currently riding high in crime thriller The Night Of – “Trump wants my exit, but if you push the red button to watch Netflix, bruv I’m on.”
Rocky Mountain Mike
‘Mr Tangerine Man’
You’ve guessed it: it’s a rewrite of Bob Dylan’s lysergic ‘Mr Tamborine Man’ reflecting Trump’s very orange face. “Hey Mr Tangerine Man/Keep Muslims away from me/ With my jingoistic worldview, I’ll come following you.”
Anti-Trump Rating: 6.
Its snark is worse than its bite. But hey, we’re all going to need a laugh when we’re sat in the bunker when Trump releases the nukes following a Twitter war with Cher.
Released the night before Trump’s inauguration, Gorillaz found the perfect time to return from their six-year hiatus with the track ‘Hallelujah Money’. Band member Murdoc wrote on his Facebook pageL ‘In these dark times, we all need someone to look up to. Me, that’s why I’m giving you this new Gorillaz song, a lightning bolt of truth in the black night’. Fans of the band will know that Damon Albarn is not one to shy away from political statements so it was only a matter of time before a track like this was released.
Anti-Trump rating: 9.
The track uses references to walls and the metaphor of a tree to comment on the political narrative of politics in 2016 and the start of 2017, more specifically aimed at Donald Trump. And, well, it’s a Gorillaz comeback featuring Benjamin Clementine, what’s not to love?
The American singer from New York has been vocal in her opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump since he ran as a candidate. Apple put together a minute long track mocking Trump’s ‘tiny hands’ (something we hear he is very conscious about) and calls for him to refrain from doing what he said he does on the leak Access Hollywood tape. Despite being a minute long, the track is extremely catchy and will have you singing it your head for at least the next week.
Anti-Trump rating: 7.
‘We don’t want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants’. Simple but funny and effective.
CocoRosie featuring Anohni
‘Smoke ‘em Out’
Produced for the Women’s March on Washington, the track ‘Smoke ‘em Out’ from CocoRosie features Anobni and delivers in their promise to ‘share a new song to inspire the weary-disappointed hearts of so many crest-fallen citizens’.
Anti-Trump rating: 7. The smooth melody and feel of the track juxtapose the call to rise and ‘smoke ‘em out’ but mixes to create a song energetic and unique enough to make anyone want to listen.
‘I Give You Power’
Their first new material in two years, Arcade Fire’s return could only have been better timed if they debuted it from a boombox, in a helicopter circling Trump’s inauguration. Released the day before the most orange bloke in politics was sworn in, ‘I Give You Power’ finds Win Butler and co. teaming up with the unparalleled Mavis Staples.
“I talked to Mavis last night and she said, ‘Now more than ever we have to come together and hold onto each other,’” Butler told Beats 1’s Zane Lowe. “For us it’s a feeling of solidarity—to not feel powerless and focus on what we can do as individuals and try to do our part.” He added: “The song was made to come out now. That’s one of the beautiful things about the times we’re in — you can just put something out. It’s the eve of the inauguration and I think it’s easy to get sucked into sitting on the couch and checking your news feed and watching things on CNN, and we’re just musicians and the only thing we really have to offer is our music.”
Anti-Trump rating: 8
The song was recorded at last year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival back in April 2016, months before the reality of Trump’s ascent began to take hold. This only makes ‘I Give You Power’ more poignant. One step ahead, Arcade Fire and Staples manage to predict the rise of “fake news” and authoritarian power. But like every Arcade Fire song, there’s a message of hope: power can be taken away just as easily as it’s given.
Father John Misty
Scornful singer-songwriter Josh Tillman doesn’t tend to pick on just one target. Instead, he manages to pour hate and distaste on everyone at once. The joke isn’t just on Trump with ‘Pure Comedy’, the joke’s on all of us. A six-minute epic with serious purpose, he manages to contain several modern day ills by pointing out the human race’s narcissism and inflated sense of self. The elite are his primary target – corrupt leaders, religion-spouting sexists who reference centuries-old texts as justification, “goons” elected to rule the world. An accompanying video really sticks the knife in, combining footage of Trump’s inauguration (which took place just three days before the Matthew Daniel Siskin-directed clip came out) with some of Tillman’s favourite memes. It’s a cutting, oh-so-Tillman combination of seriousness and lighthearted nothingness. And by the end, you’re convinced you’re partly the reason for his contempt.
Anti-Trump rating: 7
Like a cheery Adam Curtis documentary, ‘Pure Comedy’ doesn’t just point the finger at one individual – Trump isn’t the only subject of his wrath. Instead, he lists the grim, irreversible ways we ended up where we are today. Trump is everyone’s fault, he suggests. And there’s no turning back. That’s pure comedy.
‘Fly On Your Wall’
As the reality of Trump’s presidency sets in, a brand new politically-charged song will hit the web for each of his first 100 days in office. The ‘Our First 100 Days’ compilation is being released to raise funds and awareness for organisations threatened by the Trump administration, including Planned Parenthood and The People’s Climate Movement. Toro Y Moi, PWR BTTM, How to Dress Well and Angel Olsen are all involved. The latter’s ‘Fly On Your Wall’ is a stunning, crystallised introduction to the collection.
Anti-Trump rating: 6
As explained by Secretly Group and 30 Songs, 30 Days – both came up with the idea of this compilation – these songs aren’t explicitly directed towards Trump. Instead, they’re intended to stir hope and change in the face of political threats. Few come more inspiring than ‘Fly On Your Wall’.