Three politically motivated songs written during Trump’s presidency.
BY NOAH MIZER, ’21.
In the “Decay of Living,” published in 1891, Oscar Wilde wrote “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” This statement has been contrasted by musicians throughout the years as they take artistic inspiration from political strife. As this has been a reoccurring theme through the hippie movement of the ‘60s or the cold war era of the ‘80s, some artists are continuing the trend as political extremism and partisanship have reached a record high in the United States.
With this in mind, here are a few of the songs to have come out of Trump’s presidency and political strife over the past few years.
“I like America and America likes Me”—The 1975
While The 1975 frontman Matty Healy is British, he is outspoken with his opinion on American politics—specifically on gun violence on the band’s LP “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships.”
Healy begins the song with the opening lyrics “I’m scared of dying,” trying to mimic the possible response of a student faced with the prospect of school shootings. He takes a firm stance against the use of guns in a time when it has become a highly contested issue in America.
He then continues with the lyrics, “will you please listen,” repeatedly throughout the song, which has widely been interpreted as a reference to the many youth marches across the country in response to mass shootings in recent years. Political turmoil surrounding the Second Amendment is not a new phenomena, but activism surrounding gun violence has reached new heights due to a surge in mass and school shootings.
The 1975 is accredited with trying to capture the emotions of some American high school students who fear school shootings happening in their own building.
“This is America”—Childish Gambino
While Donald Glover’s hit song of summer 2018 has a pop and R&B feel, it was acclaimed more for its darker undertones. The lyrics of “This is America” are superficial on the surface but have been interpreted in different ways surrounding the Black experience in America.
Glover juxtaposed the party culture of successful Black artists with predominantly Black low-income communities.
The change in tone between verses also has been accredited to the media’s perception of race in America compared to the actual reality faced by the majority of Americans.
The “This is America” music video is also littered with symbols alluding to racism and politics in America. Glover can be seen posing as stereotypical Jim Crow character.
Further, a cloaked figure riding a horse can be seen having a police escort in the background of the video, which has been considered a reference to police violence against people of color in the United States.
“The Man”—Taylor Swift
In the wake of the Me Too Movement, Taylor Swift wrote her hit 2019 song, “The Man” inspired by the hate she receives online for writing songs about exes and making money as a successful woman. Despite being a world renowned pop sensation, Swift has often been the center of criticism for life choices and quality of music along with being an outspoken advocate for women in her industry.
In “The Man,” Swift attempted to call attention to the double standard women face in the music industry. She sings, “Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man; And I’m so sick of them coming at me again; ‘Cause if I was a man, then I’d be the man.”
In these lines, Swift wanted to address the idea that some men are praised for singing about ex-lovers, where she is often condemned for those same or similar actions.