The Fourth of July is supposed to be a time to celebrate American pride. Families gather around the barbecue, shoot off fireworks, and play all of the staple patriotic songs because…well, that’s how we make America great, right? Right!?
Well, this year, many Americans (three million more, in fact) are finding it difficult to muster up the special day’s usual patriotism. The country has changed so much in the past six months, and it can be hard to keep the faith in a new world of alternative facts and fake news. People are angry, uncertain, frustrated, and desperate for the Hope that seems to have disappeared. Many will even actively Resist the direction America is headed.
This is a playlist for them. Here, I’ve compiled a number of songs that reflect the sentiments of those Americans; songs about pride and joy, songs of resistance and protest, and songs of faith and uncertainty. Its a playlist as diverse and eclectic as the United States itself. So, you can skip the usual songs this year, and play some of these defiant tracks for the new America.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
Delta Rae – Morning Comes
Delta Rae is no stranger to the political protest song, but Morning Comes shows off the band’s knack for penning an inspiring and uplifting anthem. Following the 2016 election results, the band actually posted the lyrics to this song on facebook, and finding those inspiring words gave me slight comfort and a renewed sense of hope. Through gorgeous harmonies, the band sings about keeping your head up in the face of adversity. It reminds us that a positive outcome is possible if we just hold onto hope, and work towards a better future!
Key lyric: “Can I be blamed if I’m angry? Can I be saved if I’m barely clinging to hope? I’m clinging to hope. When I say oh, oh~, Rain don’t change the sun, Jealous is the night when the morning comes, But it always comes”
Arcade Fire (featuring Mavis Staples) – I Give You Power
Who really has the power in the political process? Arcade Fire give the political establishment a stern reminder: they work for us, and they can easily be replaced. Front man Win Butler and Mavis Staples growl and snarl their way through this brooding track that serves as an empowering reminder fpr us all to get involved in politics!
Key Lyric: “I give you power, over me, I give you power, but I gotta be free, I give you power, now I say, I can’t watch you take it away”
Swet Shop Boys – T5
The Swet Shop boys are a hip-hop group with a diverse ethnic background. The duo is made up of Indian-American Heems, and Pakistani-British Riz MC. Against a Middle-Eastern inspired hip-hop beat, the duo spits firey verses about being racially profiled, Trump’s immigrant ban, and refugees. It’s a fiery track with a defiant message from a unique perspective.
Key Lyrics: “Oh no, we’re in trouble, TSA always wanna burst my bubble, Always get a random check when I rock the stubble,”
Rich White Ladies – Ransom
Despite the name of this duo, the Rich White Ladies are neither rich, nor white, but their music frequently touches on topics of wealth and the lives of the one percent. Ransom is an angsty yet dance-able track that is full of bravado. The girls make a running list of all of the famous figures that they’re going to hold for ransom, including Warren Buffet, Oraph Winfrey, Santa Clause, and my personal favorite, Dolly Parton’s tits (just her tits.) Its a tongue in cheek yet poignant diss to the rich, with the central finger extended firmly in the air.
Key Lyrics: “Paris ain’t safe if you think the bling ring was bad, Tie Donald Trump to a stump, take a bump with him in the drag Queen, Queen.”
Alabama Shakes – Don’t Want to Fight
Alabama Shakes is a rock band whose sound is characterized by a touch of southern Blues. They bring this sound to a passionate, pleading cry in Don’t Wanna Fight. In today’s political climate, it can be easy to get into a heated debate. All one has to do is scroll through social media for more than six seconds. In polarizing times like these, we often need a reminder to put the debate to rest, and live and let live. This song serves to remind us to hold onto our ideas and beliefs, but not to let them consume us.
Key Lyrics: “Attacking, defending, Until there’s nothing left worth winning, Your pride and my pride, Don’t waste my time, I don’t wanna fight no more”
Gorillaz – Let Me Out (ft. Pusha T and Mavis Staples)
The Gorillaz have returned to a post-Trump world, and this has definitely affected their music. While not talking about the politics directly, the band has captured the uncertainty and tension of the world in this multi-layered track. It teems with tension as Pusha T plays the character of a concerned youth, while Mavis Staples takes on the role of the uncertain mother who can’t honestly promise that everything will be okay. Its a song that is huge in scale, and accurately captures the bleakness that many see in today’s political landscape.
Key Lyrics: “Obama is gone, who is left to save us? So together we mourn, I’m praying for my neighbors, They say the devil’s at work and Trump is calling favors.”
Miley Cyrus, Laura Jane Grace, and Joan Jett – Androgynous
The topics of transexual rights, gender identity, and LGBT issues has been at the forefront of today’s political world. This team up came about thanks to Miley Cyrus’s Happy Hippie foundation, which works to help LGBT youth. The trio brings us a cover of The Replacement’s gender-queer anthem with a more spirited, folksy direction. The updated sound helps the song reach a new generation of non-binary listeners who may need this song in their lives.
Key Lyrics: “Now, something meets boy, and something meets girl, They both look the same, They’re overjoyed in this world, Same hair, revolution, Unisex, evolution”
Imagine Dragons – America
Regardless of how you feel about the current state of politics, all Americans should appreciate the sacrifices made on a daily basis by those in the military. Imagine Dragons have penned an absolutely joyous ode to the troops with this heartfelt track. It even incorporates references to America’s history and the World Trade Centers. This bright gem of patriotism reminds us to be proud of our country, and to be thankful to the people who truly make this country great every single day.
Key Lyrics: “From farmers in the fields, To the tallest of the towers that fall and rise, 1-7-7-6, The names upon the list, For all the ones that gave until they died, Don’t you hold back, I can see in your mind, and your mind will set you free”
Entrance – Not Gonna Say Your Name
Don’t let the humming guitars and pleasant vocal harmonies fool you. This psychedelic rock band gives Trump a stern warning without ever mentioning his name in this powerful song. It’s full of references to Trump’s own words and actions, essentially calling him out on all of his bull shit. To make matters even better, all proceeds from this song were donated to Planned Parenthood.
Key Lyrics: You let your name, Be a symbol of hate, And you never said a word, Anything you say now is too little too late, It’s pathetic and absurd, I hear the voices of hate they’re getting louder each day, We’re all looking for someone to blame, But I’ll keep on singing for love anyway, And I’m not, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not gonna say your name
Franz Ferdinand – Demagogue
This indie rock jam has a certain swagger and attitude to it. It’s energetic guitars make it easy to dance to, but its lyrics about pussy grabbing, building walls, and inciting violence make this a true protest anthem in Trump’s America. Its a politically savvy tune that doesn’t mince words, being just as blunt as the man it speaks against.
Key Lyric: He’s a demagogue, He’s fatally famous, He’s a demagogue, He plays with my fears, A demagogue, It feels so good to be dumb, From the Wall straight to La Quenta, Those pussy grabbing fingers won’t let go of me now,
Kendrick Lamar – Alright (ft. Pharell Williams)
Part hip-hop artist, part poet, Kendrick Lamar certainly has a way with words. Spitting his usual fire over a jazz influenced beat, Kendrick muses about his own personal struggles, and those of the black community as a whole. He speaks about police violence, poverty, as well as less touched on notions of black pride, religion, and family values. But, above all else, he speaks of hope. With a positive message, it offers a comforting and optimistic message that things will be okay in the end.
Key Lyrics: “When you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga, When our pride was low, lookin’ at the world like, “where do we go, nigga?” And we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga
I’m at the preacher’s door My knees gettin’ weak and my gun might blow but we gon’ be alright”
Pussy Riot – Make America Great
Pussy Riot is no stranger to political controversy. After taking on Putin in their homeland of Russia, the punk band has a fine pointed message for Donald Trump. However, it might not be the message you’re thinking it is. Their message is actually quite encouraging…you can make America great! However, their suggestions for making America great are far different from Trump’s agenda. It include such far-fetched notions as not killing black children, empowering women, and not building walls to keep
America isolated from the outside world immigrants out.
Key Lyric: “Let other people in, Listen to your women, Stop killing black children, Make America Great Again”
Beyonce – Formation
Beyonce ruffled the feathers of insecure white people everywhere when she performed this militant track at the Superbowl half time show. People were simply outraged to see a bold and secure black woman proclaiming love for her natural hair, and typically black features. Calling on her fellow women to get in formation, Beyonce has quite possibly penned the biggest feminist anthem of the twenty first century. Slay, Queen B.
Key Lyrics: “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros, I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils, Earned all this money but they never take the country out me, I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag”
Joey Bada$$ – Land of the Free
Released on the day of the inauguration, this song holds no punches with its spitfire verses. In this highly political rap track, Joey talks about the turmoil of the black community, and the state of America as a whole. He voices his obvious displeasure with Donald Trump, but also includes perspective on racism, and how the lower class is exploited by the wealthy. He does this all in passionate, rapid fire verses, but you won’t want to miss a single one of his highly charged words.
Key Lyrics: “Sorry America, but I will not be your soldier, Obama just wasn’t enough, I just need some more closure, And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over”
Lady Gaga – Born this Way
Few songs from this decade are quite as iconic. With LGBT rights being another hot button issue, I simply had to include this powerful club banger in the playlist. With an empowering message of self love and acceptance, Gaga’s hit song became the definitive gay anthem, serving as the battle cry to a movement that eventually legalized gay marriage. However, gay rights continue to be threatened, ensuring that this song will continue to play as the community and their allies continue to fight.
Key lyrics: “No matter gay, straight, or bi, Lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive. No matter black, white or beige, Chola or orient made, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to be brave.”
DJ Shadow – Systematic (ft. Nas)
DJ Shadow and Nas team up to take on Wall Street in Systematic. Shadow provides a steady hip-hop beat for Nas to rap over, giving a raw commentary on the difference between the economics of Wall Street, and The Streets. Along with a politically charged lyric video, its quite clear that Nas some grievances with the political system.
Key Lyrics – The system will defeat itself, Nothing stays in a steady state, it overheats and melts, It only feeds itself, the system, The system’s fucked, it’s corrupt, It’s for its own survival, it’s genocidal, No place or origin, no beginning cycle
Green Day – Troubled Times
Green Day is no stranger to political protest songs. American Idiot was the Anti-Bush anthem back in the day, and you can count on the band to release more politically charged music given the current situation. Troubled Times is a solid offering in the Trump era. The midtempo pop-punk romper broods with angst as it offers a blunt look at the current state of the world…and it doesn’t offer a pretty picture.
Key Lyrics: What good is love and peace on earth? When it’s exclusive, Where’s the truth in the written word?
If no one reads it, A new day dawning, Comes without warning, So don’t look twice, We live in troubled times
M.I.A. – Borders
Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. has always been a politically charged rapper, and she often gives focus to overlooked global issues. After being denied visa entry to the US, you can bet that M.I.A. was going to have something to say about it. Borders uses some clever word play to mess around with the notion of freedom to ask questions like “Who’s really free?” She lists several complex issues, asking “what’s up with that?” It challenges the listener to think critically about what they think they know about the world, making it a truly thought provoking track.
Key lyrics: Borders (What’s up with that?), Politics (What’s up with that?), Police shots (What’s up with that?), Identities (What’s up with that?), Your privilege (What’s up with that?), Broke people (What’s up with that?)
Boat people (What’s up with that?), The realness (What’s up with that?), The new world (What’s up with that?)
Am gonna keep up on all that
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – White Privileged (ft. Jamilla Woods)
Few songs feature the level of thought provoking introspection as White Privilege. The entire 8 minute song is essentially an internal dialogue, presented in several acts. First, he struggles with the notion of being white in a predominantly black industry, and what that means for his role. He then goes on to look at the struggles of the black community, and what it means to support black issues and black culture. He struggles with the notion of being a fake ally, and not just saying “Black lives matter,” but actually doing something about it. Its a highly complex song that requires true thought to process and find your own voice in the dialogue.
Key Lyrics: Thinking if they can’t, how can I breathe? Thinking that they chant, what do I sing? I want to take a stance cause we are not free, And then I thought about it, we are not “we”
Janelle Monae – Mr. President
This song was originally written during the Bush administration. However, this could apply to the current administration as well. Over a pleasant, soulful melody, Janelle simply sits down with the president, and has a dialogue with him. Its not a scathing criticism, just a series of questions, requests, and suggestions about helping the people, turning away from greed, and above all else, unity. Unity is the key there here, and it couldn’t be a more welcome message in today’s divisive political climate.
Key lyrics: See we come from different worlds and different places, Until there’s one great land, one nation under god, Times are getting harder and we need you to be like Moses, And lead your people through
Please be careful, Be Careful, Of what you do, what you do