Music has always been a perfect way to fight political ideas and urge to change. Through their lyrics, artists have criticized society, its laws, governments that control the power and standards of the majority. Often, the combination of politics and music is not the most fortunate and the result can be downright embarrassing. But sometimes, a songs becomes a hymn and encourages the masses while perfectly capturing the problems of a certain period of time. So, here are ten awesome protest songs.
1. Pulp – Mis – Shapes
Britpop was a symbol for reaffirming the British music, the problems of the working class, about giving up the American values from the insular culture. Pulp were the most social of all the bands involved in that period and Mis – Shapes was a critique to a society that excluded the working class, and also those who are simply different and do not accept the required standards imposed by society.
2. Manic Street Preachers – Motown Junk
Early in their careers, people didn’t know too clearly what exactly was Manic Street Preachers protesting against. But, starting with the word “revolution” in the beginning of the song, continuing with “a lifetime of slavery” and ending with “we destroy rock & roll”, it became clear that Motown Junk was written as a sum of the complaints of the four Welsh. Be it racism or the situation in Welsh mining towns.
3. The Clash – Clampdown
One of the bands most politically active, The Clash would deserve a top just for them. A social critic and an avid activist, Joe Strummer was not afraid to say things in his lyrics that people had a hard time hearing. And Clampdown, the comparison of the middle class dressed in “blue and brown” and the Nazi officers is one of the best contempt songs ever written by the band.
4. Sonic Youth – Swimsuit Issue
Not all protest songs have to be about war and not all are acoustic. Better described as a mass of distorted guitars, Swimsuit Issue talks about how women are transformed by media in simple objects and how they are constantly victims of abuses.
5. Gang of Four – I Love a Man in Uniform
True followers of neo – Marxism, the Gang of Four have always been very vocal against the capitalistic system and the cultural norms imposed by society. I Love a Man in Uniform is on the one hand a critique against the army, and on the other hand they blame the system that sets the standard in terms of relationships, where the man is in a dominant position.
6. Dead Kennedys – California Uber Alles
Like many of the bands present in this list, nor the Dead Kennedys have ever been afraid to write songs that point fingers to politicians. In the lyrics of California Uber Alles, Jello Biafra turned the U.S. state identical to the Nazi one, where undesirable persons are sentenced to death. The songs gets a golden star for the reference to George Orwell’s 1984.
7. Black Sabbath – War Pigs
Among the first heavy metal songs of protest was War Pigs which takes its name after an ancient barbaric tactic of sending pigs with flammable materials in the enemy ranks. Although initially it was about religion, the new lyrics turned the song into a criticism of politicians who send others to fight on their behalf and do not have the courage to fight their own battles.
8. System of a Down – B.Y.O.B
The “B” at the end does not stand for “booze”, but for “bomb” and if you haven’t already understood it, the song has no connection with any party or barbecue. Only when the party is genocide in Darfur, which inspired the guys from System of a Down to create B.Y.O.B.
9. The Beat – Stand down Margaret
Few people saw coming the fact that The Beat was going to have any strong political message, so Stand down Margaret came as a complete shock. Instead of a simple good dance song, like the type of songs that the band had accustomed their audience with, then came the lyrics that criticized the false promises of Thatcher’s government, and the title was repeated as a mantra.
10. Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control
The extremely contagious rhythm made Standing in the Way of Control from Gossip a song that instantly filled the dance floors. Beth Ditto’s lyrics, written in response to the ban against marriages between couples of the same sex, was talking about reversing gender roles and the discrimination against that which is different. The song turned into one of the most ferocious songs of protest ever.