Political issues spark musical response

By Gillian Davis
April 30, 2009

“A black president is the shit. Oh, oh this shit f—– up right here. Ain’t no work, ain’t no jobs, we still got bills.”

You can thank Young Jeezy for that lyric, off of his appropriately titled album, “The Recession.”

There is no doubt that the music of the 21st century has turned political and contentious. Comparably, the music of this decade could be declared equivalent to or more political than the music produced during the ’60s.

Recently more music has been written and produced due to the controversial circumstances the United States has been in.

Instead of writing about heartbreak and new found love, lyrics include more topics such as the war against terror, President Obama, former President Bush and the economic crisis.

“I have taken a personal interest in studying the history of music,” Andy Golden, junior history and political science major, said. “From what I have studied, I have noticed that in times of war or political unrest, musicians produce their most influential music. There is so much music, in all different genres, being written right now about the state our country is in right now.”

This music, usually called protest songs, was popular throughout the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.

The protest song renewed in popularity after the Sept. 11 attacks and has been in produced since then.

Songs such as, “When the President Talks to God” by Bright Eyes and “Let’s Impeach the President” by Neil Young were written about anti-Bush sentiments and their thoughts on his term in office.

There were countless anti-Bush songs, ranging from artists like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and the Beastie Boys.

Bush’s foreign policy also took a hit with the Flaming Lips song, “Haven’t Got a Clue.” Their lyrics included, “every time you state your case, the more I want to punch your face.”

Young Jeezy, to this day, has had the most influential song about the economic crisis the nation is experiencing.

His song “Crazy World” has been given the title of “the broke man’s anthem of 2008.”

Andrew Stettler, senior communication major, is a convergence folk artist and centers much of his music around issues he feels most passionate about.

“I write music with political themes, because I feel that it is important. I hate those people who think they are artists because they can surround themselves in sadness. There’s more to life than finding a girlfriend or being dumped,” Stettler said. “I feel that if I’m writing something that has to do with society that most people haven’t thought of, then I can bring new ideas to the table and change a listeners entire thought process in one line.”

Stettler has written a song, “Goin’ to Guantánamo.” He wrote this song, for his solo band Walt’s Translucent, before Obama was elected into office and had closed Guantánamo Bay detention camp.

“At the time, I felt like college students really didn’t know that much about Guantánamo, so I wrote a song about a person who sings as though he is going to some kind of vacation spot,” Stettler said. “Then of course at the end of every chorus, he kind of wails out with a truth of why the prison is so horrible: ‘oh I miss my life’ and ‘oh I miss my wife.'”

Not all music is written about what is wrong within our country. On the contrary, many songs have been written by various artists about the new hope the citizens have under the new president.

Mighty Sparrow, a famous calypso singer in the Caribbean, wrote “Barrack the Magnificent” and is currently working on a full album related to President Obama. In one other song, “Foreign Relations Committee,” Sparrow calls Obama a man of “resplendent vision.”

There have also been reggae musicians, such as Mavado, who includes snippets of Obama’s speeches in his music.

African artist, Ghana’s Blakk Rasta, warns Obama to be aware of racists within the country with the lyric, “Barack Obama watch out.”

Kathy Sobolewski, 60, grew up listening to the anti-war music from the Vietnam War.

“I can’t make a judgment on today’s music but I can say that artists from my era like the Rolling Stones are producing new music about the issues our nation is experiencing,” Sobolewski said. “I definitely think new young artists should include politics into their music and broadcast them more openly.”

Of course, there are also those musicians who choose a political party and endorse them through their music. The Black Eyed Peas and Bruce Springsteen were big supporters of the Democratic Party while Kid Rock and Ted Nugent heavily supported the Republican Party with their music.

“When musicians get political it gives me a different opinion of them, especially if it is not my beliefs or supporting a political party I support,” Marc Zubricky, senior information systems major, said. “However, if it is a musician that I like and a political party/stance that I agree on, it really interests me.”

Being a musician is not just about separating into political parties. It’s about freedom of speech and the freedom to express it through lyrical genius.

“History repeats itself, eventually someone will take on the same roles as Bob Dylan and John Lennon. Society is in need of a voice and we are beginning to hear the up-and-comers who may soon become the voice of our generation,” Stettler said.

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Gillian Davis

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