1. Radiohead – Electioneering
“What can you say about the IMF, or politicians?” asked Thom Yorke in Mojo magazine in July 1997. “What can you say about people selling arms to African countries, employing slaves labor or whatever. You just write down ‘Cattle prod and the IMF’ and people who know, know. I can’t express it any clearer than that.” That’s probably Radiohead’s first ever political song. Three years later, their Sixth Album title – ‘Hail to the Thief”, will be directed against George W. Bush with the paraphrase to the American presidential anthem – “Hail to the Chief”.
2. Gil Scott-Heron — The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
“The revolution will not be televised” is much more than just a protest song or a powerful poem. It’s a phrase that entered the language. According to Scott-Heron the change (or the revolution) won’t take place on the television but only in our minds. It’s a concept which you can see only in your mind and it can never be captured on film. The Afro-Americans in America had to carry this process and fight for their rights without the media intervention.
3. The Clash – Clampdown
Yes, I know – basically it could almost be any other Clash song in here. It’s important to acknowledge that the Clash are much more than just a Punk band. They expended their musical horizons with Ska, Rockabilly and damn – even Reggae. But Clampdown is a song about Socialism vs. Capitalism, conformist lifestyle and the hard-working class.
The youth becomes part of “the clampdown” (aka adult world) but the song suggest they deserve much more – they should fight for the unavoidable status-quo, for their own good. In contrary to the Punk rock stereotype and common belief, Joe Strummer (The Clash lead vocalist and writer) didn’t come from a lower class family. His father was a diplomat and he was sent to boarding school. But Joe was a rebel, he despised the rich people. To the LA Times he said: “I had a chance to be a ‘good, normal person’ with a nice car and a house in the suburbs – the golden apple or whatever you call it. But I saw through it. I saw it was an empty life.”
4. Morrissey – Irish Blood ,English Heart
Morrissey has always had two different aspects of writing – the personal level (which often can be embarrassingly sincere but still enigmatic) and the political one. in the 80′s, the royal family and Margaret Thatcher were his main target. Almost two decades later, the subjects might had changed but the rage and the smart-cynical writing is still there.
5. Arcade Fire – Intervention
In 2007 Will Butler, the lead vocalist and songwriter of Arcade Fire was asked on an interview if he think there’s an element of a protest record on the new album because it sounds angrier than Funeral (their former album). His quite sincere (some will say naïve) answer was:
“It seems like it is the most right time for protest in the history of the world but it’s not really happening. I have this feeling of my generation like ‘oh, another song about the war. We’ve been there done that type of feeling. It’s really dangerous, it’s still happening. It’s not gonna change any time soon but I think it’s kinda important to talk about it. Maybe not in the direct way but it’s important to think about it”.