Music, like speech, can be used to incite conflict or to celebrate harmony. Music is made up of words and melody - an interplay of physical sound vibrations and mental thoughts. Together, they compromise to make up the whole. Politics too is very much a compromise between parties trying to find a common group and consensus to problems on the ground. Both politics and music seek to inspire their audience to advance their ideas. Music’s ability to inspire makes it a compatible tool in politics. Politicians deftly use music to create an effect on the influence they have over their audience.
Music plays a big part in uniting our minds in a nation. The most important song of every country is the national anthem that cements the identity of its citizens. National anthems help us express our national pride. It is not only a symbol of national pride but also has a unifying nature in its lyrics.
However, national anthems, despite its unifying effect, also have a negative effect. If it can bring together a group of people, it also means there are outsiders who do not belong - a marginalised outsider group. Nationalism can be a positive way of expressing pride about where you are from, but it also can lead to prejudices against other nationalism or discrimination against religions.
Musicians do not only write songs for our entertainment pleasures. They also express their political views through their songs. There are many classic political songs which have reached the charts written to influence political views amongst listeners.
“American Idiot” by Green Day was written in 2004 as a response to US President George W Bush’s war in Iraq as a consequence of the September 11 attacks. The song saw its popularity surge again after Donald Trump won election and again climbed the UK charts when Trump visited the country in July 2018.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” sounds like a reconciliatory and a soapy plea for peace when in fact it is a protest song. It was written while the famous ex-Beatle was influenced by leading figures of the British Left such as Tariq Ali, who interviewed him for the influential Marxist magazine Red Mole. The song is really inspiring listeners about how positive thinking can make political change.
One of the most iconic protest songs has to be “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2. The classic by the group is a famous example of using songs to express anti-war beliefs. The lyrics emphasize the negative implications of war. Lines such as “How long must we sing this song” and “There’s many lost, but tell me who has won,” make clear the statement of the band’s stand on war.
Last but not least, Beyonce’s “Formation” is another highly politicized song relevant to today’s prejudices found in our society today. The song is Beyonce’s protest against the criticism she received about her daughter’s hair in the past. It speaks about the standards society places on women and on the black community in the US. Beyonce embraces the natural texture of her daughter’s hair in the lines: “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros.”
Are you passionate about expressing your views about our society and the way things can become better in the world? Find suitable music programmes with us for your music aspirations at Ritmo Music Singapore.