Could this be the summer of protest songs we’ve been waiting for?

[This is my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. It ties in with this week’s edition of The Ongoing History of New Music. – AC]

Earlier this year, I received an email from Dave:

Alan,

What has happened today to the art of the protest song?

In the ’60s and ’70s, music was the voice of change, counter-culture and a generation. Alternative rock in the ’90s had some bands that carried the torch. But who carries it now?

In an era of Donald Trump, the 1% protests, #MeToo movements, etc., you would think that alternative music would be ripe to provide a soundtrack of bringing issues to light, but that is not the case.  I can’t think of a mainstream protest song in recent years, except for Pearl Jam’s latest release and also Gord Downie’s activism with aboriginal rights. Red carpet celebrities do speak on their platform, but I don’t see new alternative bands taking a stance in their music.

Is this a result of news outlets already taking sides, or is society’s questioning of authority now common? Or has the business model for record labels changed so much that protest songs aren’t good for business?

I would love to hear your view on this.

Dave

These are all good questions that deserve answers.

There’s more than ever to protest about, especially in America.

Music is a cultural feedback loop and is always found downstream from what is happening in society. And thanks to the 24-hour news cycle —doesn’t it seem like it’s more like a six-hour cycle now? — bad news and conflict are coming at us faster and in greater quantities.

Let’s make a list of why anger is in the red.

Keep reading.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Could this be the summer of protest songs we’ve been waiting for?

  • April 29, 2018 at 3:20 pm
    Permalink

    Have you checked out the song Bully by John Butler Trio? It was released last year and has a very strong video message, it is focussed around the current fracking and land issues that is happening in Australia. Check it out.

    On a more mainstream pop/rock stage there are songs like Bad News by SOJA which is no 60/70’s heavy hitter but at least the words in the song encourage people to listen and think about what is going on in the world ( I hope and think so )

    Just my input…keep up the great work Alan.

    Reply

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