I spent much of today listening to the tracks that my favourite bands have written throughout the USA election expressing contempt, anger, and most of all fear for what a Trump led America will mean.
I, for one, thought that it would never happen, but as a few have pointed out over the last 12 hours, we live in a social media bubble full of people who think just like us. We are simply not exposed to the (arguable) majority that feel that a country led by a racist, homophobic, and sexist cheesy-puff could actually be a good thing. And thank goodness. Thank goodness my Twitter timeline and Facebook newsfeed were flooded with “How is this happening?” and “Utterly heartbroken”. Thank goodness all I saw was support for POC, women (although I’m ashamed to say that 53% of white female voters, chose Trump), and LGBTQI+ community members (to name just a few). If this had to happen, I can at least find some solace in the fact that all of the people I am surrounded with find this outcome as abhorrent as I do.
All that said, I don’t claim to know a whole lot about politics, I claim to be a music journalist, so with my personal opinion (mainly) over and done with, I want to talk about a few songs that have risen out of the flames, allowing us to at least have faith in the views of our idols. All but one were part of the 30 Days 30 Songs campaign, “written and recorded by artists for a Trump free America”, which actually turned into 50 songs. That’s 50 artists (and I’m sure there were more that wanted to) that took the time out of touring, or writing for their album, or whatever else they had going on, just to write and record a track for this cause.
I turn to music when shit hits the fan, and frankly, there seems to be a lot of shit flying around right now. So should you need some extra validation in your anger or your sadness about yesterday’s outcome, these guys are sure to give it to you.
A little background on MoBo first – they’re an all white, all male pop punk band from America. Unlike many others within their genre, they sing about more taboo issues, and I do know that at least one member, Brendan Lukens, has suffered severely from mental health issues to the point of attempting suicide (I talk a little about this here). They have, without a doubt, been through their fair share of rough times as individuals, but to look at, they’re a part of the most privileged group of people on the planet. Based on that, the line in this track that stands out to me the most is “What if I was someone else“. As white males, they do what many do not: they accept that they are in a position of strength, and what I take from that is that they know that had they been black, Asian, or a member of any other minority group, their safety in a world run by Donald Trump would not be guaranteed. It stands out because these guys care about what will happen to minorities under a Trump rule. And it saddens me that this makes it stand out, that it isn’t more common for those with a platform to use it to stand up for those that can’t protect themselves.
This song sounds great, its message is great, and the fact that it’s named after the episode of The Simpsons which predicted Trump as president is bloody brilliant, if a little terrifying.
“It was impossible to say EVERYTHING we wanted to say about Trump. We knew that looking at him as a peer, rather than this untouchable figure, that we could judge and treat him like any other greedy, self-centered, short-tempered, racist, sexist, unqualified person you meet in everyday life. Still, knowing that name calling will get you nowhere — we kept our examples generalized so that listeners can come to their own conclusions about how Trump really is, and how he would be as POTUS.”
Jimmy Eat World are one of my all time favourite bands, so when it was revealed that they were taking part in the 30 days
30 50 songs campaign, I was obviously stoked.
My Enemy feels angry. It is angry. Like Modern Baseball, they discuss the fear that Trump has instilled in the American population regarding minorities such as Muslims, Mexicans, and members of the LGBTQI+ community, acknowledging the fact that he has no facts to back up the claims that he has made. It’s no surprise that this is something JEW would want to be a part of, as they are no strangers to making political statements through their music. The track Nothing Wrong off their 2004 release, Futures, addresses the concept that we may not be actively doing anything wrong, but by doing nothing, we are still causing harm. “We’ve done nothing wrong, but we’ve done nothing. We can’t look away, but we’re just looking.” By speaking up with My Enemy, they no doubt inspired fans to take a look at themselves and their beliefs about minorities, and hopefully do something. Again, as an all white, male band, they have that platform and thankfully used it in all the right ways.
“There are dangerous and very real consequences for using fear of “The Other” to motivate a potential electorate. While that’s nothing new in politics, what is newly alarming in context of the current presidential campaign, is how seemingly effective that strategy has been for a certain candidate. That candidate used the low-hanging fruit of fearmongering to gain his initial momentum and continues to employ variations of it to sustain his place. The only way to steel yourself against that kind of manipulation is to do the real self-work in discovering and letting go of your own fears. While that pursuit is difficult because it means fighting against your own ego, it remains worth the effort—not just for what it can do for us as individuals but even more for what it can do for our collective society. Are you willing to accept that maybe, just possibly, what you feel as a threat, isn’t?”
Million Dollar Loan was the first song in the 30 Days
30 50 Songs campaign, and as well as Death Cab being very dear to me, I am sure that this song and the meaning behind it would have struck a nerve regardless of who had written it. It is the reason I really paid attention to the rest of the tracks that were released under this campaign.
If you do nothing else with your day (other than despair and cry which you are perfectly justified in doing – trust me, I’m with you), I implore you to watch the video for this track. Unlike the others, Million Dollar Loan is explicitly about Donald Trump, and the video expertly showcases a man who is undeterred in his belief of his own grandeur. The song was inspired by an imagined conversation between Trump and radio host, Sean Hannity, as well as a very real comment that Trump made in New Hampshire, claiming that he started with a ‘small’ million dollar loan from his father. Something which as well as being horribly flippant, is also “wildly untrue”. The song stays true to Death Cab’s calming sound and yet the lyrical content is anything but. I was particularly struck by “a siren screams through the city as he falls asleep“, which I see as an accusation that he doesn’t care. That when he’s not obliged to be actively campaigning, he sleeps soundly while all the issues that affect America regardless of the time of day.
“As artists, we are united in our desire to speak out against the ignorant, divisive, and hateful campaign of Donald Trump. We will not be duped by Mr. Trump’s rhetorical contortions, by his pandering and lies and false promises.”
“He has shown the content of his character time and time again, and the very fact of his candidacy is a blight on the nation. His words incite hatred and celebrate inequity. Most troubling of all, over the past year, the country has become inured to the towering vileness of his rhetoric and deeds, his attacks on women, Mexican-Americans, Muslims, and those with disabilities. But we have to remember these acts, and act against them. In the words of Cornell West, we cannot become ‘well-adjusted to injustice’.”
Cold War Kids are one of the bands that joined the campaign after the initial 30 artists had already been decided on. It only took the marvellous Death Cab For Cutie to make them realise that they had something to say and that it was worth saying. It was inspired by that awful video (you know the one), and Trump claimed that talking about grabbing someone’s vagina is merely “locker room talk”. Because what harm could possibly come from a man with that much wealth and power speaking that way, right? This. This is what (TW: sexual assault). The track focuses on the hate and the lies that Trump spreads every time he opens his mouth and I can imagine it being very liberating screaming the lyrics on a solo road trip when the world has really, truly pissed you off. Like today, for example. Maybe stay quiet for the line “I can’t believe you think you’re gonna get around it” though. Sadly, and amazingly – for now – he has gotten around it.
Message aside, Locker Room Talk is a classic CWK bass line and it’s catchy as hell and I’m just a huge fan of everything about it.
“At this point in the game, taking a shot at Trump almost feels unnecessary. Too easy. More negativity. We’re all so tired of him. But when I heard Death Cab’s song, I realized that’s a mistake. It’s important to state the obvious, to express those feelings in a song. Even if it’s maybe redundant, it feels great to let it all out!”
This is the one that didn’t come from the 30 Days
30 50 Songs campaign, but it’s my favourite out of the 5 mentioned. It’s actually a track off the band’s upcoming album The Boy Who Died Wolf (which BTW, is going to be incredible, you heard it here first), but lead singer Johnny tweeted the leak today with the caption “F*ck it. Leaking this song. America needs this today, not next week. VIPER STRIKE“. Out of the tracks that I’ve mentioned, it’s the one with the most brutal honesty. There’s no sugar coating these Brooklyn dudes’ opinions in poetry or pretty metaphors. This song is the cold, hard truth, something that Highly Suspect are generally quite well known for, but we’ve never needed it more than right now. Start to finish, every line makes you want to yell, “F*CKING YES”. It’s very much on the punk side of the band’s sound, which reflects the current anarchy in the USA incredibly well. Highly Suspect really are all about spreading love, it’s undeniably everything that they stand for, in their own way, at least.
“We wanna spread love, but man you make me wanna take off a glove because guns don’t kill people. White people kill black people with guns. Hard to hear?”
You can listen to the rest of the songs that were recorded for 30 Days
30 50 Songs here. Spread some love while you’re at it. Send someone in America lots of heart emojis and let them know you’re on their side.