Songs protesting the democratic system
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
If there’s one good (or at least slightly-less-terrible) thing about times of political turmoil and mass dissatisfaction, it’s that we at least get a lot of good music out of it. Political crises have inspired a lot of subversive songs by artists voicing their anger at the system. These songs can be interpreted as calls to take to the streets in protest, or as outlets for a listener’s own sense of outrage.
B.Y.O.B. – System of a Down (2005)
The title is short for “Bring Your Own Bombs,” and even though it was written to specifically address the US’s role in the Iraq War, it’s pretty applicable as a song about the majority being misled by the government. The dark, party-like attitude of the music video and the upbeat tempo of the song are interrupted by vocalist Serj Tankian’s frantically-paced demand of “Why don’t presidents fight the war?/Why do they always send the poor?”
System of a Down has also just announced that they have about 15 songs lined up for their new album that will be released in 2017, their first album since 2005, and it’s probably a safe bet that Trump references will make their way in.
Kingdom of Zod – Billy Talent (2014)
At Rock am Ring in Germany this June, Billy Talent introduced “Kingdom of Zod” by dedicating it to the “most terrifying person on the planet”—and that was before he had nuclear power. The Mississauga-based band have said in interviews that this song was written about Rob Ford, but lyrics like “slamming the doors of democracy on those who are not the same” are also uncomfortably fitting for Trump. “Kingdom of Zod” is about a corrupt politician embroiled in numerous scandals, yet to the incomprehension of a few skeptical onlookers, the public still lets itself be manipulated by Mayor Zod’s lies. It’s also a poignant message about the role of the media: Every new scandal that’s uncovered only thrusts Zod further into the spotlight.
A Gentlemen’s Coup – Rise Against (2011)
Rise Against is known for the straight edge lifestyle and prominent activism of its members, and the band’s entire Endgame album is about the consequences of political inaction, specifically the irreversible damages of climate change. “A Gentlemen’s Coup” is the perfect theme song for those Trump supporters who were fed up with the system and saw a radical shift in leadership as the only way to cause actual change in the government. The lyrics describe a movement that seized power to raise a leader from entirely outside the political establishment—but society is now subjected to the new leader’s authoritarian interests. Those who voted for Trump largely because they were angry at big business and corrupt politicians might be pleased that they managed to “seize the throne,” but if they really wanted transformation, perhaps they “should have burned it to the ground.”
Sleep Now in the Fire – Rage Against The Machine (1999)
No list of angry-at-the-establishment anthems would be complete without at least one Rage Against the Machine song. It’s hard to pick just one, but “Sleep Now in the Fire” is pretty apt for describing capitalistic greed and the empty promises of freedom-touting America. As Zack de la Rocha sings “The party blessed me with its future/And I protect it with fire,” it’s only too easy to imagine Trump in this role.
But the most chillingly relatable part of “Sleep Now in the Fire” occurs about a minute into the music video, where there is a quick frame of a man holding a sign that says “Donald J Trump for President 2000.” Over 17 years ago it was an absurd idea, a satirical suggestion of the most extreme limits of democracy. Who would have guessed that rap rock could predict the future so accurately?