Writer’s choice

Online Activity #2

 

Throughout the first half of the semester, we have explored the concept of political ideology. Recall our individual political ideology influences 1) our views about the role of government, and 2) our attitudes and values about policy and politics. We have analyzed civil liberties and civil rights and considered examples of civil rights and civil liberties we think are important.

 

Most recently, we have explored public opinion and political participation. In a democracy, we can publicly express our views about our rights and liberties. One way to express ideology is through music. The purpose of the following online activity is to identify and analyze music that expresses opinions about government and/or politics.

 

Background:

 

Throughout history, popular music has expressed political messages/opinions. Sometimes an artist records a song that has an explicit (intentional) political message. For example, classic country artist Lee Greenwood’s song, “Proud to be an American” (1984) describes his view of American values, which focuses on values like freedom and love of country. John Lennon’s “Imagine” (1971) expresses the artist’s opinion about a different kind of world order, with different values and priorities. It was recorded during the turmoil of Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and political assassinations.

Sometimes a recording can have multiple political messages. Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” (1967) was also released in the midst of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The song can be interpreted to be addressing civil rights in the context of race and/or gender.

Songs are often recorded to express opinions about humanitarian crises that involve a role for government. For example, Bruce Springsteen’s “Philadelphia” (1993) is an example of a song specifically recorded in response to the unfolding AIDS epidemic. Lil Wayne’s “Tie My Hands” was recorded in 2008 following Hurricane Katrina.

Sometimes an artist writes a song that may not be intended to be political, but the listener interprets the song as political because of its association to something personal to the listener.  These types of songs can be thought of as implicitly political. For example, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, several recordings released around the time of the attacks evoked, for some listeners, a relationship between the song and the event. Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” (2001) represents one of these recordings – Blige performed the song at a concert for New York City first responders after the attacks, thus associating her song with the event. Similarly, the band Five for Fighting released a song called “Superman” (2001), which was adopted by firefighters who responded on 9/11.

Artists continue to release recordings that speak to current societal problems. For example, Luke Combs’ song “Six Feet Apart” discusses government response to Covid 19. Artists including Lil Baby have released recordings that speak to the ongoing civil rights struggle faced by people of color (“The Bigger Picture”). Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) songs including “Feels Like Summer” and “This is America” specifically speak to civil rights and liberties in a variety of contexts.

In sum, music is an important tool by which we can better understand cultural priorities, norms, problems, etc. For this online activity, you will conduct a bit of research, then listen to and analyze political music.

Instructions:

Choose two pieces of music / songs:

  • One of the songs you select should be current. (No more than 5 years old).
  • The other song should be at least 20 years old. (20th century!)
  • Conduct research and choose your songs. Read background information about your selected recordings. Is the song explicitly political? Implicitly political?
  • Another option for choosing your older song is to talk to your older relatives, friends, etc.
  • Listen to the songs you selected, and then respond to the following two questions.
  • Each response should be at least one substantive paragraph: At least 5-7 substantive sentences. Be sure to review the Online Activities rubric. It is the same rubric that accompanied Online Activity 1.
  • Include links so I can listen to the songs too. Please do not choose any of the songs I have included in the Background reading…dig a little deeper!

 

  1. Song #1 – Discuss the purpose and tone of the song. What message does the song convey about rights/liberties/politics/or government?

 

  1. Song #2 – Discuss the purpose and tone of the song. What message does the song convey about rights/liberties/politics/or government?