American Protest Music Today

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Who can resist an alliterative and engaging title like “Pussy Riot, Paul Ryan, and Protest Music in 2012 America?” Corey Beasley riffs on the contradictions of protest music in the current American pop music scene, or lack thereof despite a political climate rife with opportunity:

“But before I try to scratch my irk—this is what you do with an irk, yes?—consider another recent hot news item. Paul Ryan, Republican congressman, vice presidential nominee, and ‘June’ in the 2012 Conservative Hunks Calendar (‘November’ is Mitch McConnell—it’s going to be a cold, cold winter), recently let slip he enjoys listening to Rage Against the Machine while working his apparently quite serious abs. He also enjoys Ayn Rand and apparently does not enjoy cognitive dissonance.

This, again understandably, touched off a firestorm of internet ire. Doesn’t he even listen to Zach de la Rocha’s lyrics? How can you be a Fountainhead-pounding, free-market-fellating ideologue and jam out to a song like ‘Killing in the Name’? The same way you can be a leftist, anti-capitalist band signed to a major corporate label with thousands of t-shirts hanging in Spencer’s Gifts stores across the nation, I suppose. It’s likely as simple as managing your paperless savings account.”

Beasley finds the problem to be lack of reach rather than content and does find some hope in songs by artists tUnE-yArDs and Killer Mike. And really, he allows that it’s difficult to write a good song that’s also political: “Striking the line between preachy self-righteousness and earnest pap requires a seriously deft songwriter. Maybe you can’t blame artists for shying away from it.”


Caroline Kangas calls both Seattle and San Francisco home (though she currently resides in the latter). She recently received a mouthful of a liberal arts degree from the University of San Francisco and can be found selling pirate supplies at 826 Valencia or wandering the streets with her diva of a french bulldog, Elle. More from this author →