The United States of America voted in Donald Trump with hopes that he’d come through on his promise to “make America great again,” but the current state of America is anything but great. We’re talking about a country where racists are protesting in the streets as though white supremacy is a legitimate cause. A country where you can be murdered, driven over with a car, for peacefully protesting against these pro-hate groups. A country where armed officers wearing body cams are just as capable of planting evidence as officers without cameras.
That’s just August. That doesn’t include shootings, suicides, rape, police violence, domestic violence, corporate greed… Is there really any point in listing every tragic event that goes on in America, from those that are recent to those that date back centuries but continue today?
No one’s blaming Donald Trump. Actually, a lot of people are, but that’s not the point. The point is that America needs a wake up call, a reminder that we can live in peace with each other and focus on the good we can do in our own lives instead of expecting to change the country as a whole. Spoiler alert: countries don’t change; the people in power do.
Each of the songs below emphasizes a message that Americans need reminded of today: to stop fighting each other and realize the absolute absurdity of the events taking place around them. We encourage you to add any and all of these tracks to your Apple Music or Spotify collection.
1. Graffiti The World by Rehab (2005) tackles many topics relevant to the state of the world and paints reality as it is: late for change. The track deals with pollution, teen suicide, religion’s use for personal gain rather than moral good, the true nature of corporations and the wealthy, and then some.
The terrorists are in the White House and overseas
Racists, separatists, vicious militias
The Buddhists, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians
Could it be our biggest barrier is language
Or is oil that important that one would inflict anguish?
2. Hands Up by Like Tribes (2017) is possibly the most time-relevant song on this list. The track uses audio recordings of police brutality victims in hopes of having their voices heard by more people, since they will never be able to share their stories themselves. The “happy,” upbeat tone to the music is an eerie contradiction to the song’s content and reflects the inappropriate normalcy of violent events happening in our country.
“If white people celebrate after a Super Bowl win, they call it a party in the streets. When people of color do it, they call it a riot,” said Chaplin X of Bell Boys Music, the label behind Like Tribes. “RACE itself is a social construct designed to make people see people differently: personally, interpersonally, systemically and structurally.”
In a post on Facebook, Like Tribes frontman and songwriter Erik James dedicates specific lyrics to their connected victims.
“Lying in the Street” is dedicated to the life of Michael Brown, a young black man killed in the streets at the hands of the police.
“No Air left to breathe” is dedicated to Eric Garner, a black man killed by an officer’s chokehold during an arrest attempt.
“Asleep in the front seat” is dedicated to Philando Castile, a black man killed at the hands of the police while in the the front seat of his car. His child was in the back seat and his girlfriend filmed it live on Facebook.
3. 1-800-273-8255 by Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid is an honest and heartbreaking representation of how youth and millennials in America feel today. Imagine if we lived in a society where kids felt the love at home that they need so badly, where they didn’t have to turn to pop stars and celebrities to feel accepted. Logic wrote the track, named after the suicide hotline number, after meeting fans in various cities who told him how much his music had saved their life. It’s a powerful song, but when you listen to it, are you really listening? America’s youth is the future, but — while we stare at social media and engage in heated arguments over trivial matters like the president or race or religion — who is taking care of them? Kids should not want to die.
“(Fans) said things like, ‘Your music has saved my life. You’ve saved my life.’ And I was always like, ‘Aw so nice of you. Thanks.’ And I give them a hug and shit but in my mind, I’m like, “What the fuck?” And they’re really serious. And they tat shit on their arms and get shit like lyrics that save their life and in my mind, I was like, ‘Man I wasn’t even trying to save nobody’s life.’ And then it hit me, the power that I have as an artist with a voice. I wasn’t even trying to save your life. Now what can happened if I actually did?” – Logic
4. Til It Happens to You by Lady Gaga was written and produced for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about rape on college campuses and the measures that schools will take to cover it up. The track makes this list not for its intended purpose but because the lyrics are broad enough to apply to all situations. As hard as this may be, Americans really must look at the people opposite them and ask themselves, “What have these people experienced that makes them so set in their ways? What happened to them that conditioned them to be this way?” Until it happens to you, you won’t know how someone else feels or what sort of pain they might have been subjected to that motivates them to cause pain to others. There is no good excuse for hurting another person, but there are countless benefits of being able to understand our opposition.
“I really hope that anyone watching this today hears that the most important people to change the world is you. I’m not looking to the government to change my life, I’m not looking toward the next president, I’m not looking toward our next world leaders. I’m looking at everyone in this room. You are culture.” – Lady Gaga
5. Imagine by John Lennon is a song you’ve likely heard many times already and needs no explanation for making this list. Just listen to it, live by it, and move forward with nothing less than peace and love for yourself and your neighbors. Imagine how the world would look today if we all could live as one.
Thanks for listening!
What songs would you add to the list? Sign up and leave a comment below if there’s any you think people need to hear.