THE BLOG
13/06/2018 15:56 SAST | Updated 13/06/2018 15:58 SAST

Music Review: The Latest Protest Art In Music

Pop musicians have always commented on social issues – and the newest crop of hit artists are no slouches at protest songs.

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Janelle Monae performs during the 'Dirty Computer' tour at Marymoor Park on June 11 2018 in Redmond, Washington.

This year has seen an empowering moment of transformation in the music industry. Not only does mainstream music now include songs and lyrics in languages other than English, it has also become a space where artists can express themselves and the grievances they have with an oppressive society.

A number of artists have taken it upon themselves to include important messages in their music and videos. This has generated discussion among fans and the general public about issues in society. These artists include Janelle Monae, Childish Gambino, Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5, BTS, Shawn Mendes, Black Eyed Peas, Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko.

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae has always created music that comments on social issues. In her latest album, "Dirty Computer", Monae released a visual album of important themes during a time when right-wing movements are perpetuating intolerance.

Songs such as "Pynk" and "Make Me Feel" comment on same-sex relations and sexuality as a whole, highlighting how sexual orientation is a fluid spectrum and people can also identify as pansexual and bisexual. In "Django Jane" and "Screwed", Monae raises the issues of gender inequality and racism, using the songs as voices for black women in particular, as they are one of the most marginalised groups.

Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, took over the internet with his music video for "This Is America", which contains so many symbols and metaphors that comment on racism, mass shootings and problematic media.

With the scene of black gospel church singers being shot, which links to the Charleston mass shooting, and a scene of Gambino running away from authorities, the video raises awareness of the racism and hate crimes that continue to take place in the U.S. Many have realised that every time they watch the video they pick up on another shocking image, which shows Gambino's skill in creating a powerful message through music.

BTS

Bangtan Sonyeondan has always created music that includes social commentary about the way society is constructed. Their early releases included the song "No", in which they encourage people to rise up against society's assumption that the only way to find happiness is to work nonstop, earn a lot of money and remain in the hands of "the system" — that being the capitalist bureaucratic system.

On their latest album, "Love Yourself Tear", BTS talks about the way love can also bring unhappiness, especially when you don't accept yourself. As group leader RM puts it, "Love is complex and there are parts of love which we want to run away from." The "Love Yourself" era aims to create self-awareness of how important it is to take care of yourself.

Christina Aguilera featuring Demi Lovato

Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato have previously created content to do with self-love and care. In their latest phenomenal collaboration, the two vocal queens comment on the oppressive patriarchal system and how women, especially young girls, are forced to conform to gender norms and be sexualised by men without their consent. "Fall In Line" encourages women to oppose sexism and gender inequality by being themselves.

Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B

In the music video of "Girls Like You", Maroon 5 and Cardi B highlight intersectionality and women's diversity in appearance, race, religion, gender expression, sexual orientation and ethnic background.

Female celebrities like Camila Cabello, Phoebe Robinson, Sarah Silverman, Millie Bobby Brown, Ellen De Generes and Mary J. Blige appear in the video, with some wearing shirts that raise awareness about important issues.

Shawn Mendes featuring Khalid

In the powerful song "Youth", Shawn Mendes and Khalid speak about the mass shootings taking place in the U.S., and gun violence in general around the world.

They aim to raise awareness of the number of young people who have been affected by gun violence, and performed this moving ballad at the Billboard Music Awards alongside Parkland shooting survivors.

Black Eyed Peas

The Black Eyed Peas have never shied away from commenting on society and hate. From their well-known song "Where Is The Love", in which they talk about the hate and violence in the world, to new songs "Street Livin'" and "Ring The Alarm", in which they highlight white privilege and the continued oppression of people of colour, Black Eyed Peas are one of the leaders of the "woke" genre of music.

Hayley Kiyoko featuring Kehlani

Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani have always been unapologetically proud, queer women in the music industry, and their latest collaboration is no different. "What I Need" is the song and video that the LGBTQI+ community needed, showing two queer women being together.

Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani are playing a massive role in breaking down heteronormative barriers through their empowering commentary on the music they produce and on social media.

We have some fantastic artists making waves in the music industry and spreading positive, uplifting social awareness through their music.