With people declaring that they are mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore at Occupy events all around the country, I thought it fitting to give you a rundown of my top five 21st century protest songs. Whether speaking out against war, greed or oppression, these songs are all a rallying cry for change and could easily be included in a playlist alongside Dylan, Lennon and Guthrie.
Muse – “Uprising”
‘Uprising’ was the first single from Muse’s fifth studio album, The Resistance. Inspired by the G20 protests in London, the song is a call to arms against the power elite, featuring lyrics like: “Rise up and take the power back, it’s time that / The fat cats had a heart attack, you know that / Their time is coming to an end, we have to / Unify and watch our flag ascend.”
Arcade Fire – “Intervention”
In this song from Arcade Fire’s 2006 release Neon Bible, Win Butler passionately expresses his displeasure for the reelection of George W. Bush (“The king’s taken back the throne / The useless seed is sown”) and the war in Iraq. The titular “intervention” here is takes place between a people and their country, as told quite brilliantly through the use of metaphor.
The Thermals – “Power Doesn’t Run on Nothing”
According to the band’s official website, The Thermals’ third album, The Body, the Blood, the Machine, “tells the story of a young couple who must flee a United States governed by fascist faux-Christians.” While the band clearly rails against religious tyranny throughout the record, ‘Power Doesn’t Run on Nothing’ also touches on corporate greed and the cost of running the war machine.
Sleater-Kinney – “Combat Rock”
‘Combat Rock’ is one of the many politically-charged songs on Sleater-Kinney’s critically acclaimed fifth album, One Beat. Much of the track has to do with the US returning to Iraq and post-9/11 America, but many of the lines also deal with standing up for civil liberties (“Where is the questioning, where is the protest song? / Since when is skepticism un-American? / Dissent’s not treason but they talk like it’s the same”).
The Decemberists – “Sixteen Military Wives”
This 2005 single by The Decemberists packs in plenty of socio-political nuggets about American foreign policy (“Cause America can / And America can’t say no / And America does / If America says it’s so”), the cost of war and the effect it has back home (“Seventeen company men / Out of which only twelve will make it back again / Sergeant sends a letter to five / Military wives, whose tears drip down through ten little eyes”) and current role of the news media (“And the anchorperson on TV goes / La de da de da”).
Now that I’ve shared my top five, share yours in the comments below! What’s our generation’s ‘We Shall Overcome’?