As the results of the US election loom closer and closer, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that music can often serve as a big middle finger to the establishment. These are the best ways in which musicians have outsmarted politicians, and if you’re a budding musician yourself, consider trying them at home.
1. Ban Them From Listening To You
Back in David Cameron’s early days as Prime Minister, when he was still forgetting whether he supported Aston Villa or West Ham, the floppy haired elitist often cited The Smiths as his favourite band in a desperate attempt to appear more appealing to the working class masses. However, incensed at the thought of being liked by a pig-loving Etonian, Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr tweeted “David Cameron, stop saying that you like The Smiths, no you don’t. I forbid you to like it.” Since then its unclear whether Cameron still likes The Smiths, but the thought of him crying himself to sleep at night whilst listening to ‘This Charming Man’ feels pretty accurate.
2. Use Their Own Words Against Them
What better way to undermine those slippery politicians than by using their own words to abuse them? Unless the target of choice is Donald Trump – who has a seemingly supernatural skill of forgetting everything he ever said – the tactic works well to kick politicians off their pedestals, and Casetteboy are masters of the dark art. Through genius editing over backing tracks, the duo manage to make Cameron say the truths he would never admit to, for instance: “I am disgusted by the poor” or “I’m gonna get me some head from a pig that’s dead”. The best thing is, politicians can’t even respond to these insults, as they’d just be arguing with themselves.
3. Call Them A “****”
Primal Scream are well known for being a band that refuses to shy away from the political battlefield, but usally there critiques are more poetically conveyed than when their frontman Bobby Gillespie called Boris Johnson “a sinister right-wing ****”. We’ll let you imagine what exactly that last word is, but chances are that you probably won’t match Gillespie’s particularly refined grasp of the English language. Simple but effective, using any opportunity to release a fowl mouthed tirade on our public servants is a great way to clearly get your point across.
4. Infiltrate The Establishment
It’s all well and good yelling and causing anarchy from afar, but it takes real guts to say it to their face. Cue John Lennon. In 1963 the Beatles played the Royal Variety Performance at London’s Prince of Wales theatre in front of the good ol’ Queen’s mum. Accused by the media of selling out their anti-establishment beliefs, Lennon took the opportunity to prove everyone wrong. Before the band’s final song, he spoke to the audience, joking “for our last number, I’d like to ask your help. The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewellery”. The attack on the establishment could have been career suicide; instead, it catapulted the Beatles to new levels of fame. Perhaps their boyish charm let them get away with it; even the Queen’s mother looked amused.
5. Rewrite The National Anthem
Nothing stands out as a more politically rebellious gesture than naming a song after the national anthem. The Sex Pistols, one of the most censored bands of all time, knew this all too well, and amongst the celebrations of the Queen’s silver jubilee, they released ‘God Save The Queen’. With lyrics like “God save the Queen / A fascist regime / She ain’t no human being”, it’s clear that John Lydon’s agents of chaos weren’t too keen on the monarchy. Controversially kept off the top spot – conspiracy theories are keen to suggest certain people at the top of the chain prevented the song from reaching number one status – ‘God Save The Queen’ shocked the establishment by showing them that public opinion might not have been as favourable towards them as they previously thought.
6. Tell Them “F**k You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me”
If you’re struggling to express your anger towards politicians, then perhaps consider becoming the lead singer of Rage Against The Machine, Zach de la Rocha. RATM’s explicitly political material meant their concerts were typically very heated. But in the year 2000, RATM played a protest gig in Los Angeles, conveniently coinciding with the Democratic National Convention, at the same time that then President Bill Clinton was due to speak. Rocha was renowned for his inflammatory ability to take a crowd to unprecedented levels of fever, and someone decided that a concentrated number of anarchists singing “f**k you I won’t do what you tell me” might be a bad idea. 2,000 police officers were stationed to shut down the gig, but their actions were seen as excessively violent and brutal; Rocha’s words “we’ve got a right to oppose these motherf**kers” poured fuel to the flame.
7. Predict The Future
If you have a personal disdain towards Trump (why wouldn’t you?) as well as a skillful appetite for clairvoyance, why not try predicting the future? This is exactly what Russian feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot have done to marvellous effect. In the music video for their recently released, ‘Make America Great Again’, the band envision life for immigrants and women in America if – shudder – Trump wins the election. With references to sexual harassment, racial profiling and abortion, as well as the branding of apparently ‘undesirable’ women as “fat pigs” (don’t tell Cameron!) and “perverts”, the band make their feelings towards the self-proclaimed ‘pussy-grabber’ explicitly clear.
8. Tell Them “We Gon Be Alright”
Few artist in recent years have been as politically influential as Kendrick Lamar, who made a truly powerful statement with 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly. But it is the chorus of ‘Alright’ which best sums up Lamar’s impact. Chanting “we gon be alright”, Lamar’s steadfast assertion of confidence in peace despite adversity has often been employed by the Black Lives Matter campaign, as well as sung at Trump protest rally in March earlier this year. Whilst artists can belittle and demean politicians as much as they like, in all honesty it’s statements like Lamar’s that actually make a difference, sound tracking a movement and providing hope that the future may be a little bit brighter.
9. Let Politicians Use Music As Their Own Worst Enemy
When it comes to music it’s best to leave it to the experts. That’s why, on the eve of the election, we should all take the time to witness Donald Trump’s Official Jam. Performed at the start of one of his rallies, the song is like something out 1984. Words genuinely can’t describe how f**ked up it is. Using the same melody as the Go Compare adverts, never before has a song said so little in so many words- which, in fact, makes it a strikingly sharp reflection of Trump himself.