By Natalie Wilson @musicaladvisors
It’s no surprise that music is a powerful communication tool. Historically, music has been used to tell stories, remember important information, and increase bonding. For the most part, music is a positive way to connect with other people. However, music can also be used to spread ideologies, which can lead to positive or negative outcomes. Due to music’s ability to communicate ideas so effectively, it plays significant roles in religion and political movements. Whether or not you’re a musician who is looking to make a political statement, or you just want to stay informed on the different musical strategies used in politics, it’s important to stay informed. This article will outline the ways music is used to advance different political agendas. Let’s take a look at how music and politics interact:
Music is Memorable
Have you ever noticed that it’s much easier to remember the words to a catchy song than it is to remember what you needed to buy at the grocery store? Have you ever studied for an exam and created a melody to remember items on a list more easily? These are examples of how integral music is to the human experience. Music sticks with us. Most of us have probably experienced having a song stuck in our heads, with a certain line or message playing over and over again. This is why music is such a great tool for advancing one’s ideas in society.
The most common way for a country to express pride and advance the ideas of its political leaders are through anthems. National anthems are a symbol of national pride in most countries. Anthems are typically strong, proud, and contain lyrics that many find to be unifying in nature. A national anthem identifies who is part of the nation, or an “in-crowd”, and why they’re lucky to be there. When there is an in-crowd, there will inevitably be a marginalized outsider group. This means national anthems can have both positive and negative effects. While anthems can unify people in a country, they can also be used as a tool of division by political leaders. Nationalism can be a positive way of expressing pride about where you’re from, it can also lead to various forms of prejudice, such as racism and discrimination towards different religions. This is why the interaction between music and politics is so complex.
The censorship of what ideologies are spread through media outlets is problematic for a number of reasons. During the second world war, music that did not align with the beliefs of the Nazi party was eliminated and no longer distributed through media outlets. The Nazi government only supported Germanic forms of music and ignored “outsider” genres such as jazz and music create by Jewish composers. This is just one of many examples of music being used to control the thinking of its listeners. Essentially, music was used to brainwash its listeners into believing that the beliefs of the party in power were the only valid beliefs to hold. While this is a very extreme example of a negative combination of music and politics, dictatorships have often censored what is heard by the people in order to control and advance their political agendas.
Let’s take a look at three examples of political songs:
Sunday Bloody Sunday
This U2 classic is a great example of music being used to express anti-war beliefs. The lyrics draw attention to the negative implications of war. Lines such as “How long must we sing this song” and “There’s many lost, but tell me who has won,” make a clear statement about the band’s perspective on war.
Beyonce’s “Formation” is a great example of a highly politicized song relevant to today’s society. This song speaks out against the standards society places on women and on the black community. Having received criticism about her daughter’s hair in the past, Beyonce embraces the natural texture by singing: “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros.”
Fight the Power
This song is challenging its listeners to confront the problems in society that have been caused or upheld and maintained by groups in power. Public Enemy’s song states: “Let me hear you say/ Fight the power.” This creates a group mentality and aims to challenge those in charge as a collective unit.
Hopefully, this article helped you realize that the interaction between music and politics is neither positive or negative. Rather, it’s both. Music can be used to spread national pride, isolate groups of people, or challenge societal standards. Music is memorable and universal, making it one of the most common ways to spread different ideas. All of us are affected by politics, so regardless of whether or not you’re an artist, it’s important to be aware of the power of music to shape our belief systems.
My name’s Natalie Wilson and I’m an avid music lover and guitar player who has dedicated my life to sharing what I know on my blog Musical Advisors. You’ll find a wide range of topics on my blog, including reviews, tutorials, and tips for musicians. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/musicaladvisors