Donald Trump's First Official Day As President: Far More Protest Songs Than Cabinet Confirmations
As if the sight of millions across the nation and the globe marching on Saturday wasn't enough of a signal to President Trump that his self-proclaimed people-powered conservative revolution is going to face strong, vocal resistance, the New York real estate magnate might want to stay away from his computer as well as the TV this week. Because in between tweets and calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin he's likely to hear a flood of protest songs filled with the fear and anxiety his administration has inspired among some in the creative community.
Protests against presidents -- often Republican ones -- are nothing new, from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's anti-Richard Nixon anthem "Ohio," to the Ramones' Reagan-bashing "My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" and Pearl Jam's "Bu$hleaguer" screed against George W. Bush, rock has often stood up against commanders in chief they don't agree with.
If the past few week is any indication, President Trump is likely to unleash a gold rush of protest anthems. Here are just some of the surfeit that have taken flight in the run up to, and wake of, Trump's inauguration:
The freshest track is Father John Misty's wistful "Pure Comedy," which dropped on Monday (Jan. 23). The gentle piano ballad addresses the confounding miracle of birth with a video that trolls Trump (and religious leaders), using grotesque cartoon images of racist tropes and footage of the billionaire, under lyrics that ask, "Where did they find these goons they elected to rule them?/ What makes these clowns they idolize so remarkable?"
Another one-off amid the rising tide of angst came from CocoRosie and fellow Future Feminist Anohni, who rushed out the single "Smoke 'em Out" last week before the massive Women's March in Washington D.C. "Today we share a new song to inspire the weary-disappointed hearts of so many crest-fallen citizens," CoCoRosie wrote last week of the beat-driven song they said "begged to be turned loose on the world now as a means of participation during these turbulent yet invigorating times."
The duo said the song, with the chorus "burning down the house," is intended to welcome "the new character who will be occupying the White House with a mob of women and children armed with forks and knives. In the wake of this unnatural disaster, we feel a call to rise, shout, and burn the house down. The future is female."
Barsuk Records has just released a compilation benefitting the ACLU, entitled SAD!, consisting of previously unreleased versions of Barsuk bands covering other Barsuk bands. The seven-track EP -- with 100% of proceeds going to the ACLU -- features David Bazan doing The Long Winters' "The Commander Thinks Aloud," Mates of State taking on Death Cab For Cutie's "Technicolor Girls," as well as Nada Surf performing John Vanderslice's "Wild Strawberries."
“After the election, our staff felt compelled to speak out in defense of the civil liberties of all Americans,” Barsuk's Grant McCallum says in a statement. “Helping support the crucial work of the ACLU by releasing these new tracks felt like one way we could make a statement and help, and the artists involved were all excited to donate their work." Click here to check it out.
Trump's first 100 days will be accompanied by an equal amount of songs by a galaxy of indie stars on the Our First 100 Days: One Hundred Songs That Inspire Progress and Benefit a Cause for Change compilation from Secretly Canadian Publishing. The project will feature songs from The Mountain Goats, Toro Y Moi, Angel Olsen, How to Dress Well, Mitski, PWR BTTM, Will Oldham, Beach Fossils and others, with money benefitting such advocacy groups as People's Climate Movement (environment), All Above All (reproductive rights), Cosecha (immigration) and Southerners on New Ground (LGBTQ), among others.
"With Trump's first 100 days in office upon us, action must be taken to protect the causes that will come under threat from his administration," wrote organizers of comp that launched on inauguration day. Fans can access all 100 songs in streaming or downloadable form for a minimum contribution of $30.
Arcade Fire dropped a surprise single last week with Mavis Staples, entitled "I Give You Power," explaining in a statement, "It's never been more important that we stick together and take care of each other." Dialing back the glam and disco influences of their previous Reflektor album, the low-key, burbling electro-rock song warns, "I give you power over me/ But I gottta be free/ I give you power/ But now I say/ I give you power, I can take it away."
Another comp benefitting the ACLU, the $7, 38-track Don't Stop Now, also features artist covers with everyone from Swanning, Laura Stevenson, Molar, The Menzingers, Feminine Issues and Lifted Bells, tackling songs from the likes of David Bowie, Lucinda Williams, Joni Mitchell, Nirvana, Green Day, Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Bikini Kill and Bright Eyes.
"This compilation is an expression of love, anger, hope and protest on inauguration day," reads a statement from organizers. "Let it serve as a reminder that the fight for justice is not over, that the celebration of diversity is essential to progress, that we must work together for what is fair and good. Can’t stop. Won’t Stop. Don’t stop now." Click here to order.
One of the original protest projects, the 30 Days, 30 Songs effort from author Dave Eggers and Zeitgeist Artist Management's Jordan Kurland had already expanded from a month of songs leading up to election day to 30 Days, 40 Songs and then 30 Days, 50 Songs, has now expanded into the four-year project 1,000 Days, 1,000 Songs. "All profits raised from their efforts will go directly to organizations working on the front lines of climate, women's rights, immigration and fairness," the organizers promise. "All proceeds from the streaming of original 1,000 Days, 1,000 Songs releases will be donated to the Center for Popular Democracy.
The first song in the revived effort is a 1989 recording of R.E.M.'s apocalyptic rave-up "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," with different artists tapped to curate and share songs in the upcoming years.
Speaking of all-star compilations, the brand new pay-as-you-want compilation Battle Hymns, which benefits Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and climate change non-profit 350.org, features unreleased songs from Stephen Malkmus, Boss Hogg, Quasi, Mary Timony, Doug Martsch and Rebecca Gates as well as a song by Filthy Friends (Corin Tucker, Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Kurt Bloch, Bill Rieflin), "Love in the Time of Resistance."
"Battle Hymns is a compilation album created in direct response to the current political situation in the U.S.A - it is a protest record!" say the organizers. "It will be released digitally on inauguration day in opposition to the incoming administration."
Also dropping on the eve of the inauguration was a cover of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" from Charles Lloyd & the Marvels featuring Lucinda Williams, recorded live with a band featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and pedal steel player Greg Leisz. "The timing of the release to coincide with Inauguration Day is a call to protest against past, present, and future such actions and agenda," read a statement accompanying the song, which Lloyd described as a "call to protest against the climate of aggression and destruction of our world."
Other efforts are of a more general protest nature, including the new single "Pray" from Denver alt-rock rappers Flobots, which was written and recorded prior to the election. The group describes it as "a call to action to address head-on the toxic legacy of racism and division in the United States."
Rapper Joey Bada$$ has some things to get off his mind as well on his new single, "Land of the Free," which features the lyrics, "Obama just wasn't enough, I just need some more closure/ And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over/ Let's face facts cause what's the real motives."
The ACLU is by far one of the biggest beneficiaries of the fear and concern among many creatives, with yet another compilation, Gezellig Records' instantly sold-out Is There Another Language? pulling together songs by Mount Eerie, Dean & Britta, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Surfer Blood. (The 50-copies-only cassette comp released on inauguration day has already sold out.)
The song "Stairway to Mar-A-Lago" from United Nations (which has featured Thursday's Geoff Rickly and Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw), will also help the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, railing against the former Celebrity Apprentice host with lyrics including, "You wanted candor, nativism, white indifference and no shining city/ Tragic papacy, dimwitted bigot/ Misplacing sympathies."
All the proceeds from the upcoming Music For Everyone compilation from Taking Back Sunday guitarist John Nolan will also benefit the ACLU via songs from TBS, Anti-Flag, Potty Mouth, Brendan Kelly, Frank Iero, Dead Heavens and Sleep On It, among others. “During these next four years, I feel it's going to be extremely important to support organizations that will stand up to the Trump administration,” says Nolan in a statement about Trump's administration; the album is due in the spring.
Outspoken Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders supporter Willie Nelson isn't having a weird flashback. The country icon simply wishes he could "Delete and Fast-Forward" the past year and skip to the part where Trump is out of office already -- or so he told Rolling Stone, about the song of that title, which he wrote for his upcoming album, God's Problem Child. Among the lyrics: "Delete and fast-forward, my friend/ The elections are over and nobody wins/ But don't worry too much, you'll go crazy again/ Delete and fast-forward, my friend."