With Election Day all but upon us, we find ourselves fully engaged with politics across all facets of our lives. From social media posts to non-stop news coverage to our friends and family passionately defending their candidate of choice, politics has taken over in more ways than one. Whether this presidential election has taken your engagement with the issues to the next level, or if you’ve been a relative outsider on the road to Washington, there’s no question that this race has defined a great chunk of our time in some way or another over the course of the past year. If you’re music fan, then use these tracks to push your inner political junkie even further. Rather than use songs that malign or explicitly support either of the candidates in this year’s race, these are some tracks that dig into the politics of days past.
1. Dead Kennedys – “California Über Allies”
One of the more popular songs by these California punk legends, “California Über Allies” uses satire to speak out against California Governor Jerry Brown. The title alludes to a line in the German national anthem that translates to “Germany above all”, a not-so-subtle invocation of fascist (or in this case, “zen fascist”) undertones in a Jerry Brown presidency. Frontman Jello Biafra sings of a reign where the “kids will meditate in school” and “the Suede/Denim secret police” will go after “your uncool niece”, a sort of hippy rule that would thrive under Brown. While Brown never did run for president and invoke this sort of power over the people, he and Biafra did meet a dinner party in the 90s. Biafra says that he had “no idea what color [his] face was, but if it was a mushroom it would have been poisonous”.
2. Radiohead – “There, There”
While not an overtly political record, Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief was inspired by what Thom Yorke calls “the general sense of ignorance and intolerance and panic and stupidity” that surrounded the election of George W. Bush in 2000. “There, There” doesn’t launch an attack at any particular politicians. However, when considered with its inspiration, song titles like “2 + 2 = 5”, and the general climate of uncertainty in the world around the time of the album’s release, the implication of evil standing before us in the sirens “singing you to shipwreck” becomes more potent. With how this song considers the fragility towards evil against the backdrop of a record “immersed in dread and paranoia”, it is perhaps what Thom Yorke doesn’t say that makes it even more powerful.
3. Killer Mike – “Reagan”
As opposed to the other two songs on the list, the release of “Reagan” came over 30 years after its namesake’s election to the presidency. With samples of Ronald Reagan speaking in regards to the Iran-Contra Affair, Killer Mike offers a sharp critique of the president’s legacy. Calling out the War on Drugs and the resulting incarceration of black men, he refers to Reagan as “an employee of the country’s real master”, maintaining the oppression of capitalism as status quo. Reagan’s successors are not safe either, as Mike considers them tacit endorsers of the conditions that Reagan established in his presidency, with “the Bushes, Clinton and Obama” serving more like him than they different. This may explain in part why Killer Mike endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary, a move that won him a great deal of attention.