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Anthems for Failed Revolutions

This installment of the Lazy Friday Playlist is dedicated to all the failed revolutions of recent history. It reminds us that music carries a message but not a movement. #Resistance is futile but music is what fuels our outrage weary souls. The revolution will not be televised, tweeted, or Snapchatted but it might have a Spotify playlist as it’s soundtrack. This playlist includes the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, The Streets, M.I.A., will.i.am, and the DNC!

Sex Pistols – ‘God Save The Queen’ (1977)

Royalty is garbage but this song is gold. Sadly the Sex Pistols revolution of glue sniffing chavs was a cultural movement but not a political one, despite all the punk rock the UK still ended up with austerity mad Thatcher and the neutered Blairite Labour party.

The Clash – ‘Rock the Casbah’ (1982)

The sheikh will not like it but you can’t help but love this classic.

Bruce Springsteen – ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ (1984)

The first song that made me feel righteous indignation about the American nation. The seminal anthem from the seminal artist of a seminal period. Strangely this song makes me incredibly proud to be an American.

Public Enemy – ‘Fight the Power’ (1989)

Fight the power fueled my pre-adolescent awakening of social consciousness. Well that and parents who gave me Abby Hoffman’s “Steal This Book” when I was in third grade. When my friend’s were listening to Milli Vanilli’s ”Girl You Know It’s True’ I was rocking Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ with a youthful aplomb that is fairly embarrassing in hindsight. I remember bringing ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ to my first overnight basketball camp and playing it non-stop all week until one of the older boys at the camp stole the tape and threw it out the window. Public Enemy is the most successful protest anthem on this list inspiring a generation of young people who believe Black Lives Matter or at least that racism probably isn’t cool.

Pennywise – Bro Hymn (1991)

Bro Hymn isn’t a revolutionary song per se but it evokes the sense of solidarity any good uprising requires. Anyone who lost a good friend to an untimely death or a circumstances of life can relate to this song. Whether you were punching nazis in mosh pits before  it was fashionable or if you just want to rock out this song is for you. Crack open a Mickey’s Wide Mouth, sit back, and reminisce. Don’t think too hard about the fact that this classic didn’t crack the Billboard Top 100 the same year a song written for the Kevin Costner ‘Robin Hood’ movie topped the charts.

Rage Against the Machine – ‘Killing in the Name’ (1992)

If you were a 90’s kid and you grew up well off enough to be able to afford to be angry this was your anthem. Too bad Rage checked out for the entirety of the Bush administration when we really needed their anger.

The Streets – Geezers Need Excitement (2002)

‘Geezers Need Excitement’ evokes the energetic but messy drunk one can only achieve when mixing cheap whiskey shots, Magners cider, and cheap British ale.  This anthem dedicated to drunk and violent to “Non-Educated Delinquents” skillfully mixes code-switching language and changes in meter that yo-yo between near perfect staccato and lazy slur. Arguably one of the best pro-marijuana anthems of all time it has been co-opted by the same drunken louts it seeks to mock. Booze still dominates U.K. intoxicant intake and marijuana still a scheduled drug but this song still bangs sixteen years later.

M.I.A. – Paper Planes (2007)

‘Paper Planes’ rocked the music scene with it’s unapologetic lyrics and centering of issues of the global south with a catchy infectious chorus that evoked nursery rhyme and violence. The hook is based on a replayed sample of the 1982 song ‘Straight to Hell’ by The Clash which was revolutionary in of itself. ‘Paper Planes’ has good bones, sick hooks, and the feeling of vague rebellion that feels like a middle finger to the establishment.

will.i.am –  Yes We Can Obama Song  (2008)

If you worked on the Obama campaign in any capacity you had a CD floating around the floor of your car with “Yes We Can” scrawled on the front in pink or blue marker. This song is the perfect period piece for the “Hope and Change” we felt in 2008 in our small rural Pennsylvania Obama campaign field office. We felt it in our veins, we were changing the world, it was historic, it was important and it was now. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t do together and nothing could stop us. This song was written for us and we were celebrities by proxy. Nine years later it is hard to encapsulate that feeling without feeling a little resigned, lots of great things happened, much of them ephemeral and most systematic issues worsened through compromise after compromise. Imagining that magic moment in November of 2008 seems impossible in the MAGA world we live in today nevertheless enjoy this artifact of a brighter future.

Democratic National Convention – Our Fight Song (2016)

Arguably the most embarrassing political anthem of all time ‘Fight Song’ was a reheated and barely changed version of the  Rachel Platten teeny bopper hit “Fight Song.” Like the Clinton campaign itself this song was an overengineered attempt to reboot the Obama 2008 energy without the same soul and substance. It was designed by committee to be Hillary Clinton’s “Yes We Can” song and it failed because that’s exactly what it was.

‘Our Fight Song’ encapsulated the problems with the Clinton campaign in the longest 3 minutes and 21 seconds of your life. The song like the campaign was heavily reliant on out-of-tune celebrity cameos, attempted to shoe horn symbolic diversity without delivering as much as a promise to those same communities, and was arguably a 2008 tune in a 2016 world. They say a camel is a horse designed by committee and ‘Our Fight Song’ is an inspirational anthem designed by that same committee.

The choice of this song belied the self-affirmational, internally focused, and solipsistic nature of a campaign  more concerned with proving they were “alright” than winning. The chorus says all you need to know about why the campaign lost to the most unpopular candidate in history.

This is my fight song / Take back my life song /Prove I’m alright song / My power’s turned on / Starting right now I’ll be strong / I’ll play my fight song / And I don’t really care if nobody else believes / ‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

“Our Fight Song” like the Clinton campaign was more about them and less about us. Please enjoy this delightful anthem of self indulgent schlock while remembering the campaign spent over a billion dollars losing to Donald Trump.