One Republic’s song “Secrets” contains the line “Everyday I see the news / All the problems that we could solve / And when a situation rises / Just write it into an album.” Every time I hear that song, I think about the potential musicians have to make a difference. I noticed that the VMA’s have a category entitled “Best Video with a Social Message,” and it got me thinking about modern “musical activists.”
Rapper Macklemore, featured in that VMA category, made waves with his song “Same Love.” Written in support of marriage equality, Macklemore’s frank portrayal of the situation and direct call out to those opposed to the concept caused some controversy but exposed the issue to a wider audience. As of this post, the video had 94,342,471 views.
2013 must have been the year of proactive pop stars, because British sensation Ellie Goulding released a video to expose the struggles of the one million Syrian children who have fled for their lives. In partnership with the organization Save the Children’s Syria efforts, the video for Goulding’s song “I Know You Care” features heart-wrenching images of the Syrian plight. All proceeds from purchases of this track benefit the organization and go towards aid for the region’s children.
Another example of a musician using their music as a platform to bring attention to important issues is Colombian rocker Juanes. In 2008, Juanes headlined the first Peace Without Borders (Paz Sin Fronteras) concert in Colombia. The idea behind these concerts is to bring people together through a shared love of music on temporarily neutral ground in an area shrouded in conflict. Juanes and his peaceful protests gained massive media attention in 2009 when Peace Without Borders had their second concert, this time in Cuba. Due to the controversy Juanes received over choosing Cuba, Peace Without Borders took a little break. However, the activism lives on. In honor of the United Nation’s International Day of Peace 2011, Juanes unveiled a video featuring popular Colombians like Eva Longoria talking about peace as a human right.
Music can often be a form of peaceful protest. Less than a month ago, renowned Colombian artists teamed up to show support for farmers striking against Colombia’s agricultural policies. The farmers bemoaned recently signed Free Trade agreements and the show of musical solidarity symbolized the unity of the people against big government. The song, entitled Potato with Yuca, speaks to the ongoing disputes over land rights and is a call to action for the people of Colombia.
And the ball of musical change keeps on rolling. Recently, a video released by a Saudi Arabian, California-based singer has caused quite a stir. Sung in protest of Saudi Arabia’s refusal to grant licences to women, banning them from driving. The statement made by this female singer was two-fold, as not only are women not granted the freedom to go where they will and drive, but singing is also restricted.
Music carries ideas from the heads of their creators into the hearts of the people. Music brings hope, unites people and reminds us that our voices were meant to be heard. The winds of change have never sounded so good.