Trump makes political music great again

4 min

New York (AFP)

Donald Trump took office vowing to rebuild industry. One where he has already achieved inadvertent success is political music, with songs against his presidency quickly proliferating.

Trump's idiosyncratic campaign, in which he denounced Mexican immigrants, Muslims and other minorities, set off a deluge of protest songs and a new round has emerged as he was sworn in Friday as the 45th president of the United States.

The tone has often been angry, with many artists taking to high-decibel guitars to vent frustration, while other songs take a more dour, contemplative look at a once unthinkable political shakeup.

Two major bands released their first music in years timed with the inauguration -- Arcade Fire, one of the top names in indie rock, and virtual rockers Gorillaz, a side project of Blur frontman Damon Alban.

Arcade Fire's song, "I Give You Power," is driven by a dark synthesized dance beat with vocals by R&B great and veteran civil rights activist Mavis Staples. The band said it would donate proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has vowed to fight Trump aggressively through the courts.

With some similarities, the new Gorillaz track, "Hallelujah Money," is a trippy, electronic maze with the rich, wide-ranging voice of the Mercury Prize-winning British singer Benjamin Clementine.

A number of musicians have also taken an increasingly strident role since the election. Green Day chanted "No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!" while performing at the nationally televised American Music Awards in November -- refreshing a punk slogan which has since been embraced by anti-Trump demonstrators.

- More songs to come -

Rapper Joey Bada$$ marked the inauguration with "Land of the Free," which ruminates on continued racial inequalities after the exit of Barack Obama as the first African American president.

"Sorry America, but I will not be your soldier / Obama just wasn't enough, I just need some more closure," he raps.

DJ and longtime activist Moby put out a video for "Erupt and Matter," a return to his punk roots with his Void Pacific Choir.

The video intersperses images of Trump with European far-right leaders, foreign strongmen and pitched battles on the streets.

Other political songs come from more surprising sources. Fiona Apple, whose music is full of feminist empowerment themes but who generally shies from publicity, released "Tiny Hands."

The track intersperses Apple chanting -- "We don't want your tiny hands / Anywhere near our underpants" -- with a sample of the infamous video in which Trump was caught boasting of forcing himself on women.

A compilation benefit album released for the inauguration, "Battle Hymns," features previously unreleased music by leaders of some the biggest indie rock bands of the 1990s including Pavement, Sleater-Kinney and Built to Spill.

And more protest music is on the way.

The "Our First 100 Days" project plans songs throughout the beginning of the Trump presidency to support groups working on immigrant rights, climate change and other causes seen as threatened by the new administration.

It succeeds "30 Days, 30 Songs" during the campaign that brought out new or revived tracks by artists including R.E.M., Death Cab for Cutie, Aimee Mann and Franz Ferdinand.

- Back to music's adversarial role -

The protest songs mark a sharp change from the past eight years when Obama hobnobbed with top names in music including Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen and U2.

Obama also startled many music watchers by inviting to the White House and appearing to show genuine enthusiasm for more innovative artists including Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean.

Trump struggled to find A-list acts for his inauguration, which instead brought the forthright, heartland patriotism of country music to the nation's capital.

Trump -- who has accurately noted that he won despite the entertainment industry's embrace of his rival Hillary Clinton -- brings the music world back to its more common adversarial relationship with power.

Washington became a punk rock epicenter during the 1981-89 presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Jello Biafra, of Dead Kennedys fame, one of the most influential frontmen in US punk, vowed to battle Trump -- although he noted that major punk acts were already active in the 1970s.

"Let's get over this myth that this is somehow going to inspire great punk rock that otherwise wouldn't have happened," he said in a YouTube essay, adding it was like Reagan frequently getting "credit for the fall of the Soviet Union."