Hey, friends and readers. How's everyone holding up? The events and results of the 2016 election seem to have had an impact on everyone (like hurtling-comet-deep-impact impact), and we at Westword Music — no matter how tight we clamp down our headphones — are not immune. Since Tuesday night, there have been demonstrations, both peaceful and with elements of violence, in communities across the country. On Thursday, November 10, the streets of downtown Denver were filled with thousands of demonstrators representing a wide swath of citizens who feel that their rights or causes are diminished or threatened by the election of the new administration. The march briefly blocked traffic on I-25, but there were no arrests or instances of violence.
On Thursday night, president-elect Donald Trump took to his Twitter account to address these protests:
Westword reported on Thursday night's demonstration in Denver, which was, in fact, organized via social media by a private individual. The gathering resisted labels or affiliations with existing organizations and did not state or enforce a strict agenda. There were members of the press documenting the event, but the claim that any action was "incited by the media" does not appear to be based in fact. But, hey, maybe protests are "incited" whenever someone pulls out a camera these days. Or when a reporter asks for a quote or tries to figure out what's going on and why.
After all, Westword is part of the alternative press, which has long operated as a free-to-the-public service that seeks to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." (Though the quote originated from an early-twentieth-century newspaper humor piece, the idea has been attributed to the deeds of Eleanor Roosevelt and the poetry of Lucille Clifton.) The line between what afflicts and what comforts seems very fine now. Words, actions and beliefs that comfort one person severely afflict another. Yet many have been moved to speak out and share information in this beginning aftermath of the election, and are finding catharsis for frustration by taking even small actions.
As music journalists, we often turn to songs for catharsis and for direction, so we compiled a list of songs that we hope readers might find useful in these turbulent times. You'll find punk, hip-hop, soul, pop and more represented in these songs. Some of them are overtly political, some are not. The music itself can cause discomfort, but if speaking truth to power requires driving bass lines and the itch to get out of our seats, and if urgent lyrics and catchy melodies can push us forward into progress and peace...well, then crank it up.
In (almost) alphabetical order by artist, we present our "Incited by the Media" Playlist.
1. "Alright," by Kendrick Lamar
Lamar's "Alright" was first adopted as a protest anthem by the Movement for Black Lives, a conference at Cleveland State University that convened Black Lives Matters' unofficial network of activists shortly following the fatal shooting of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice by police. Several tracks from Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly were suggested by our writers, but this chorus in particular continues to inspire defiant hope in the face of despair. — Riley Cowing, Katie Moulton
2. "Noise," by Anousheh
I love what this song says about wanting to do something, wanting to speak up, wanting to make a positive impact, and not knowing where to begin or what your particular contribution is. Somewhere in between apathy and action, but with an encouraging message. It seems to say, "It's time. Let's use our voices." — Lara Ruggles
3. "Anatomy of Your Enemy," by Anti-Flag
"Be sure the enemy you have chosen is nothing like you. Find obvious differences like race, language, religion, dietary habits, fashion. THIS IS HOW TO CREATE AN ENEMY, THIS IS HOW TO START A WAR." Fourteen years ago, with the Mobilize album, politi-punks Anti-Flag wrote a song that should have made every Islamophobe, xenophobe and racist feel decidedly silly. Rather, one of them will become president. — Brett Callwood
4. "Fuck Armageddon, This Is Hell," by Bad Religion
This is my favorite song by the smartest punk-rock group of all time. Even as teenagers, Bad Religion saw the sterility of Southern California and the hypocrisy and corruption of the Reagan Administration and wondered how hell could be any worse. Trump's America needs a band like Bad Religion to give us some intelligent, brutal anthems. — Adam Perry
5. "Revolution," by the Beatles
As the votes were coming in, I put on "Helter Skelter" and then "Revolution" when the result was confirmed. The Beatles are my safe place; my parents used them for their wedding song, I listened to them growing up and all throughout my life. I just kept repeating: "Everything's gonna be...all right." — Dylan White
6. "White Riot," by the Clash
I like "White Riot," by the Clash. The song was written in the 1970s, encouraging white people to stand with people of color for equality. Decades later, and the song is still relevant. — Emily Healy
7. "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," by Dead Kennedys
The ultimate middle finger to what is about to become our establishment, the DK original version is majestic, though the Napalm Death cover is also well worth checking out. The time for healing is later. Right now, we need a safe outlet for our anger, and this song provides it: "The real Nazis run your schools/They're coaches, businessmen and cops/In a real Fourth Reich, you'll be the first to go." — Callwood
8. "Full Communism," by Downtown Boys
— Bree Davies
9. "What It Means," by Drive By Truckers
While this song directly discusses the Trayvon Martin shooting, it also addresses our race issues as a whole and asks what it means. The band doesn't try to answer this question, just sadly laments how far we've slipped as a country. The line "We're living in an age where limitations are forgotten. The outer edges move and dazzle us, but the core is something rotten," resonates even more now, after this disastrous election. — Andy Thomas
10. "Trans Day of Revenge," by G.L.O.S.S.
11. "Black Me Out," by Against Me!
This track by conscious-punk band Against Me!, from its 2014 album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, translates feelings of powerlessness into rage and releases them via overblown threats against oppressors-that-be. Though it seems that many Americans, no matter whom they voted for, might connect with these lyrics — after all, what can you do when the other side doesn't seem to hear you? — it also leads all of my Smash the Patriarchy mixtapes. — Moulton
12. "Keep on Livin," by Le Tigre
13. "The World Is Yours," by Nas
Last night I was talking with an older stranger who was born and raised in Brooklyn. I lived in the Bronx for four years, and we bonded over hip-hop immediately. We talked about the election results, and before I left, he told me, "Being nice to each other is the closest thing to bringing heaven on earth." That's a shining example that the world is yours, and it is what you make it. — White
14. "Travis Letter," by Willie Nelson
This recording is Willie Nelson reading William B. Travis's letter from the Alamo. I was born and reared in the home of the Alamo — San Antonio, Texas. I have always had a revolutionary spirit and no one embodies that better than the heroes that defended the Republic of Texas (and Willie). The best way to make change is to fight for it. Remember the Alamo! — White
15. "The State Lottery," by Propagandhi
Instead of making hollow threats to move to Canada, look to the north for inspiration. Propagandhi breaks from the polite stereotypes of itshomeland by creating powerful protest anthems. “The State Lottery” captures the myopia of politicians who think their job is to win and not to serve. — Kevin O'Brien
16. "Welcome to the Terrordome," by Public Enemy
You could pick pretty much any track from the near-perfect Fear of a Black Planet album and you'll find something that reflects the frustration many are fearing post-election. Chuck D's lyrics are so on-point and, as it turns out, timeless. The lines "As for now, I know how to avoid the paranoid/Man, I've had it up to here/Gear I wear got 'em going in fear" strike a power chord. — Callwood
17. "USA," by Reagan Youth
While most of the country was feeling the warm glow of morning in America, Dave Rubinstein and Reagan Youth saw through the act like a jaded movie critic after watching Reagan star in another B-movie flop. The band's unrelenting rage and righteousness captured the angst of its time, which has now become timeless. After nearly half of the country didn’t vote in such an important election, the lyrics “In the U.S., A’s for apathy” have never been more accurate. — O'Brien
18. "BWYR," by Shovels & Rope
"BWYR" discusses the horrific 2015 shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the town that duo Shovels & Rope calls home. It was such a horrific event and a giant step back for this country, and it's scary to think it helped galvanize a misdirected school of thought that our new "leader of the free world" seems to support. —Thomas
19. "Businessmen," by Subhumans
"Businessmen," by the Subhumans, is an honest look at how corporations and money-obsessed patriarchs rule the world. I thought about this even with the prospect of Hillary Clinton winning, but the sad thing with Trump — the first president with zero government experience — gaining power based only on his reputation as a great businessman is that he isn't even an economic expert. He is simply a famous silver spoon who used fear and anger to win votes. — Perry
20. "In the Movies," by Two Cow Garage
When bassist Shane Sweeney sings, "They should put me in the White House, make sure we're all treated the same," it seems like such a simple and obtainable goal and a quality that all presidents should strive for. It's sad to listen to that line and now realize how differently our new president will treat and affect large populations of HUMANS in this country. — Thomas
21. "Who Is He (and What Is He to You)," by Bill Withers
I am summoning the strength of some of my favorite female film leads. Among them is Pam Grier in Jackie Brown, one of Tarantino's best crime thrillers (IMO). Brown is busted for smuggling dirty money, but instead of folding, she fights and double-crosses everyone she's worked with. The movie is violent — she holds a gun to Samuel L. Jackson's dick — but an ode to all the nasty women. One of my favorite songs off the soundtrack is Bill Withers's "Who Is He (and What Is He To You)?" It's soulful and comforting, and asks a question I'd like to pose to half of the goddamn electorate right now. — Ana Campbell
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22. "Complicated Game," by XTC
"Complicated Game" is a menacing, creative piece of English genius that slowly tells the story, from childhood to world-weary participation in ostensible democracy, of realizing that your voice, more often than not, doesn't count. It feels appropriate this week considering how many millions of Americans (almost half of qualified voters) decided not to vote at all. — Perry