Societal Change in Music

By Matthew Crane

Music serves the same use in our democracy as it has in all societies previous of ours. Music is a powerful tool for expression and conveying your message in an enjoyable way. In the 17th century, music was used by churches to honor God, in the 20th century music evolved into a way to communicate frustration and the need for societal change. This is where current music fits in.

In the 60s music was used as a way to communicate the need for peace and love. Bob Dylan is an artist that thrived in this environment, writing songs about letting go of the past and accepting the changing future. In the 90s, music evolved into angry, on the verge of violent, protests (Rage Against the Machine for example.)

Topics in music have ranged from peace, to the perils of capitalism (warning, this link is very long but this is a great song about corporate greed.) The obvious contradiction in many of the songs is the capitalism involved in making this art widespread and available.

Today, music is still being used as a way to change society. Regardless of limits that record labels put on free expression, musicians have found a way to continue writing music that pushes the mold. Kendrick Lamar is a great example of this. In his recent album DAMN. Lamar explores themes surrounding racism, culture, and the American dream. One of the best lyrics of the album comes in the song “XXX.”

Johnny don’t wanna go to school no mo’, no mo’

Johnny said books ain’t cool no mo’ (no mo’)

Johnny wanna be a rapper like his big cousin

Johnny caught a body yesterday out hustlin’

God bless America, you know we all love him

He addresses the American government and explains, in his experience, that the black youth is pressured away from going to school. Lamar sees that there is a problem in society and uses his music to address them.


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