Trump sparks reactions from musicians


Tyler Coffey/Iowa State Daily

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to the crowd gathered during his USA Thank You tour stop on Dec. 8 in Des Moines. Trump spoke about his deals with companies to keep their jobs in the United States, the states that propelled him to victory, and appointing former Iowa governor Terry Brandstad as ambassador to China.

Tisa Tollenaar

How about this for a Spotify playlist: “Songs to Dread the Trump Inauguration To.” Our president-elect hasn’t taken office yet and the music world is already lashing out. Punk’s not dead — it’s better than ever. 

Many were not happy when Trump came out the victor of the 2016 presidential election. And one of the purest forms of showing your disdain is to write a song about it, right? There’s already no shortage of music protesting the administration that hasn’t even come to power yet. 

There are songs in every genre that don’t speak very highly of Trump. Most of these songs are coming in the genres that are already known and loved for their outspoken lyrics — punk rock and rap. 

Quick history lesson: Punk developed out of frustration with political situations and a desire to reestablish systems and speak out against any perceived tyranny and originated among England’s working-class. Rap music isn’t just protest music, but its origins are in the post-civil rights era as spoken poetry of African-Americans and others experiencing oppression. Punk rock and rap are quite different instrumentally, but lyrically they are twins.

“Both attract the same demographic – young, voiceless, troubled youths,” wrote Ross Hsu, a writer for “Overture Magazine”

Musical protest isn’t just for punk and rap. It’s a part of history. 

“Some very meaningful songs have been written specifically to take a political stand,” said Amy Bix, a history professor at ISU. 

Dr. David Stuart, a professor of music, quoted songwriting activist Joe Hill: “A pamphlet, no matter how well written, is read only once, but if you can take simple, straightforward ideas and present them in a song, they will be learned and sung over and over, connecting people together.” 

Musicians of today have been connecting among themselves. Recently, headlines have been flooded with the names of numerous celebrities who refuse to play at Trump’s inauguration Friday. Some are quoted as having “politely declined” while others make perfectly clear why they said “no” or poke fun at the request.

“I’d DJ at an inaugural ball if as payment #trump released his tax returns,” electronic music artist Moby posted on Instagram.

“A simple internet search would show I think you’re a tyrant. Bye,” tweeted Welsh artist Charlotte Church. 

Perhaps one of the best public displays of Trump opposition comes from one of America’s most well known punk bands – Green Day. There’s debate from punk elitists if Green Day is still considered a punk band, but they are no stranger to using their highly public platform to speak out against the government just the same. 

Their most popular songs include “American Idiot” and “Holiday”, which are direct criticisms of then President George W. Bush and the “war on terror”. In light of recent events, Green Day has a new target.

The first public display of their defiance happened at the 2016 MTV EMA awards. The band performed “American Idiot” after accepting an award. However, instead of singing the original line, “subliminal mind, f- – – America”, singer Billie Joe Armstrong chose to sing, “subliminal mind, Trump America.”

This continued at the 2016 American Music Awards. They performed one of their newest singles, “Bang Bang”, and Armstrong chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!” at the bridge.

This line has been heard at multiple anti-Trump rallies, most notably at a Chicago protest two days after the election at Trump Tower.

Rap artists haven’t kept quiet about Trump, either. Up-and-coming artist Amine appeared on “The Tonight Show” to perform his debut single “Caroline”. The song was originally about “a modern day Billie Jean” but, on that performance, Amine delivered an additional verse aimed specifically at Trump. 

The verse referenced the 9/11 terror attacks and said, “You can never make America great again, all you ever did was make this country hate again.”

“30 Days, 30 Songs”, which later expanded to 50, is a compilation of songs by artists ranging from R.E.M. to Cold War Kids that are written specifically to criticize and protest Trump. They released one song per day starting Oct. 10 until the election. The campaign was put on by Artists for a Trump-Free America. 

“It’s not enough to sit on the sidelines for this one,” the campaign’s website reads. 

Perhaps one of the most poignant singles to be released is one by rapper YG featuring Nipsey Hussle called “FDT” – or “F- – – Donald Trump”. The song hit No. 50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in Nov. 2016. In a Rolling Stone interview, YG said the American Secret Service “called in” to Def Jam records when the song was released. YG claims they attempted to halt the release of his album “Still Brazy” and, as a result, some verses on “FDT” have been censored or removed completely.

“I like white people, but I don’t like you,” YG says in possibly one of the mildest lines in the song.

Trump’s inauguration is this Friday, but he has already become a controversial figure in American history to say the least. 

“…having music become part of politics and protest opens the door to controversy, but it also is an essential element in the evolution of music itself and American popular culture” Bix said. 

Only time will tell if the protests and criticisms of Trump hold true and steady. In the meantime, anti-Trump supporters have some interesting tunes to listen to. 

Artists that are performing at the inauguration include Jackie Evancho, Lee Greenwood, 3 Doors Down, Toby Keith, The Piano Guys, DJ Ravidrums and The Frontmen of Country.