As an avid listener to music from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, I would like to think I have a good grasp of famous protest songs. However, when trying to think of protest songs released in my lifetime, I had a lot of trouble finding any at first. After many Spotify shuffles, I realized I had many protest songs in my library that I didn’t even think of.
The first song I chose was “Mystery of Iniquity” by Lauryn Hill. The song is from her second MTV Unplugged session. The entire set that she played was compiled of protest songs, but the one I have chosen is most obviously trying to voice something. This song expresses the frustration with the American legal system. When listening to the lyrics alone, almost every line makes you want to pause the song to have more time to think about it. She is reflecting on all of the ways that our society has grown in a negative way, and her phrasing hits the listener hard. The performance of the song is fully striped down, as is the whole show since it was on Unplugged. Hill is only using an acoustic guitar, and even rapping acapella at some points. Her vocals have a lot of passion in them in both the beginning, which is sung, and the rest of the song, which is rapped.
The second song I chose is “Angel Down” by Lady Gaga. I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga, so I have heard this song many times before. I had figured it was some kind of protest song, but never really looked into it before. For this assignment, I decided to finally look up the meaning of it. I was surprised to find that Lady Gaga actually wrote this song about Trayvon Martin. While re-listening to the song for this assignment, the lyrics finally made sense to me. Gaga is expressing the severe sadness of seeing someone killed and nothing being done about it. The lyrics also show the frustration with the way leaders handle situations of this nature. The instrumentation of this song is particularly striped down for a Lady Gaga song, which aligns with the subject matter. The tone of Gaga’s voice perfectly captures the lyrics of the song and the feeling that many had after the death of Trayvon Martin. After listening to this song several times for this assignment, and knowing the meaning, it becomes an incredibly emotional song.
“Angel Down” and “Mystery of Iniquity” did not show up on any lists of the top protest songs, but I find both of them worth talking about. I think “Angel Down” could be a good song to discuss in a podcast, because like many protest songs, it may have a specific subject matter to the artist, but it could apply to many situations. I’m considering “Mystery of Iniquity” for the podcast because there is so much said within the lyrics that could be analyzed deeper.