As we begin to take a look at protest music during our lifetime, I am very excited to begin analyzing two songs that I had known, yet had not taken the time to understand more deeply. When I began looking into protest music of the 2000s, I was worried that the songs would be unfamiliar to me, songs that I had never heard before. However, after beginning some deeper research, I realized that two songs I enjoy – The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” – are rooted in protest music.


“Where is the Love” by the Black Eyed Peas has always been a song that I personally enjoy because of the music and the melody. For this reason, at first listen without paying attention to the lyrics, it sounds like an upbeat and uplifting song, one that would often be played at middle school and high school dances (in my personal experience). The opening beat of the song immediately invites you in with its catchy tune. Further, the harmony of the chorus and the repetitive, “where is the love,” makes me want to sing along. I found myself subconsciously bopping my head to the tune of the music.


However, when you stop to take a listen to the lyrics, it is evident that they are talking about something much deeper. For example, take a look at the chorus:


People killin’ people dyin’
Children hurtin’, I hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preachin’?
Would you turn the other cheek again?
Mama, mama, mama, tell us what the hell is goin’ on
Can’t we all just get along?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questioning
(Where’s the love)


It’s hard to break down everything that the Black Eyed Peas are touching on in this song, but it’s evident that they see something off-balance in the world with all of the fighting, terrorism, discrimination, etc. that is present.


I think that part of the reason why I am drawn to this song is because of the delivery of the music. The opening voice almost commands to be listened to without being overbearing. I also notice that certain words have more emphasis with the voices of others, such as “USA,” “CIA,” and “KKK” in the opening lines. Further, the chorus takes on a gentler voice while maintaining and blending into the melody. It sounds softer and seems to almost ask for help and guidance as it enters into, “where is the love.”


After listening to the song several times, as well as watching the “Where is the Love” music video, it seems more evident that the Black Eyed Peas are speaking out in 2003, possibly prompted by the recent September 11 attacks that occurred in 2001. They touch on a number of issues; despite the variety of violence there appears to be one answer – LOVE. If I chose this song for my podcast, I would love to research further the motivation behind this song, as well as look into the complementing music video, as it also intrigues me.


The second song that I decided to look at more closely is a more recent song – M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” At first listen to the music alone, it is a very catchy and captivating tune. Until beginning to look at protest music more closely, I had no idea that this song was touching on something much deeper.


However, when looking at the lyrics, such as, “If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name” and “Bonafide hustler making my name,” M.I.A. is touching on the view that immigrants often faced when coming to the US. This stereotypical view is very much present today, as it was in 2007 when M.I.A. released this song.


M.I.A.’s delivery makes it a bit difficult to hear the actual lyrics behind the song. As the music, beat, and gun / cash register noise is so loud, it is slightly difficult to fully catch the lyrics. However, I think that this blur of lyrics adds to the song’s catchiness and fast beat.


Overall, my understanding of this song could definitely grow through the podcast assignment. Unlike “Where is the Love,” I think that there are more hidden and obscured meanings behind “Paper Planes,” such as the meaning behind the repeated cash register and gun-shot noises. I would love to learn more about these meanings, as well as find out if the common listener knows what this song is all about.


Did you know that “Paper Planes” is actually talking about a much deeper issue? Let me know in the comments below.


Wishing everyone lots of luck with their future podcast projects!