There is power in the music.
Throughout human existence, music has had a profound impact on society. From the tribe chants of ancient history to the emotional fans singing ‘fix you’with Chris Martin — there is undeniable link between a songs and emotion. They have the power to make us smile, cry and dance, all at the same time. A song can connect to someone on a personal level and relate to so many in society. In some cases, songs can capture time perfectly and be the backing track to memorable parts in our lives.
It’s evident through trade unions and the use of songs such as ‘bread and roses’that music connects humanity together and can encapsulate a campaign through the unity a song can create. Through singing together, a community becomes one and with this comes emotion, passion and love. Essentially, you are singing in harmony together and can be an army of emotion. You can be powerful with songs.
So…no wonder politicians use music to solidify a political campaign and make us feel empowered. Countless leaders have adopted a song to provide emotion to their campaign, empower people to feel emotion and provide the backing track to their campaign. In a way, the selection choice of songs forms the tone of the campaign. If you choose an aggressive song then its undeniable your campaign will be very kickass whilst if you choose a loving song then you want feel people to feel warm and joyful. Songs therefore encapsulate a political manifesto in 3 minutes and a whole lot of dancing included. Or at least they have the potential to.
In the 21st century many politicians have utilised the power of music whether its for their political campaign or for personal benefits. In some cases, the songs have built up a reputation to be ‘that politics song’.When you hear it you are reminded of a political campaign or a feeling of empowerment. Regardless of whether it was the artist’s intention, some songs have become the backing track to a political campaign.
So, let’s go down memory lane and explore the songs that have become the musical version of a political campaign or movement.
1. ‘There is Power in the Union’by Billy Bragg. Braggs lyrics could easily be a speech of a Len McCuskey. The one big difference is that whilst you can’t dance to a speech in the middle of London on a march, you easily can dance and sing to this song. After listening to his song, I almost guarantee anyone, they will be getting out their red paint badges, getting placards out and call themselves a ‘comrade’for at least a day. The harmonies used in the chorus, arguably provides a unity and sense of pride in the song. Through singing together, you feel powerful and part of a movement. This song is the perfect backing track to the trade union movement. It captures the unity of marches through the harmonies in the chorus and the demands of the unionist through the lyrics of the song.
2. ‘In the Air Tonight’by Phil Collins.Used by a BBC panorama documentary about the SNP in the 2015 election, this song perfectly captures the ambition of Nicola Sturgeon and the pride of the SNP in the election result. Sturgeon had waited for this moment for all her life and on the night of the election, the victory of the SNP was in the air. The song’s somewhat danger and anger in the song reflects the SNPs agenda of reform and revival from the Scottish independence referendum. The song written by Collin arguably represents the feeling of somewhat danger in westminster to the sudden influx of the SNP in politics. They were back and they were ready for action. They were ready for power. They had invaded British politics and they had conquered Scotland (politically, of course). A kickass song for a kickass female political leader.
3. ‘Fight Song’by Rachel Platten.For Hillary Clinton in 2016, this was the perfect political campaign song. Whilst it captured her agenda for reform and empowerment through the idea for ‘fight song’it was also sung by a woman, perfect for the potential first female president. Although looking back it seems cringe, this song has the potential to make the electorate feel empowered and engaged in politics. Essentially the song was used by Clinton in attempt to inspire USA to vote for her and fight for her leadership. The chants in the song establish a sense of unity and somewhat cross parraells with Billy Braggs ‘there is power in the union’as it creates an illusion of a movement.
4. ‘Harder than you think’by Public Enemy.Whilst this song was not used in an official political campaign, it was labour leadership candidate of 2015, Liz Kendall’s song in preparation for speeches. According to Kendall, she would listen to this song before any major events or speaking position to mentally prepare herself. From listening to this song, I can see why this was her chosen song. The kickass melody and rapping creates a definite sense of empowerment and ambition. This is a perfect political song as it the backing track to reforming and kicking ass to society.
5. ‘Things Can Only Get Better’by D:Ream. Think Blair. Think 1997. Think Labour. I almost guarantee anyone that on listening to this song, people return to the hazy day of 1997 and the positive, optimistic atmosphere in the country. New Labour got it perfect with this song. In an incredibly cringe way, they captured the optimism the nation had on the brink to the 21stcentury and the euphoria people had around Blair. Through the chorus and the harmony accompanied with this, there is a clear sense of unity and being part of a movement. The chorus somewhat represents Britain that was in 1997, singing the same metaphorical sheet and singing in unity. Additionally, the tone of the songs provides a sort of euphoria that the Labour party needed in their election. This is undeniably the best backing track to Labours optimistic, empowered and winning platform of 1997.
Looking to the future, what will be the next ‘political songs’? The US elections of 2020 will be an incredible opportunity for musicians to cash in their royalties with a song that captures a political movement. There will be a public announcement for songs that can be a musician manifesto. Maybe it will be Coldplay this time for a more emotional, cringe, heartfelt political campaign or we could have some Eminem for some kickass leadership candidacy. I guess that will depend on the political climate and the type of leader.