In the days leading up to Super Bowl LI, many took to Facebook to write about how they hoped Lady Gaga would not use her halftime performance to make a political statement. Many believe that music and politics should be separated from one another, that music should only be used to entertain the masses and not to convey a message. However, as a songwriter and musician, I have to disagree. Music, by nature, exists to speak.
Victor Hugo once said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” As a songwriter, I have written comical songs about hating ex-boyfriends and emotional songs about being in love with someone, but all of my songs were written with the intention of conveying a message. I believe most songwriters sit down to write a song with that same intention. With that in mind, let’s take a brief look at the history of music and the ways in which it was used to convey various messages.
Folk and rock artists in the sixties used music as an avenue to speak up about the Civil Rights Movement. Bob Dylan is well-known for his “protest songs,” such as ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’.” Joan Baez marched alongside Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and took the streets of a war-torn Sarajevo to sing “Amazing Grace.” Going even further back in history, songs could be heard in the cotton fields during times of slavery, bellowed from the mouths and hearts of those enslaved. These songs provided a sense of hope and were an outlet for expressing pain and sorrow. Even Christian music conveys a message and is sung as an expression of worship and reverence to God.
It is easy to see how music has always been used to convey a message, to express an emotion, to promote change. So how could we separate music from politics? How could we take the meaning away from music and make it strictly entertaining? How could we take away the voices of those who feel they cannot speak out? Simply put, we cannot. We must allow music to continue to speak.
– Grace Anderson, LMG Intern