Stickin’ It to the Man: the Top 5 Politically Bad-ass Bands

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Poets, musicians, and artists are the chroniclers of time, not historians. They shape our collective cultural nostalgia. These artists are often the bane of politicians’ existences. They don’t take bribes, aren’t worried about re-election, or how they will look in 10th grade history books. Instead, they look at the world around them without rose tinted glasses, and dare to voice (and strum and beat) their opinions. “œArt is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it.”These five artists wield their hammers well.

5 The Specials

The entire formation of the Specials is based on the idea of racial equality. A mix-raced, 2-tone group, the Specials’ image, lyrics, marketing, and beliefs were all geared toward promoting “œpositive anti-racist”values and progressive ideas. One of their most famous songs Nelson Mandela is considered as one of the top protest songs of all time. Too Much Too Young promotes safe sex. Ghost Town is a call to end racial violence at gigs, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In a racially tense 1980s England, the Specials were a driving force to end the National Front, while also criticizing the government for “œleaving the youth on the shelf.”Their music is exceptionally political, and also flat-out exceptional. You can’t help but dance to it, and what’s cooler than moving around to songs about equality, safe sex, and unity?

4 Michael Franti & Spearhead

Hailing from a genre that promotes peace and harmony, Reggae group Michael Franti & Spearhead not only pen brilliant anti-war, pro-environment, and equalitarian lyrics, but also filmed a documentary where Franti went to the Gaza strip. His political leanings are a subtle as a sledgehammer in a china shop, but his music is poignant, beautiful, and melodic. Tears spring to your eyes in the anti-war song Time To Go Home; Franti pleads: “œdon’t take our boys away, don’t take our girls away.”Listening to Michael Franti & Spearhead makes you feel part of a universally humanitarian effort toward peace.

3 Muse

Unlike some other bands, Muse’s political views aren’t as overt in their discography. The album where their beliefs seem most striking is Black Holes & Revelations. In songs like Take a Bow Muse pens, “œYou corrupt and bring corruption to all that you touch”¦ cast a spell on the country you run”¦ you will burn in hell for your sins.”Bellamy, responsible for most of Muse’s lyrics, is a left-leaning libertarian. The band espouses anti-political corruption; not a novel idea, but one that is still in the minority among the leaders of today.

2 Rage Against the Machine

Melding two disparate genres in the face of the “œman”is what Rage Against the Machine is all about. The L.A.-based rap-metal group is outspokenly anti-conservatism. During the 2008 DNC they played a free concert, and then joined an anti-war march. Along with members of Pearl Jam, The Roots, REM, and Nine Inch Nails they recorded “œRage Against Torture”in protest of the methods of interrogation at Guantanamo Prison. They are famous for their 1996 SNL debacle when they attempted to hang inverted American flags as a symbol of the inverted democracy in which we are living. In 2000, during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, RATM performed to a very tense crowd, most of who began protesting when they were attacked by LAPD firing rubber bullets into the crowd. Frontman Zach de la Rocha shouted, “œWe have a right to protest these motherf*****s!”And he’s right. We do, and we should never forget it.

1 Pussy Riot

The Russian feminist punk rock collective Pussy Riot has the world’s tongues wagging. Consisting of 11 women, Pussy Riot stages guerrilla shows against Putin and the Orthodox Church. On March 3, 2012, three members were imprisoned for “œhooliganism.”They were given an unreasonably short two days to prepare defence. They were convicted and imprisoned. People all over the world protested the arrest and imprisonment, including the likes of Madonna and Björk. Pussy Riot distanced themselves from the Western artists and reiterated their anti-capitalism, anti-commodification views. Two of the three women are still imprisoned at work camps. Pussy Riot continues to make music, and this January the documentary “œPussy Riot: A Punk Prayer”premiered at Sundance. These hammer-wielding women aspire to make tangible change in their homeland.

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