A Few Notes Regarding the Music of 2017
Protest songs have been around since the birth of our nation, and well before that. It seems that any period of great political or cultural injustice goes hand-in-hand with critical, thought-provoking art, and musicians seem especially inclined to turn to their craft as an outlet for feelings of outrage, hope, and commiseration.
It’s no great secret that, in terms of great political and cultural injustice, 2017 was a doozy. Unsurprisingly, it was also no slouch in generating its fair share of protest art.
Vox published a good read with an accompanying playlist if you need a primer on the topic of protest songs, but I’ll bet you’re familiar with at least of few the names that typically emerge when discussing the topic: Billie Holiday, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, N.W.A, Neil Young, Kendrick Lamar—to name a few.
There are, of course, many artists putting out heartening songs against the status quo that you may not have heard of; I say this mainly to give a shout-out to The Homeless Gospel Choir, whom I have nurtured quite a fondness for over the course of last year.
I wouldn’t typically claim to have a “top song” for any period of time, but, as it turns out, I have one for 2017, and it is about the inexplicable horror residing in our White House, and it was written by a British dude.
Frank Turner is certainly no stranger to politically-driven music, and it’s his “The Sand in the Gears” that I hereby declare The Song of 2017.
Meaning essentially the same thing as “throwing a wrench in the works”, the expression “throwing sand in the gears” alludes to asserting yourself in order to slow down or end something.
After nearly a year in office, it’s all too easy to begin to normalize Donald Trump’s behavior. “Oh, that’s just Trump being Trump,” is a dangerous thought to entertain. Besides being a great song, the message in “The Sand in the Gears” is one I find incredibly important: We need to stay on alert. We need to stay angry. We need to stay ready to resist.
As Frank puts it:
So don't give into the hatred; don't give into the fear
Pour yourself a shot of anger to go with your beer
Let’s be the sand in the gears for the next four years