Music With A Message: Musicians for a Trump-Free America

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of KXSU.


Unless you are somehow blissfully unaware (in which case I think I envy you…) the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is under two weeks away. The mess of campaigns over the last two years has taken a toll on us all so I can understand why another article about this bizarre election is probably the last thing you want to read, so we’re going to shake it up and talk about the election in the context of music.

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Let’s start nationally. Some may remember a campaign called 90 Days, 90 Reasons, initiated by Dave Eggers and Jordan Kurland, as a way to “re-inspire the grassroots army that got Obama elected in the first place” during the 2012 Presidential Election. Every day a reason to re-elect President Obama was posted, in short, to Twitter, and in essay form on their website. The first reason came from Seattle’s own, Death Cab for Cutie front man, Ben Gibbard who said,

“Obama is the first president in U.S. history to acknowledge the right of gay couples to marry and enjoy the full benefits of marriage in the eyes of the law.”

Jump forward to October 2016, and a new campaign popped up on the internet called 30 Days, 30 Songs, again produced by Dave Eggers and Jordan Kurland. In recent interviews, Eggers has described his experience attending a Trump rally in California where the choice of music the Republican candidate played struck him as peculiar. Following the rally, he envisioned creating an alternative soundtrack for the candidate, that would better represent the “ignorant, divisive, and hateful campaign” being run by Donald Trump.

The first song “Million Dollar Loan” was released by none other than Death Cab for Cutie on October 10. In a blurb released with the video, Ben Gibbard explains that “lyrically, ‘Million Dollar Loan’ deals with a particularly tone deaf moment in Donald Trump’s ascent to the Republican nomination… [where] he attempted to cast himself as a self-made man by claiming he built his fortune with just a ‘small loan of a million dollars’ from his father.” In an interview with CNN, Gibbard continued to express his disgust saying “I firmly believe that Donald Trump is the most offensive and dangerous presidential candidate we’ve ever had, certainly in the 20th century…I am not supporting a candidate in as much as I’m voting against Donald Trump.”

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Other artists who have submitted songs include Aimee Mann, Ani DiFranco, R.E.M., Filthy Friends (a super group made up of members from R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, and others), and Thao Nguyen. Themes have ranged from gun control to reproductive rights to fear mongering. Some songs have even been written or performed from the perspective of Trump himself as possible inner monologue.

This idea of voting against a candidate by voting for another, has been an interesting phenomenon in this general election (though not a new concept). Voters who were so fervent in supporting the campaign of Bernie Sanders have had a hard time getting behind the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate, arguing that she is untrustworthy, hard to like, criminal. You name it, Hillary Clinton’s been called it. But lets not kid ourselves, all politicians have lied or kept secrets from their constituents, that’s the rules of the game. Anyone who has lived under public scrutiny for over thirty years will have made mistakes, conjured built up biases, and, most importantly, changed their ideas and view points over time. I believe Hillary Clinton has shown she can reevaluate her values, adapt to our ever changing society, and represent at least some of the forward thinking, progressive ideas our country has been expressing in recent years (but really, for decades). I think one thing we can agree on is that a Trump presidency will reverse progress we have made as a country and revert back to an even more politically and socially divided nation.

On October 24 the 30 Days, 30 Songs campaign announced that they had received submissions of protest songs from artists across the country, which has led them to increase the number of songs to 40 by election day. You can now enjoy two new songs per day up until November 8!

Social and political commentary are an integral part of the history of music, communicating ideas and differing values from every culture and tradition imaginable. I look forward to exploring this aspect of music with you all in future editions of “Music with a Message”!

All proceeds from the campaign are going to The Center for Popular Democracy which “works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.”

Stay tuned for a follow up article on what’s going on locally in terms of music and the upcoming election.

The deadline has already passed for online voter registration, but you have through October 31st to register in-person! Be sure to have your ballot mailed/postmarked by November 8th.

Check if you’re registered here | Print voter registration form here | More information on voting in King County here


EMMA PIERCE | My ballot is Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, is yours? | KXSU Music Reporter

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