Music has enormous potential for emotional exploration, cultural commentary, and social protest. Listen to the following news broadcast from National Public Radio which aired in 2014 following a summer filled with incredibly disturbing news: Ferguson MO, the Ebola outbreak, ISIS, and others. Even though this original story is over three years old, it is as applicable, if not more so today. The story explores the role of music, especially popular music, in addressing the societal issues we face.

NPR: Top40 – In a Summer of Discontent – When you open this page, there is a “listen now” button that appears in the center of the screen for you to access the podcast. The article contains links to some of the songs referenced in the podcast. “Be Free” by James Cole is especially worth your time

Transcript: Top 40 – In a Summer of Discontent – This is a written transcript of the interview.

Below is one the more interesting and important statements in the interview:

CORNISH: But where are the pop and mainstream artists talking about any current issue news of the day? I mean, whatever happened to that kind of pop protest song?

POWERS: It is true, I think, that pop has become more conservative, basically since 9-11. It seems that pop stars are more hesitant to address social issues head on. Now why is this? Possibly because all Americans are nervous about addressing social issues head on. Possibly because the music industry has been falling apart, and people are worried about their careers. I don’t really know.


Do you agree with the podcast that mainstream popular music is conservative and doesn’t want to address important social issues? Why?

Do you think that mainstream popular music has become more political since the 2016 national elections?

Do you think that popular music should tackle social issues or be a venue for social protest? Why or why not?

Do you prefer to listen to music that has an element of social commentary or protest?

What popular artists do you feel are currently using their music to affect social change? What popular artists do you feel are either purposefully or unintentionally avoiding social issues?

Your post should be substantial and thoughtful. The link to the discussion rubric is here.


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