Politics was all over pop music in 2017
Here are some of the highlights
Politics permeated our culture in 2017. It wasn’t just on our news channels, it was in our professional sports, our awards shows and late-night talk shows, and in our pop music.
Not all the political pop of 2017 was radio friendly, nor was it obvious or intentionally political. There are big-name pop stars with axes to grind and a rock star who flirted with running for the Senate to promote his music. There are songs inspired by the great political catchphrases of our time, from “Make America great again” to “When they go low, we go high.” There are live performances that made the country stop and listen.
Below are 11 pop songs that tell the year’s story in politics.
1. “God Bless America” - Lady Gaga
When Lady Gaga performed at the Super Bowl halftime show in February, it was 16 days after President Trump had taken office. The pop star had campaigned for Clinton in 2016, but opted for a nonpartisan set list, opening with “God Bless America” and a line from “This Land is Your Land.” It was a message of unity and inclusion that Clinton voters could interpret as a knowing wink without alienating everyone else, Clinton’s “Stronger Together,” disguised as a patriotic pop spectacle.
2. “Chained to the Rhythm” - Katy Perry ft. Skip Marley
Katy Perry mourned Clinton’s loss on election night 2016 at the Javits Center, holding hands with Lady Gaga. Of the two pop stars, Perry often seemed more invested. She had campaigned for Clinton often, offered “Roar” to the campaign as a theme song (although “Fight Song” became more of the official song, “Roar” was in rotation at rallies) and posted frequently about her Clinton fandom on Instagram, including a photo of herself reading a book about Clinton on the beach in May, responding to an article I had written calling Perry the Hillary Clinton of pop. She also recorded two songs on her Witness album about the election, “Bigger Than Me” and “Chained to the Rhythm,” the neo-disco lead single that’s been interpreted as a warning about the dangers of digital bubbles. She performed it at the Grammys in front of a projection of “We the People” while wearing a “Persist” armband, and at the Brits under puppets of Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
3. “Lions” - Skip Marley
In addition to adding a guest verse to “Chained to the Rhythm,” Skip Marley had one other major collaboration this year, with Kendall Jenner. The rapper, grandson of Bob Marley, soundtracked her Pepsi commercial “Live for Now Moments Anthem.” In it, Jenner joined a protest in which people held signs reading “Join the conversation” and handed a Pepsi to an officer, after which the crowd inexplicably broke out into applause. The ad lasted online for less than 24 hours, criticized as racially insensitive. Jenner deleted every post about it on her Instagram account, and Pepsi issued an apology saying it “missed the mark” and apologizing to Kendall specifically for putting her “in this position.” It was seen by many as a misfired attempt to sell soda using young liberal activism and wokeness, set to Marley’s “Lions.”
4. “Make America Great Again” - Joy Villa
Joy Villa arrived at the Grammys in February wearing a white cloak she removed to reveal a Make America Great Again dress, designed by Andre Soriano, a Filipino immigrant. “Sometimes you just gotta be free to express yourself,” she tweeted that night. Finally out as a conservative, Villa, who earlier in the campaign supported Bernie Sanders before she says she was “red pilled” and learned to MAGA, released “Make America Great Again.”
5. “In Another Life” - Emin
In Russia, Emin Agalarov is their Justin Timberlake. In the US, he was just a foreign pop star who reached No. 9 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart once in 2015 on the track “Boomerang” featuring Nile Rodgers. But that all changed on July 9, 2017, when his manager, Rob Goldstone, told