The world is never going to be the same. An unexpected conversation that popped up during all the madness was about rock as a political genre. A lot of people expressed disappointment at large figures in rock music defending Black Lives Matter or speaking up during Pride Month, saying that music ins’t meant to be political. Yes, in other genres musicians are urged to be apolitical for fear of alienating, and losing half their fanbase. In Miss Americana, Taylor Swift said that there was a lot of pressure on her not to “make the Dixie Chick’s mistake”, and lose everything by getting political, but that hasn’t stopped her. In the rock world, being overtly political has been the norm. Punk is an inherently political genre rooted in anarchy and anti-establishment sentiment, and of course, it’s sub-genres have carried similar values. Overall, rock has always been a fairly left leaning genre, but there are exceptions to this. So here are 21 political rock songs to blow your mind:
Political Punk Songs Playlist
Wake up – Rage Against the Machine
Fist in the air in the land of hypocrisy
Movements come and movements go
Leaders speak, movements cease when their heads are flown
‘Cause all these punks got bullets in their heads
Departments of police, (What!) the judges (What!), the feds
Networks at work, keeping people calm
You know they went after King when he spoke out on Vietnam
He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot
Rage Against the Machine are one of the faces of political punk rock. Rage have always been very much anti-establishment, anti-corruption, and ACAB. Frontman, Tom Morello, is one of the key voices in rock music.
Rock unfortunately is a very whitewashed genre, despite having roots in blues and jazz which were the creation of black musicians. Thankfully, Tom is as vocal as ever. It was difficult to narrow down their political rock songs to just one, so I’d recommend listening to more than just this one.
Uprising – Muse
Come let the revolution take its toll if you could
Flick a switch and open your third eye, you’d see that
We should never be afraid to die
(So come on) Rise up and take the power back, it’s time that
The fat cats had a heart attack, you know that
Their time is coming to an end
We have to unify and watch our flag ascend
(So come on)
Muse have always been a political band, so much so that it was hard to narrow down a song but I felt Uprising was the best political rock song to go with.
The English band regularly write anti-war songs, and polemic’s about resisting control, and fighting corruption. As Matthew Bellamy was classically trained as a musician, Muse have been able to craft their own unique sound that fuses rock with opera, which has landed them as one of the biggest bands in the world.
American Idiot – Green Day
Don’t wanna be an American idiot
Don’t want a nation under the new mania
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mind-fuck America
Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay
Television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue
Punk has always been a political genre rooted in anarchy and anti-establishment thinking. American Idiot is a testament to that.
The album is a rock opera which follows a teenager who is fed up with the government and his small town he moves to the city and calls himself St. Jimmy, having previously gone by Jesus of Suburbia. He meets whatshername but they break up. He kills off St Jimmy and reclaims Jesus of Suburbia. He gets a boring office job back in his home town of Jingletown.
This political punk song in particular though is about America being small-minded and corrupt.
I Was a Teenage Anarchist – Against Me!
I was a teenage anarchist, but then the scene got too rigid.
It was a mob mentality, they set their rifle sights on me.
Narrow visions of autonomy, you want me to surrender my identity.
I was a teenage anarchist, the revolution was a lie.
Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?
Laura Jane Grace explained that this political punk song can be misinterpreted as denouncing her past believes. Her own feelings on anarchy has changed, but Against Me! are still very much a politically charged band. She’s said in interviews that she was surprised people see it as a nostalgia song, but I see it as a reminder to hold onto a part of who you used to be.
Some very left leaning people and activists mellow out and become conservative with age (when the establishment begins to favour them and they get comfortable) so I take it as a reminder to stay true to who you are. That said, the song itself brings up very valid points about not finding yourself in an echo-chamber, and it’s okay to change your mind on things.
Daddy’s Lil Girl – Bikini Kill
I have no desire
I can’t feel a thing
I just want to make him happy
Daddy’s little girl
Daddy’s little girl
Daddy’s girl don’t wanna be
His whore no more
I need to hold my tongue
I need to hold my tongue
Didn’t know I’d have to lose so much
For Daddy’s love
Didn’t know I’d have to lost myself
For Daddy’s touch
With the second wave of the #MeToo Movement in full swing in social media, Bikini Kill just had to feature on this list. Daddy’s Lil Girl should be one of the #MeToo for the abuse victims coming forward, and freeing themselves from their abusers; whether it’s a guy in a Warped Tour band or someone smaller. This political punk song was ahead of its time.
Bikini Kill are also on my women in rock playlist.
Massarce, the New American Dream – Palaye Royale
Fed lies since the day I was conceived
A bastard son, a rebel, now look at me
Went from homeless to your TV screen
How’s this for the American dream?
Fed pills to society
Give you a gun and now there’s a killing spree
I’ve given up on America’s racist agenda
I’m fucked up on prescriptions and antidepressants
Palaye Royale wrote this song in response to the almost daily school shootings in the US, and violence, racism and bigotry in general. The band’s third album, The Bastards, was released last month, and they dropped promotion to go out and protest for Black Lives Matter. So not only is this one of their political rock songs, but they’re unafraid to take a stand in real life too.
I’m Gonna Kill the President of the United States – Leathermouth
Well I’d rather have my eyes sewn shut
Then see all the shit that we’ve done
And I’d rather be deaf, dumb and blind
Than pledge allegiance to a man of your kind
The death that you’ve done
Leathermouth was Frank Iero’s side project when My Chemical Romance went on a hiatus after the Black Parade era came to a close. As the main punk influence on MCR, it’s no surprise that Leathermouth was a very political band, with other songs on their album having similar messages, like 5th Period Massacre. This song landed Frank on the FBI watch list.
Territorial Pissings – Nirvana
Come on, people, now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now
When I was an alien
Cultures weren’t opinions
One of the biggest disappointments lately was Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic praising Trump’s “law and order” speech following the Black Lives Protests. Bear in mind, that Trump offered the Karens support who protested for haircuts, but the BLM protests had military drones watching them. While Against Me! raised valid points about echo chambers earlier, Krist’s are a key example of people becoming conservative in middle age once they get comfortable.
Nirvana made their fair share of political statements in their day, mostly from Kurt calling out racism, homophobia, and sexism. That’s what makes what Krist said worse; if Kurt Cobain was still here, he would be marching with BLM.
Territorial Pissings was before it’s time. Kurt wrote it to call out toxic masculinity, saying: In the animal kingdom, the male will often piss in certain areas to claim his territory, and I see macho men reacting towards sex and power in the same way. I’d like to see these lost souls strung up by their balls with pages of SCUM Manifesto stapled to their bodies.”
Sing – My Chemical Romance
Sing it out, boy they’re gonna sell what tomorrow means
Sing it out, girl before they kill what tomorrow brings
You’ve got to make a choice
If the music drowns you out
And raise your voice
Every single time they try and shut your mouth
Although emo tends to be a personal genre, MCR have had their moments. Teenagers was originally about Gerard Way feeling spooked about rowdy teenagers on the subway, it can be interpreted to be a song about society beating teenagers down to fit the status quo. However, Danger Days is a much more political album than the Black Parade.
Danger Days is a record set in post-apocalyptic California, and is about a group of rebels fighting against an authoritarian government.
Nightmare – Halsey
“Come on, little lady, give us a smile”
No, I ain’t got nothin’ to smile about
I got no one to smile for, I waited a while for
A moment to say I don’t owe you a goddamn thingI, I keep a record of the wreckage of my life
I gotta recognize the weapon in my mind
They talk shit, but I love it every time
And I realizeI’m no sweet dream, but I’m a hell of a night
Halsey is not one to stay silent. She was very much involved in the Black Lives Matter protests (with YungBlud), so it’s no surprise she uses her music to express her views. Nightmare is a feminist anthem about female empowerment, and the expectations society places on women.
Equal rights, Equal lefts – OTEP
Fight for your right
Fight for your right
To existHe called me a dyke
I called him an ambulance
I can make you famous too
But you tremble at the thought of that
Otep Shamaya wrote the song about real life experiences of homophobia, saying that a guy approached her because she was with her ex-girlfriend on their anniversary. He asked if she believed in equal rights and she said yes, and then asked if she believed in equal lefts. It’s a political rock song about thanking straight allies but is also a song about LGBTQ power.
Why’d You Bring a Shotgun To The Party – The Pretty Reckless
Does it make you feel like a man? (boom)
It’s not the size we understand (boom)
You think you’re gonna get with me
You’re never gonna get with me
You’re never gonna dance with meI admit, I feel like you, like shit
But I don’t go out and take it out on everyone about it
We’re all part of the system
You wanna start a war?
Feel better we won’t miss itWhy’d you bring a shotgun to the party?
Why’d you bring a shotgun to the party?
Everybody’s got one, there’s nothing new about it
Want to make a statement?
You should have come without it
The Pretty Reckless are normally not a particularly political band, and tend to sing about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll but this political rock song is different. TPR challenged toxic masculinity and gun violence with this one.
Taylor Momson is mentioned on my women in rock list.
Sex Is Not The Enemy – Garbage
A revolution is the solutionI wonÂ´t feel guilty
No matter what theyÂ´re telling me
I wonÂ´t feel dirty and buy into their misery
I wonÂ´t be shamed cause I believe that love is free
It fuels the heart and sex is not my enemy
Sex, and especially LGBTQ relationships, is still very much a taboo topic which is ridiculous in this day and age. Without proper conversations about sex and abuse, and almost universal shit sex ed, we’re never going to be able to dismantle rape culture, or abolish the “shame” associated with female sexuality. Political rock songs like this one which take on identity politics are much needed in changing the culture, and shattering the stigma.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – Good Charlotte
Always see it on T.V.
Or read in the magazines
Celebrities want sympathy
All they do is piss and moan
Inside the Rolling Stone
Talkin’ about how hard life can beI’d like to see them spend a week
Livin’ life out on the street
I don’t think they would survive
If they could spend a day or two
Walking in someone else’s shoes
I think they’d stumble and they’d fall
They would fall (fall)
Good Charlotte wrote this political punk song after coming to LA following the end of a long tour cycle to find everyone rich but miserable. The point to them was “well if you’re this unhappy I’ll take it”, but a lot of fans interpret it as a criticism of the upper class, which is a fair interpretation.
Turn Off The Radio – A Day to Remember
There’s a division in our culture
That we live with every day
We’re just people, eating people
Such a sick sad world we live in today
All I know’s I wanna be everything expected of me
So everyone we can agree somebody out there understands me
And it goes on and on and on
Turn off the radio
Till they’ve got something real to say
Turn off the radio
To clear my mind and let me think
I need an answer, I’ve got the questions
Can’t anyone out there just relate?
Turn off the radio
Turn off the radio
Turn of the radio is a scathing response to society today, and what’s expected of us. The song was originally for Common Courtney but suited ADTR more. It’s a good thing this one of these political rock songs landed in ADTR’s lap.
Survivors Guilt – Rise Against
Don’t mind me
All I gave was everything
And yet you ask me for more
Fought your fight
Bought your lie
And in return I lost my life
What purpose does this serveA folded flag
A purple heart
A family all but torn apart
I fought with courage to preserve
Not my way of life, but yours
Rise Against have always been a band unafraid to take a stand and speak up on sensitive issues, so this one of their political rock songs is no differnet. Survivor’s Guilt is no different and is a chilling song about the futility of war.
I’m also a fan of their song Make it Stop which is about bullying, homophobia, and teen suicide.
Kill the President – The Offspring
In a world without leaders
Who’d start all the wars?
The world that your saving
Will always be yours
Kill the President
Listen to the voice of reason
Unify with that single line
Stop the man with the power
Of the government
A leader’s not the center
Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly depending on whatever way you look at it, there are two political rock songs about killing the president- but please don’t take that as an invitation to literally kill a president. This is just a political rock songs playlist, not a call to arms!
The Offspring wrote this song about how power corrupts people, and that governments are not for the people.
Autobiography of a Nation – Thursday
Write these words back down inside
That’s where you need it the most and without conviction of heart
You will never feel it at all
Yeah, we all dance to the same beat when we’re marching
Yeah, the TV tells us everything we need
And this scene is painting in all the fashions
Of the moment and history is all the same
Everything you say you stole
Every dream you dream you bought
Thursday wrote this political rock song about the oppression of the Native Americans face in the US, and that the US convinently forgets the more brutal parts of it’s history such as burning “their villages and all the people in them died, we adopt their customs and everything they say we steal.”
The Only Good Fascist Is A Very Dead Fascist – Propagandhi
Swastikas and Klan-robes
Sexists, racists, homophobes
Aryan-Nations and Hammerskins
You can wear my nuts on your Nazi chins
With the name Propaghandi what else would you expect? Of course they were going to write political rock songs! This political punk song is more relevant than ever as it takes a stab at white supremacy.
Change the World – Joan Jett and the Black Hearts
Well do ya care
Bout what’s fair?
It don’t matter
As long as you get your share
Now I see
What needs to be
Hell it isn’t charity
It’s time we stop all the fightin’
Let’s start today
Go find a way
I think it’s sad that environmentalism is seen a political thing when it’s an objective fact that climate change is real and we need to do something. Either way Joan Jett penned this song not only about being kinder to the planet, but to live more peacefully in general. Although this is one of the tamer one of these political rock songs, it’s still an important one.
If you want to live greener, I’ve a whole section of this blog dedicated to eco-friendly living.
Anarachy in the UK – Sex Pistols
Is this the MPLA
Or is this the UDA
Or is this the IRA
I thought it was the U.K.
Or just another country
Another council tenancyI want to be anarchy
And I want to be anarchy
(Oh what a name)
And I want to be an anarchist
(I get pissed, destroy!)
There was no way the Sex Pistols weren’t featuring on this political punk song playlist. Anarchy was the bands debut single, so they were fearless form the start, and we’re dropped by EMI almost immediately. The lyrics embodied the angry at the social class and alineation the youth at the time felt, but it’s still relevant today.
RaceTraitor – Suffocation
These academies packed full ready to kill for the throne…in drone…gouging at any voice of fist raised to piercing…state stands…in death of the defense…the resistance falls in flock…for your ideal…power feeds…brokering the means of survival and liberty…when the soot falls down from the sky and hope breaks lose…are you numbed by the blade being pointed at you?
RaceTraitor is a hardcore band made up of Andy Hurley and Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy, as well as Man Mostofi, Dan Binaei, and Eric Bartholomae, Rich Miles, and Brent Decker. Since the late 90s, the band have bee writing anti-racist and anti-imperialist songs.
Zombie – The Cranberries
Another mother’s breaking
Heart is taking over
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken
It’s the same old theme
In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head, they are dying
Zombie often ends up on Halloween playlists, and quite frankly; it’s disrespectful to put it there. Despite the name, Zombie isn’t some spoopy Halloween track. The song is about the 1993 bombing in Warrington, England, by the IRA, and is dedicated to the victims; Johnathan Ball, and Tim Parry. It’s a song calling for the violence in Northern Ireland, as well as the conflict between Ireland and the UK to come to an end.
Bam Bam -Villians (Also Wear White)
Bad guy portrayed in black;
show another side.
Victim of some rude act,
got no place to hide.
Villains also wear white.
Bam Bam, which was fronted by Tina Bell, was one of the founders of the grunge scene in the 80s. Kurt Cobain is even said to have worked as a roadie for them. Their drummer Matt Cameron went on to join Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
As the Seattle Times perfectly put it: “The legacy of Bell, a Black woman, has often been overlooked in a genre typically associated with long-haired white guys.”