In light of MIA’s recent refugee inspired music video for her new single ‘Borders’, we round up some of the most politically charged music videos from days gone by
Last week, former Sri Lankan refugee and rap artist M.I.A. (real name Maya Arulpragasam) released her self-directed music video for her latest single Borders, off the forthcoming album Matadatah, which highlights the plight of refugees by mimicking their hazardous journeys to Europe. As the migration crisis continues (and we travelled across Europe with one refugee family to research it), M.I.A chastises the government's failure to act and laments the arrival of border fences to keep out migrants, using powerful lyrics that question the fabric of modern society.
1. M.I.A. - Borders (2015) Some have criticised the video, claiming that once again the rapper is using people and their poverty as props for her own personal gain, as well as adding to the stereotyping of developing countries as undifferential masses (a previous mystery track's video was reportedly banned from being shown upon completion for 'cultural approriation', by her record label Interscope).
Whatever the case, she's not the first music artist to try and ignite change through their powerful politically charged music videos...
2. Public Enemy – Fight The Power (1989) The rap song about fighting abuse of power, by hip hop supergroup Public Enemy, was originally made for the soundtrack of Spike Lee's 1989 film: Do The Right Thing, but later became an anthem for politicised black inner-city youth in America. The group can be seen on the streets of Brooklyn, emulating the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington. VH1 named it no.1 Hip Hop video of all time and is still sadly seen to be just as relevant 26 years later.
3. Muse – Psycho (2015) The English rock group, released this controversial video earlier this year from the poignantly labelled album Drones, as a sort of military parody about the dehumanisation of modern warfare, due to military hazing brainwashing the masses and turning everyone into pyschopaths. Lead singer Matt Bellamy explained that ‘Drones’ are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse. The world is run by Drones utilising Drones to turn us all into Drones'. Right then, glad that's all cleared up...
4. Snoop Lion - No Guns Allowed (2013) The video that starts with an image of Barack Obama leading a gun tragedy tribute following as school shooting in America and follows on to relevant newspaper headlines and disturbing videos of children holding guns like toys is Snoop Lion (formerly known as Snoop dogg)'s attempt at highlighting the danger of accessibility to guns in America. A suprising move for the rapper who's previously rapped about gun culture, but following an enlightening trip to Jamaica, Snoop returned as the self-proclaimed 'Bob Marley re-incarnated', focusing instead on love and reggae.
5. M.I.A. – Born Free (2010) Disturbing scenes of military brutality, references to the Sri Lankan army, violent US troops in a Bagdad prison and ending in the bizarre mass genocide of ginger people in a reference to the the brutal tactics used against ethnic minoritys, made this one of the most controversial music videos ever released, with the portrayal of violent government forces met with a positive critical reception. Originally banned from YouTube in the UK and the US upon release, due to it's HIGHLY explicit scenes!
6. Radiohead – All I Need (2008) Part of MTV's Anti–Human trafficking campaign, this cleverly shot video shows two parallel stories running throughout, one of a young Western boy playing with his friends, and the other an Eastern boy being forced to making shoes in a sweatshop; the video ending with the two lives colliding as the Western boy ends up buyng a new pair of shoes made by the sweatshop boy. Shockingly, the sale of human beings, for sweatshop labor, prostitution, and marriage, is the third most lucrative illicit business in the world, after arms and drug trafficking. Ethical manufacturing is something that more and more companies are thankfully getting on board with these days.
7. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Same Love (2012) A moving story spanning decades, of a same-sex couple meeting, falling in love, and eventually marrying, depicting the sexual stereotyping they encounter all the way, was praised for it's forward-thinking analysis of hip-hop and society’s take on homosexuality. The hip-hop duo's video was recorded during the campaign for the Washington Referendum 74, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2012. It was also the first ever Top 40 song in the U.S. to promote and celebrate same-sex marriage. We like this message a lot...
Received positively or not, these videos highlight the attempt of artists in the spotlight trying to use their power to reach millions for good. Brave, thought-provoking or downright shocking (hello Muse), we think they should be applauded for their efforts to raise awareness and provoke change at the very least!
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