Social Change in the 21st Century Playlist

Students in the spring 2018 honors seminar Social Change in the 21st Century (HON 401) were each asked to identify a song they like that promotes a social movement or cause. Here are the songs they chose and why they chose them. Listen and be inspired to get out there and be the change you want to see in the world!


Artist: MIA
Song name: Paper Planes

“A song that I really like is really well-known and I knew it for a while before I actually knew what it was about. The song “Paper Planes” by MIA is a commentary on how people view immigrants and the struggle that they go through when adjusting to the society of America. I think that this song is really cool because not only is it about a serious issue but it is also really catchy and popular. I remember hearing this song on the radio and liking it but now that I know what it is about it has so much more meaning. The lyrics where she sings “All I wanna do it (gunshot noises) and take your money” is very powerful because that is how a lot of people view immigrants. They think that all they are going to contribute to society is violence and they are after all of our jobs.”

Artist:  Pink
Song name: Perfect

Artist: Beyoncé
Song name: Pretty Hurts

“I am torn between Pink’s Perfect and Beyoncé’s Pretty Hurts. These songs promote body positivity and self-love. It tells you to love yourself regardless. It tells you to be yourself because that is unique and being you is beautiful. It tells you to stand against societal standards and be an original version of yourself instead of a carbon copy of someone. Simply do you!”

Artist: Aretha Franklin [performed]; Otis Redding [written]
Song name: Respect

“I like this song because Aretha Franklin changed the lyrics that Otis Redding wrote and reversed them. This song was supposed to be about women respecting men after the man comes home from a long day of work, but Franklin changed it to men respecting women after they come home from a long day of work. It was a huge hit in the feminist and women power movements.”

Artist: Molotov
Name of song: Gimme the Power

“The song speaks about the corruption in the Mexican government and the importance of unity among Mexican people to defeat corruption and demand change. This is one of my favorite songs because it speaks the truth about the reality in Mexico. A truth that people are often too scared to speak on. It not only speaks about the flaws within the government, but it is a call to action because it is encouraging people to unite and fight together for a change that everyone deserves. It states that together, people are more powerful than any form of government.”

Artist: Lin-Manuel Miranda & Ben Platt
Song name: Found Tonight

“They take two of the most iconic songs from the Broadway hits of our generation and repurpose it for March For Our Lives. They are reframing the message. Along with it, if you have an understanding of the contexts of the two songs within the context of the musicals, it makes the song even more potent as to why it is so relevant to the March For Our Lives.”

Artist: Nina Simone
Song name: Mississippi Goddam

“I like this song because it represents the south and racism. It expresses the feelings of individuals who are experiencing the hate and the equality issues of the time period. I think this song could still relate to social movements now a day because there are still issues of black equality. An example is the Black Lives Matter.”

Artist: grandson
Song name: Thoughts & Prayers

“‘Thoughts and Prayers’ by grandson is a song that explains the school shootings in the United States and demonstrates their collective action frame in favor of gun control and they blame the government for not taking action on these massacres. I actually found this song a month or two ago and cried because of how important this issue has become.”

Artist: MILCK
Song name: Quiet

“I really enjoyed this song for a variety of reasons, one of which being the support it has for sexual assault victims, as well as, the LGBT community. I also chose this song based on the author’s activism efforts in this year’s Women’s March, where she sang this song with others during protest.”

Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Song name: Alright

“He highlights the struggle of black people in America by discussing the effects of racism and oppression on their communities. He discusses how the pay gap mostly affects black people, the depression that they suffer because of the unequal treatment, disenfranchisement, and over-policing that they face in their communities. He also talks about how black men have been hurt, police brutality and how they look to their religious beliefs to contain their anger and frustration. He encourages black people to not give up on where to go to solve these problems or the systems to ask for change. He mentioned that no matter what black people will survive these tough times and they always had and they will be alright. The song has been sung by protesters at Black Lives Matter rallies.”

Artist: The Black Eyed Peas
Song name: Where is the Love

“The song that I chose is ‘Where is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas. I chose this song because it is all about pointing out not only the racial inequalities, but even the war in the world.”

Artist: Prince (feat. Eryn Allen Kane)
Song name: Baltimore

“This song discusses the death of Freddie Gray who had succumbed to spinal cord injuries that he had received while in police custody. This death caused an uprising in the city of Baltimore in 2015. I like this song because it highlights and reflects on police brutality events that had occurred across the nation in the past few years. It has lyrics that capture the attention of a variety of groups of people across the nation, while the main lyric is “Are we gonna see another bloody day? We’re tired of the cryin’ and people dyin’. Lets take all the guns away.”

Artist: Lin-Manuel Miranda Feat. Artists for Puerto Rico
Song name: Almost Like Praying

“The song I chose is called ‘Almost Like Praying’ by Lin-Manuel Miranda Feat. Artists for Puerto Rico. This song was produced to benefit the people of Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane left their country in ruins. It creates a sense of togetherness by mixing English and Spanish throughout the song to show they are united to fight against those who refused to help. The song discreetly jabs at the Trump Administration and their lack of relief help despite the fact that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.”

Artist: John Lennon
Song name: Imagine

“I like the song “Imagine” by John Lennon because I think it creates a very euphoric world where everyone is created equal and remains equal forever. I love how the song says that there are many people who think like this, and it encourages other people to join.”

Artist: Bob Marley
Song name: One Love

“A song that I believe that encourages social change would be ‘One Love’ by Bob Marley. I chose this song because it promotes peace. It also spreads love among people as it mentions that everyone should come together as one to overcome events that disturb the peace.”

Artist: Rachel Platten
Song name: Fight Song

“I like this song because whenever I listen to this song, it gives a motivation to never give-up on fight for the change in the society or in myself. The wording used in this song is also meaningful and encourage to be bold no matter how strong the opponent is. Additional to that, the music itself is very deep and flow in continuous effect.”

Artist: Logic ft Black Thought, Chuck D, Big Lenbo, and No I.D.
Song name: America

“The song “America” by logic is controversial as it is very much against Trump, but I think it’s an emotional and powerful song addressing racial discrimination, inequality, police brutality, and government corruption. Logic and his album “Everybody” tackles a wide array of social issues with every song. He is one of many artists today using his platform to spread important messages and contribute a voice to social causes and movements.”

Karla, Petra, Samuel, and Ashley
Artist: Common, John Legend
Song name: Glory

“This song has an impact of the important history and also the recent number of police shootings of unarmed black men that led to protests across the country. It follows the civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King in 1965.” – Karla

“This song is the soundtrack for the movie Selma. Selma is a historical drama film based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches. Therefore, this song doesn’t only represent the past but also the future because many people now are victims of wrongful discrimination because of the color of their skin.” – Petra

“The song is something all African Americans can relate to it talks about the struggles and hardship the African Americans went through in order to gain their freedom.” – Samuel

“Another song, that is probably more appropriate for class, is “Glory” by John Legend. This song was made for the movie Selma, obviously addressing the fight for equality and referring to the Civil Rights Movement. This song is tremendously powerful, exuding strength and hope for the day where all are treated with the equality they deserve, the day where there is no discrimination between humans. Similar to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream,” John Legend sings that one day, when the glory comes, it will be ours; a world without discrimination.” – Ashley

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