These past few classes we have been presented with two examples of protest songs – Blowin’
In the Wind by Bob Dylan and Alright by Kendrick Lamar. And even though they’re both protest songs,
expressing political disapproval, the songs couldn’t have more different
strategies delivering their messages.
Let us begin with Dylan’s Blowin’
In the Wind. The song poses a long list of hypothetical questions, that
apparently cannot be answered. At the time the song came out, 1963, America was
dealing with the Civil Rights and the Anti-War movements. But we can’t really
tell what Dylan is talking about because the song is so vague.
And then, we have Lamar’s song, where the
rapper is very blunt when it comes to the
message he’s conveying. The song delivers, on the surface, a universal and optimistic speech, driven by
pain and struggle, nonetheless. It’s a cry for awareness regarding the police brutality the black community, but, on the
other hand, the rapper assures the
listener that, by sticking together, “we gon’ be alright”.
Both songs regard problems with society and
want to, somehow, help the listener see the power within himself to make a
change. However, as I have said before, the main difference between the two lays on the tone. Dylan delivers a very chill
folk song, that leaves the listener unsure when it comes to the meaning of the
song, whereas Lamar’s in-your-face rap about how Black Lives Matter helps the
listener stay hopeful, strong and proud and actually knowing the musician’s
There are positives
and negatives to each strategy. In Dylan’s case, the vagueness of the song
helps people think for themselves, and even if it’s not about the Civil Rights
Movement, it doesn’t really matter, because the beauty of unsureness is that it
reaches a lot more people and makes the song an anthem for generations to come,
since it can be related it various
issues. However, it might make the listener less aware of the problems surrounding
In Lamar’s song, however, the bluntness is
an amazing away to fight violence without using it. Unlike Blowin’ In the Wind, Alright
is a very emphatic song, that flows back
and forth with calmness and aggressiveness. The downside is that not so many
people can relate. Lamar is very specific when talking to his fellow peers, the
Black Community, and different from Dylan’s song it does not reach out to so
many peoples, nor, I believe, will be heard 50 years from now, but it will be
more of a historical frame of reference
when addressing the issue later.
Overall, I think
both strategies are good, depending on the goal one wishes to achieve.
Nonetheless, if I had to write a protest song myself, I would choose the “tell
them as it is” one because one of my pet peeves is ambiguity.