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 differentstrategies delivering their messages. Let us begin with Dylan’s Blowin’In the Wind. The song poses a long list of hypothetical questions, thatapparently cannot be answered. At the time the song came out, 1963, America wasdealing with the Civil Rights and the Anti-War movements.
But we can’t reallytell what Dylan is talking about because the song is so vague.And then, we have Lamar’s song, where therapper is very blunt when it comes to themessage he’s conveying. The song delivers, on the surface, a universal and optimistic speech, driven bypain and struggle, nonetheless. It’s a cry for awareness regarding the police brutality the black community, but, on theother hand, the rapper assures thelistener that, by sticking together, “we gon’ be alright”.Both songs regard problems with society andwant to, somehow, help the listener see the power within himself to make achange.
However, as I have said before, the main difference between the two lays on the tone. Dylan delivers a very chillfolk song, that leaves the listener unsure when it comes to the meaning of thesong, whereas Lamar’s in-your-face rap about how Black Lives Matter helps thelistener stay hopeful, strong and proud and actually knowing the musician’sintention. There are positivesand negatives to each strategy.
In Dylan’s case, the vagueness of the songhelps people think for themselves, and even if it’s not about the Civil RightsMovement, it doesn’t really matter, because the beauty of unsureness is that itreaches a lot more people and makes the song an anthem for generations to come,since it can be related it variousissues. However, it might make the listener less aware of the problems surroundingthem.In Lamar’s song, however, the bluntness isan amazing away to fight violence without using it.
Unlike Blowin’ In the Wind, Alrightis a very emphatic song, that flows backand forth with calmness and aggressiveness. The downside is that not so manypeople can relate. Lamar is very specific when talking to his fellow peers, theBlack Community, and different from Dylan’s song it does not reach out to somany peoples, nor, I believe, will be heard 50 years from now, but it will bemore of a historical frame of referencewhen addressing the issue later.Overall, I thinkboth 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 “tellthem as it is” one because one of my pet peeves is ambiguity.