What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye’s impact on music was immense, with his name standing as a symbol for true artistry. He encouraged label artists to experiment, record and perform their own material, leading the charge for artists to find their own voice.
To do so, Gaye led by example. As an artist who traditionally sang songs written by professional songwriters, Gaye found success in the 1960s, using his voice to craft some of the poppiest hits imaginable, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” However, he entered a deep depression, emerging in the early 1970s after realizing he could drive his own career rather than allowing others to dictate his decisions for him. For Gaye, this meant using his fantastic voice and clever sense for songwriting to say something powerful.
Disappointed with his country’s political direction, Gaye wrote What’s Going On, some of the most soulful and powerful music to come out of the 1970s — a time when America struggled with war and racial tension. The record follows a soldier who returns from the Vietnam War to find his community under socio-economic strife. Coping with his new reality, the soldier experiences a variety of emotions, from pure anger on “Mercy Mercy Me” to hope during “Right On” when Gaye sings, “love can conquer hate every time.”
For how serious What’s Going On may be, Gaye’s compositions intentionally incorporate lively soul themes, keeping each song listenable and surprisingly optimistic. If there’s anything to take out of this LP, it’s that the world may be a rough place, but no matter what political tensions arise, humanity will persevere.
Tracks to listen to: “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” “Inner City Blues (Make Me WannaHoller)”
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine
For those looking for a slightly more aggressive take on current issues and politics, look no further than the open arms of rap rock giants Rage Against the Machine.
To help take your mind off the past year’s non-stop coverage of the presidential election, Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello and the rest of the crew can provide a brand new perspective on what it means to find issue with U.S. politics. Not only do they find modern political issues concerning, but they despise the system’s way of dealing with these problems, citing corruption and intentional avoidance of issues as two of the many reasons the American political system needs to be uprooted.
Combining huge, thunderous guitar and bass riffs with de la Rocha’s confrontational attitude, it’s obvious Rage Against the Machine isn’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Starting with their debut album’s iconic cover photo, an image of a Buddhist monk’s self-immolation in protest of oppression in Vietnam, Rage Against the Machine never pauses to reflect on personal issues or lost love. Focused solely on their anger and passion, the band dives into “Bombtrack,” discussing social inequality and continues on to cover everything from institutional racism to media control and FBI corruption.
Taken as a protest album, Rage Against the Machine stands on its own, but even if you don’t want to listen to lyrics, the band provides some of the most catchy, heavy riffs feasible. Their explosive nature on tracks such as “Wake Up” and “Township Rebellion” help them find a way to convey empowering messages without words — something few bands can accomplish, much less pin down on their debut album.
Tracks to listen to: “Bombtrack,” “Take The Power Back,” “Know Your Enemy”