A Trump-Free America? ’30 Days, 30 Songs’

Megan Fereday 8 November 2016

“Demagogue”, “From Russia With Love” and “DonaldTrumpMakesMeWannaSmokeCrack” are all songs on the ‘30 Days, 30 Songs’ playlist. The list has since been extended to almost fifty songs; it seems that everyone wants to express their distaste for Trump through the medium of music. It’s a shame, then, that this is a largely pointless exercise: we know that political protest songs have lost pretty much all their potency since Bob Dylan’s 1963 ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’.

Founded by music manager Jordan Kurland and author Dave Egger in October of this year, the ‘30 Days, 30 Songs’ playlist has attracted some big names to contribute their own anti-Trump songs, to fulfil their vision of a ‘Trump-Free America’. Franz Ferdinand, Moby, Loudon Wainwright III and Jimmy Eat World are some of the more famous names on the list. Wainwright’s ‘I Had a Dream’ is one of a number of surprisingly good songs, and includes the prophetic lyrics, “I dreamed that the Trumpster was the President / His little finger on the button…” which goes someway to show quite how directly the artists have engaged with the anti-Trump message.

The problem with this playlist is that it seems too much like a group of old Lefties, coming together, in a sort of ‘Liberal intelligentsia’, to foil the dreams of rural Americans. In the past, these sorts of protest songs and groups would have existed within a sort of 1960s-style ‘Counterculture’, with hippies and Commies meeting at Woodstock to promote a better vision for America. The irony of the proliferation of music online and on social media is that, while it may reach an even greater number of listeners, it will come up against a far greater tide of Alt-Right, ‘Conservative Right’ and ‘Racist Right’ groups, whose massive online presence paradoxically makes ‘30 Days, 30 Songs’ seem even more like a select ‘elite’, fighting the real voices of America – i.e. a Twitter user called ‘2ndAmendmentAdios1776’.

Loudon Wainwright III may well be a great songwriter, but his is a fading influence. Similarly, the playlist includes Josh Ritter’s ‘The Temptation of Adam’, a song actually written almost ten years ago: it's a great song, but I can’t help wondering whether my approval is not that which it should be seeking. Shouting, or singing in this case, into an echo chamber is the reason that Hillary Clinton might well lose the election, and it’s certainly not going to win over any Trump voters. The website’s overt pro-Hillary position was also a surprise. Wouldn’t you expect green-type singer-songwriters to favour the inimitable Jill Stein for President?

The founders of the site write that “Hillary Clinton is a calm, intelligent, empathetic professional,” and that those thinking of voting for an alternative candidate should think again and cast their ballot for the Democrats. The founders wish to convince everyone of the “positives that will come with a Hillary Clinton presidency,” and yet there are no lyrics which explicitly mention this. As the Cold War Kids recognise, “taking a shot at Trump [is] too easy…maybe redundant.” Too right it is, and the sense that this playlist is a futile attempt to stop Trump is compounded by the fact that most songs mention the ‘Demagogue’, yet few reference Clinton. If you are going to sing out about the positives of a Clinton presidency, you need to actually do so. Maybe they don’t, because it’s too difficult to find these positives, and easier instead to focus on the negatives of Trump.

“It feels great to let it all out,” say the Cold War Kids. Well, that may be so, but it’s not going to stop Donald Trump becoming president.