The Soundtrack to the US Election

Our music writers share the songs that thematically explore the feelings brought to surface by the 2020 US Presidential Election.

multiple writers
12th November 2020
Images: Dusk - Fotolia, Vox, NASA/Bill Ingalls, Wikimedia Commons
In the climax of the US 2020 Presidential Election, our music writers discuss the songs that perfectly summarise the chaotic and emotional situation which continues to unravel across the pond.

'The Guillotine' - The Coup

“No, you can’t out-vote ‘em” raps The Coup frontman Boots Riley on their 2012 track ‘The Guillotine’. It’s a funky piece of hip-hop-agitprop that blends disco danceability, defiant alt-rock guitars and assertive group vocals into a declaration of class war. Sociologist W.E.B. Dubois shared Riley’s distrust of electoral politics; in a 1956 article for The Nation, he wrote “No ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.”

Joe Biden has done a wonderful job of proving Dubois’ words still relevant; in June, he assured rich donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” under his leadership. So, the liberal claim that Biden will improve living standards for Americans is exposed as nonsense. Whilst it is satisfying to see Klansman Trump so disgruntled, we must remember that a victory for the Democrats is not a victory for the vast majority of people on this Earth. We still have everything to win.

That is the message at the heart of ‘The Guillotine’, the true soundtrack to the US election and to 2020, an anthem for the people, not the politicians. The Coup assure us that the answer is not to vote, but to unify and organize. Globally, disillusionment with neoliberalism is growing; revolution is imminent. ‘The Guillotine’, then, is not just a stirring call to arms but a prophesy and a warning. Let Trump, Biden, Bezos, Bolsonaro, Musk, Johnson, Starmer, and the like, hear us when we sing: “We got the guillotine/You better run!”

Daisy Costello

'It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)' - R.E.M.

Why not pick a song which comes to mind every single election? I must admit, the last few years I’ve been severely let down on election day. 4 years ago when I wanted another Clinton in power, the devil incarnate that is Mr Trump decided to go ahead and win it all. Then, when I got to partake in my first election last year, his UK equivalent Boris Johnson nabbed accommodation at No.10. Every 4 years I strap myself in and hear the lines repeat in my head: “It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

It truly is a song that has stood the test of time, first released in 1987 by R.E.M as part of their album Document, and is a song which has often been referenced in my family whenever someone has a melt down over something which isn’t deemed ‘melt-down worthy’. I can assure you that whenever my mum complained about spilt milk on the floor, it was my Dad singing that catchy chorus

However, it’s association with election day seems more significant now than ever. As I write this article, although I assume that by the time you read this we hopefully have a result (the chant “Why Are We Waiting” comes to mind), it seems like Biden will clinch. However, we could definitely see another few years of Donald. All eyes are currently on Nevada, with a very slim and malleable lead in favour of Biden which really could go the other way.

If that’s the case, then maybe my Dad will have something a bit more important to sing about…

Tom Moorcroft

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