Ignite the Night
With these heavenly concerts
New Music, New Solidarity
2015 was rough, y’all. Between the attacks in Paris, the death and terror that the Islamic State has inflicted in the Middle East, the countless mass shootings, police shootings and rampant xenophobia in our own country, it has been a truly bad news year. Amidst all this violence and political turmoil, though, we learned to seek comfort in solidarity—and some of that solidarity came in the form of new music.
This year was “The Return of the Protest Song” according to The Atlantic, and a highly necessary return it was. Musicians stepped up to make their voices and their politics heard in the debates on police brutality, gun control and immigration, led by Janelle Monáe, Killer Mike, Kendrick Lamar and the ever-political M.I.A. In September, Monáe (who led a Black Lives Matter march in San Francisco earlier this year) and several other artists from Wondaland Records recorded “Hell You Talmbout,” a simplistically powerful drumline-march which included a chant of the names of the many people of color killed by police in the past several years. “Freddie Gray, say his name, Sandra Bland, say her name” shouts Monáe—citing the phrase used by protesters of Sandra Bland’s arrest and suspicious jail cell death in July. The phrase “say her name” is a plea to stop thinking of the deaths of people of color as mere statistics, but as the loss of real people with names, faces and families. Blood Orange (the musical project of Dev Hynes) released a song about Bland in October called “Sandra’s Smile.” In a series of lyric annotations to the song on Genius, Hynes said, “I had a somewhat delayed depression upon Sandra’s death. I was hurt and upset and mad instantly, of course … a few days later it hit me and I was unconsolable [sic].”