The 2020 presidential election is right around the corner. From star-studded conventions to political statements pouring out all over social media, it can be hard to retain the excitement that comes with casting your ballot for the party you believe in. Whether you're feeling on top of the world and are counting down the days until you can get to the polls (or vote by mail!) or are in need of some inspiration to help you prepare for the big day, these songs about speaking out will get you motivated to exercise your right to vote.
Musicians have long expressed their beliefs through their lyrics. Some of the most powerful songs have come from the hardest times artists have faced personally, or injustices they have witnessed happening in the United States. In 2020, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police brought even more attention to longstanding systemic racism and police brutality in the U.S., and the nation is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Americans are growing more and more frustrated over government inaction in addressing both pandemics.
These ten songs will have you feeling powerful as you gear up to vote in the upcoming election.
1. Taylor Swift's "Only The Young"
Swift poured her heart into this track that reflects on some of the United States' most pressing issues, including gun control. In it, she sings: "So every day now / You brace for the sound / You've only heard on TV / You go to class, scared / Wondering where the best hiding spot would be."
When it comes to making a difference, Swift directs listeners' attention to the important fact that everyone's votes count and urges fans to not listen to those who say the opposite, singing, "They aren't gonna help us / Too busy helping themselves / They aren't gonna change this / We gotta do it ourselves / They think that it's over / But it's just begun."
Swift hasn't just started speaking out in her lyrics, either. She recently slammed Donald Trump for what she called his "calculated dismantling of USPS" ahead of the 2020 election. "[It] proves one thing clearly: He is WELL AWARE that we do not want him as our president,” Swift tweeted. “He’s chosen to blatantly cheat and put millions of Americans’ lives at risk in an effort to hold on to power.”
2. Janelle Monáe's “Americans”
"Americans" is an empowering song about equality. Some of Monáe's most striking lyrics include references to the inequalities women, black people, people facing homelessness, and the LGBTQ community face. In it, she sings:
Until women can get equal pay for equal work / This is not my America / Until same-gender loving people can be who they are / This is not my America / Until black people can come home from a police stop without being shot in the head / This is not my America / Until poor whites can get a shot at being successful / This is not my America.
3. Childish Gambino's "This Is America"
Gambino's song brings awareness to big problems in America and the racial injustices we need to keep fighting, and the song's music video is just as striking as its lyrics. At one point in it, Gambino and a group of school children dance without a care in the world in front of the camera as chaos from a shooting reigns down behind them in the distance, a commentary on how social media has desensitized us to tragedy and injustice.
4. Lil Baby's "The Bigger Picture"
This song tells the unfortunate story of systemic racism in contemporary America, drawing on events such as the police killing of Geoge Floyd. The lyrics serve as a reminder that we all need to keep fighting for justice.
I guess that mean hold him down if he say he can't breathe," Lil Baby sings. "It's too many mothers that's grieving / They killing us for no reason / Been going on for too long to get even / Throw us in cages like dogs and hyenas / I went to court and they sent me to prison / My mama was crushed when they said I can't leave.
5. David Bowie and Queen's "Under Pressure"
While this track has come to be known as a fun bop, its underlying message is not to be ignored. Bowie and Queen's song's title says it all: We are "under pressure" to make the right decision and bring the right person into the White House. On the track, they sing:
It's the terror of knowing what the world is about / Watching some good friends screaming / 'Let me out!' / Pray tomorrow gets me higher / Pressure on people, people on streets.
6. Billy Joel's "We Didn’t Start the Fire"
Joel's popular 1989 song hits on the culture and politics of the 1950s and 1960s, but it's a good reminder that just because we may not think we're personally part of the problem, if we're not actively part of the solution, the fire will just keep raging. The chorus goes:
We didn't start the fire / It was always burning / Since the world's been turning / We didn't start the fire / No we didn't light it / But we tried to fight it.
7. Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up"
The chorus to Marley's 1973 classic says all you need to hear to get pumped up to cast your vote. "Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights," he sings. "Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight / Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights / Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight."
8. Sara Bareilles' "Brave"
Bareilles' song is all about how powerful our voices are. Instead of using them to tear others down, we should use them to speak up about things we believe in. She sings:
Everybody's been there, everybody's been stared down / By the enemy / Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing / Bow down to the mighty / Don't run, stop holding your tongue / Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live / Maybe one of these days you can let the light in / Show me how big your brave is.
9. John Lennon's "Imagine"
Known as one of the most inspiring songs ever, Lennon's 1971 classic puts so much into perspective. If you close your eyes and listen to him sing lyrics such as, "You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only oneI hope some day you'll join us / And the world will be as one," you'll feel empowered to better the world around you.
10. Elton John's "I'm Still Standing"
"I'm Still Standing" reflects on facing adversities and coming out of them even stronger. John sings: "Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did / Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid / I'm still standing after all this time / Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind."