Bunker Hill Community College

Bunker Hill Community College Mobile and Tablet Version

Popular Music Ensemble Concert

Can't Stop Me Now: Songs of Power

This concert examines the power through a musical lens. This topic shows up in a variety of ways in popular songs, touching on a variety of themes, including politics, personal resilience, spirituality, freedom and love. Music relating to power can uplift, embolden or strike down. This has been a semester-long collaboration between the Popular Music Ensemble and two other BHCC classes. Prof. Sondra Mason’s Ethics and Diversity class conducted interviews with those in positions of power in the criminal justice system. Prof. Ashley Paul’s Writing Skills II/College Writing I cluster interpreted the song lyrics, and wrote generally on the topic of power.

Program Notes

Roar”, words and music by Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, and
Henry Walter, 2013
as performed by Katy Perry, from Prism, 2013

This powerhouse hit was released in 2013 as the lead single for Katy Perry’s album Prism. This song has been featured in multiple films and TV Shows including Horrible Bosses 2 and Glee. After undergoing therapy, Perry wanted to write a song that let out all of her. Because of that drive, this song landed her two Grammy Award nominations, 2 People’s Choice Awards and 4 Billboard Awards. In 2013, the song was also the fifth best-selling single. This song is an anthem for female-empowerment and self-empowerment. – Angela Amico

Everything is Everything”, words and music by Lauryn Hill and Johari Newton, 1998
as performed by Lauryn Hill, from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998

In this song by Lauryn Hill, she speaks on the struggles in communities and inner-city America. She uses the phrase “Everything is Everything” to say the world is how it is for now, but change will come because everything has a season. She refers to the rich cultures that minority communities have grown from. She encourages them not to fall victim to injustice and to think positively, making a better situation while they wait for the change. “Everything is Everything” comes off of her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which won many awards and broke sales records. – Ajhanel Rhoden

For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound)”, words and music by
Stephen Stills, 1967
as performed by Buffalo Springfield, from Buffalo Springfield, 1967

Often mistaken for an anti-war protest song because of the turbulence-filled year of its release, the powerful lyrics of Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 hit “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound)” still resonate as loudly today as they did over fifty years ago. Amidst the Vietnam War protests and the Watts riots, band members Neil Young and Stephen Stills witnessed the power of “young people speaking their minds vis-à-vis protesting the City of Los Angeles’ forced curfew of bars on the Sunset Strip. What began as a peaceful protest of what they (the youth) believed was a civil rights violation, the song tells how Buffalo Springfield saw “a thousand people on the street” who were “singing songs” and “carrying signs”. These peaceful protests, unfortunately, escalated into protest riots as Buffalo Springfield’s song also conveys the war-like feeling of this protest as demonstrated by the lyrics “There's battle lines being drawn” and “Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.” Like the inspirational protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement, “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound)” continues today as a powerful protest anthem and remains a popular cover protest song. –Donna Perezella

I Won’t Back Down”, words and music by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, 1989
as performed by Tom Petty, from Full Moon Fever, 1989

In the song “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty, the lyrics show a theme of power. Released back in 1989, Tom Petty wrote this song after someone had set his house on fire. The song is about standing up to your enemies. Petty says, “No, I’ll stand my ground, won’t be turned around, and I’ll keep this world from dragging me down, gonna stand my ground, and I won’t back down.” This could mean that the writer wants to be in control and have power over his enemies that are trying to bring him down. Although the lyrics are directed to someone or a group of people by a very defiant Tom Petty, the song is written in a surprising major key. – Carlos Orantes

Vem Pra Rua”, words and music by Henrique Ruiz Nicolau, 2013
as performed by Marcelo Falcão, 2013

“Vem Pra Rua” (“Take the Streets”) was made to be the jingle of a FIAT advertising campaign for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil. The song then became more popular when it became a “hymn” of the protests happening across the country regarding the increase of fare of public transportation. People began using the hashtag #vemprarua on social media as a sign of giving power to the people. Marcelo Falcão is the lead vocalist of the Rio de Janeiro-based rock band, O Rappa. – Andrea Goncalves-Whyte

Vem Pra Rua foi feito para ser o jingle da campanha publicitária da FIAT para a Copa das Confederações da FIFA 2013 no Brasil. A canção se tornou mais popular quando se tornou um 'hino' dos protestos que acontecem em todo o país em relação ao aumento da tarifa do transporte público. As pessoas começaram a usar a hashtag #vemprarua nas mídias sociais como um sinal de dar poder ao povo. Marcelo Falcão é o vocalista da banda de rock do Rio de Janeiro, O Rappa. – Andrea Goncalves-Whyte

Small Axe” (Burnin’ version), words and music by Bob Marley, 1970
as performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers, from Burnin’, 1973

“Small Axe” is an anthem with multiple layers of meaning. The metaphor of the axe serves to remind us of the power of diligence, need and “sharpness” in the face of overwhelming odds. This lesson is equally poignant in 2018 as it was in the inequity-ridden Jamaica of the early 1970s. The song also functions as Bob Marley’s take-down of the Jamaican music industry, which, at the time, was controlled largely by a relative few producers (the “big tree”). Control over the music could only be taken back if the artists (the small acts, or “axe”) worked together. – Mark Popeney

Higher Ground”, words and music by Stevie Wonder, 1973
as performed by Stevie Wonder, from Innervisions, 1973

Stevie Wonder speaks on the absent-mindedness of humanity, describing the true nature of this world that we do not see. He tells us about how the “powers” puppeteer what we see and how we believe. As a result, the people can’t see past what is only given to us by the “powers”. Stevie Wonder rejoices in the fact that he is awake and aware of what is not so plainly seen in the world around us. He is making a way for himself to reach a higher level within his self which makes him empowered. The song refers to the struggle for greatness through reference to reincarnation and the afterlife. – A.J. Varrs

Mi Libertad”, words and music by Catalina García, 2015
as performed by Monsieur Periné, from Caja de Música, 2015

In “Mi Libertad” (“My Freedom”), Catalina García, vocalist of Monsieur Periné, sings of the power and yearning for freedom that lives within all of us. The song employs a range of metaphors – a landscape, a guitar, fire, hunger and more–to capture this yearning. The tone is optimistic – this call for freedom knows no fear. The Bogotá, Columbia-based Monsieur Periné mixes cumbia, danzón and other Latin American styles with elements of European music and contemporary pop music. – Mark Popeney

En “Mi libertad,” Catalina García, una vocalista del grupo Monsieur Periné, canta del poder y deseo de la libertad que vive en cada de nosotros. La canción usa muchas metáforas – un paisaje, una guitarra, fuego, hambre y más – para capturar este deseo. El tono es optimista – esta llamada a la libertad sabe, que no conoce el miedo. Monsieur Periné, de Bogotá y Colombia, mezcla cumbia, danzón y otros estilos Latinoamericanos con elementos de la música Europea y la música pop contemporánea. – translation by Daniel Pleitez-Martinez

You Gotta Be”, words and music by Des’ree and Ashley Ingram, 1993
as performed by Des’ree, from I Ain’t Movin’, 1993

In the pop song “You Gotta Be”, Des’ree emphasizes what attitude people should have nowadays by repeating “you gotta be” with positive adjectives. “Go ahead release your fears, stand up and be counted,” this encouragement suggests that people should believe in themselves in order to develop their inner power. Later in the song, Des’ree also warns people not to be reckless, by stating that “This time it’s danger staring you in the face”. All in all, this song can be definitely considered a sunny reflection of strong self-confidence among contemporary people. – Liting Ji

Take the Power Back”, words and music by Tim Commerford, Zack de la Rocha,
Tom Morello, and Brad Wilk, 1992
as performed by Rage Against the Machine, from Rage Against the Machine, 1992

In “Take the Power Back,” Los Angeles-based rap metal band Rage Against the Machine puts on a clinic on fighting the system. The song criticizes the Eurocentric nature of America’s institutions. The band takes direct aim at a racist and paint-by-numbers educational system, calling to mind an incompetent, dishonest teacher. This track, which was the first complete song the band ever played live, comes from the band’s breakout self-titled album. – Mark Popeney

Uprising”, words and music by Matt Bellamy, 2009
as performed by Muse, from The Resistance, 2009

As the lead single for their fifth album The Resistance, “Uprising” by Muse is a powerful call to revolution. Though never explicitly said, it’s believed songwriter Matt Bellamy was referencing the G20 protests that had taken place that year. There was large show of unrest against the “fat cats” (wealthy businessmen) that were meeting in London to discuss financial markets and the world economy. The point of the summit was to keep rich men richer, and discuss new taxes and tariffs on the lower class. Riots were widespread, and there was a violent response from the police that only reinforced what the protests were about. Seeing as Muse is an English band, they chose to take a political stance and insist that we rise up against the “Power,” and they continue that theme on the rest of the album. – Ryan Katz

Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, words and music by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley,
and Chris Hughes, 1985
as performed by Tears for Fears, from Songs from the Big Chair, 1985

Anxieties caused by the Cold War during the mid-80s brought this song into creation. Steady uncertainty loomed over the United States and Russia amid one of the most significant power struggles in history. The first verse of the song gives the listener elements of a communistic society where they watch your every step, even when you sleep. The second verse centers more towards a life in which you have more of a control. Towards the bridge, the lyrics may make reference to the Berlin wall which fell at the end of the Cold War. In this section, the chords ascend to a higher pitch, showing a reverence of hope for the wall to tumble down. The song title is repeated frequently enough throughout the song to reiterate the current status of the global situation, and also holds a bigger meaning in a broader generalized sense: That history repeats itself, especially today with strained relations between the U.S., Russia and North Korea. – Giovanni Rodriguez