2017: A Year in Music and Politics

Our last look at the year in politics, and now it affected some of our favourite artists.

January 1, 2018

2017 was a hard year. Remember when we thought 2016 was horrible? Yeah, those were the days. But here we are, we survived 2017! Along the way, we heard some great music, cried a lot, and probably asked ourselves at least five times a day, “what the hell is going on?”

I hate to be that stereotypical poli-sci nerd that says eVeRyTHIng is POlitCAl, but it is, and guess what: now that a reality TV star is President, politics in music are almost impossible to avoid. So here’s a month by month round-up of all the times Trump did (or said) something stupid and music was here to be the voice of reason… sometimes.


Royal shit disturber Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States in January. Ugh, I know. Unfortunately, YG did not perform his anti-Trump anthem “FDT” at the ceremony. I’m sorry guys, I didn’t have four million dollars lying around (which is the amount YG requested to play Donald Trump’s inauguration, under the condition that he could play “FDT”).

Following the inauguration was the Women’s March which, worldwide, brought together people to protest Trump’s anti-women platform. Plenty of artists came out to show their support, including Lily Allen (who released a Rufus Wainwright cover shortly afterwards), Demi Lovato, HAIM, and Janelle Monae.

Starting off his presidency with a bang, Trump signed an executive order banning the entry of people from seven Muslim majority countries. The music world responded with various notes of outrage. Responses included Four Tet’s Spotify playlist comprising of people from the “banned country list,” and SXSW, who organized an artist showcase comprised of artists from Muslim majority countries.

This alone was enough politics that we needed for the entire year, but we were only getting started.


Ah, February. It’s Grammy and Valentine’s szn — so basically disappointment szn. So, the Grammy’s…

A Tribe Called Quest performed at the Grammy’s alongside Anderson .Paak and Busta Rhymes, unapologetically calling out Donald Trump throughout the performance calling him “Agent Orange.” And Adele won over Beyoncé, which wasn’t surprising given the Grammy’s track record of ignoring the feats of black artists in the music industry.

Later, Rihanna was named Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year for her various humanitarian efforts, including building a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment facility in Barbados, and creating a scholarship program for students from Caribbean countries attending U.S. colleges. Basically 2017 was another year of appreciating Rihanna’s existence, and I’m 100% okay with this.

ALSO: Bono took the time to meet with Vice President Mike Pence and thank him on voting on AIDS relief back in 2003. Cool, thanks Bono? On the other side of the coin, Lana Del Rey promoted witchcraft in an effort to get Donald Trump out of office. I, of course, joined this initiative and expect to see some results. Soon.


To begin the month, we had a message from Cam’ron, rap music’s master of snitching. He endorsed snitching on Donald Trump saying: “y’all snitches have a civic-ass responsibility to tell us what he’s up to.” Well, good because as a part of his first 100 day “blitz of everything that America holds dear,” Trump proposed eliminating the national endowment for the arts and humanities—a program that has been crucial in providing grants for growing artists and artistic events throughout the United States. So for the sake of America’s art, snitches, it’s time to step up.       

RZA also released a politically charged video for the song “No Refuge,” which tackled the worldwide refugee crisis, and of course, was also a critique of Donald Trump.

Kesha faced a serious setback in her legal battle against Dr. Luke. The judge rejected Kesha’s attempt to amend her claims against Dr. Luke, including the claim Dr. Luke did not act in “good faith”—evident from the years of alleged physical and verbal abuse —and that Dr. Luke’s companies Prescription and KMI were not paying her royalties. The judge found that these claims could not go forward based on the evidence as explained in the 10 page ruling. However, their legal battle is still ongoing.


April was apparently heroes month, giving us a break from the raging tire fire that was the first three months of 2017. Kendrick Lamar released DAMN., reminding us all that the world is still not good, but the state of hip-hop is. Considering the state of hip hop, fans have launched a campaign urging Chance the Rapper to run for Mayor of Chicago. To that I say: yes and yes please.

The other hero of April was libertarian utopia Fyre Festival, which inadvertently gave the internet some memeingful entertainment. Created by Bill MacFarlane (and, in part, Ja Rule), the event was supposed to be a luxurious festival experience dubbed “Coachella in the Bahamas.” However, once attendees arrived to the island, the festival was postponed indefinitely. Chaos ensued when attendees realized the island had absolutely no avocado toast… but it did have sliced cheese on plain bread. It was a rare gift from the internet (during a year where there were very few to count).


The end of the May marked one of the year’s many tragedies. In Manchester, a bomb was set off during an Ariana Grande concert killing 23 and injuring over 500. Ariana Grande honourably visited victims in the hospital and paid for various medical expenses on top of organizing the benefit concert, One Manchester (alongside international superstars like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Coldplay, Liam Gallagher, Pharrell Williams and Marcus Mumford) to raise funds to further help the victims of the attack. She was even named an honorary citizen of Manchester.


Ah yes, yet another election in the UK. Many artists encouraged people to get out the vote including Stormzy (<3), MIA, Adele, Disclosure, and Lily Allen. There was even the  #Grime4Corbyn, which offered tickets to a secret show to anyone who registered to vote. Clearly it worked, because youth and minority voters were responsible for an unheard of high voter turnout.


Gavin Russom from LCD Soundsystem bravely came out transgender and shared her story for the first time on Pitchfork.

Then there was outrage from a variety of artists in response to Radiohead’s performance in Israel. However R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe shared his support of Radiohead, saying “I stand with Radiohead and their decision to perform. Let’s hope a dialogue continues, helping to bring the occupation to an end and lead to a peaceful solution.”

The most controversial commentary of the month, however, was Randy Newman’s song about Trump’s dick, which goes a little something like this:

“My dick’s bigger than your dick/It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true/My dick’s bigger than your dick/I can prove it too”

Deep, man.


Donald Trump decided to comment on the Charlottesville protests by saying that both sides were to blame. Musicians from Killer Mike to Lady Gaga, understandably, condemned Trump’s comments, including a tweet from Paramore’s Hayley Williams promoting Trump’s impeachment.

As if that wasn’t enough tragedy for one month, Hurricane Harvey came next and devastated the Eastern United States and parts of Central America, killing 82. Artists responded, including Toro Y Moi, Cloud Nothings, and Speedy Ortiz donating their Bandcamp revenues to rescue and relief efforts. Houston’s own Knowles sisters launched their own initiatives, with Solange hosting a benefit show at the Boston’s Orpheum Theatre alongside Sun Ra Arkestra and Beyoncé launching a fundraiser through her BeyGOOD foundation.

In the Middle East, Saudi performer Abdallah Al Shahani was arrested for dabbing at a music festival—a dance move deemed inappropriate by the Interior Ministry due to its “drug connotations.”


Women completely killed it in the last three months of 2017. Columbian artist Lido Pimienta won one of Canada’s most important music awards, the Polaris Prize, proving that a non-English, non-French record produced by an immigrant can be celebrated as an instant Canadian classic. Another important album drop of the year wasn’t Princess Nokia’s 1992, but rather, the soup she poured on the racist in the New York subway. 

But with the good came more bad, with Hurricane Maria—the worst natural disaster on record for Dominica and Puerto Rico—raging through Latin America. To raise funds to help Puerto Rico, the country’s own Lin-Manuel Miranda released a star-studded track called “Almost Like Praying” alongside Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, and Gloria Estefan.

With the start of the NFL season came time to revisit Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit out (and later take a knee) during the National Anthem before games, a gesture he made in protest of the murder of unarmed black civilians by American police. While Trump spoke out at length about Kaepernick and other NFL players’ decisions to protest during the anthem, many more artists came out and voiced their support, including J Cole, Stevie Wonder, and Jay-Z, who dedicated his Saturday Night Live performance of “The Story of OJ” to Kaepernick. Naturally, Trump spent more time on Kaepernick (who didn’t play a single second of NFL football in 2017) than on sending relief to Puerto Rico. Shocking… well, maybe not.


During the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, a shooter opened fire and killed 58 concert goers and injuring over 500 others. Country music artists expressed their condolences for those who lost their lives, including Jason Aldean, who was performing at the time of the shooting; who dedicated a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” on SNL to the victims of the shooting. Petty had died from a cardiac arrest a few days earlier.

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Tom Petty wasn’t the only legend we lost in October, as icon Gord Downie left us mid-way through the month, leaving a hole in Canada’s heart and making all of us, including our Prime Minister, cry.


And yet another month of women once again killing it. Politician, journalist and metal vocalist Danica Roem became the first openly transgender women elected in Virginia.

The #MeToo campaign, which was awarded 2017 Person of the Year Award by Time Magazine shook the film world and seeped to pretty much all industries—including the music industry. Allegations were released by many artists including Björk and Julia Holter, along with commentary by others including Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast) and Robyn describing their experiences with sexual assault. Some victories occurred, including Taylor Swift winning her case against the Denver radio host who sexually assaulted her showing that the movement is strong and is making sure every man is accountable. Here are (some) of the men accused of sexual misconduct this year related to the music industry:

And that wasn’t it for the month.

Meek Mill was sent to prison for violating parole, bringing Drake and Jay-Z to his defense.


To top off the year, American net neutrality faced its most significant risk yet when the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulations. This has the potential to pretty much change what kind of information users can access on the internet, placing the freedom to listen to music and digest art at risk.

But the last memory I’ll leave with in 2017 is Beyoncé presenting Colin Kaepernick with the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award as a reminder that there is good in the world, and artists (and football players) who are out there to fight for it.

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