Prayuth Chan-ocha – Because You Are Thailand

Not too many heads of country are pop stars?

Chan-ocha is the prime minister of Thailand, and writes patriotic and nostalgic songs for and about his country.

If we join hands … the day we hope for is not far away,” sings someone on his behalf, as the leader is more like the Bernie Taupin, to Elton John…

Yet critics might think all this to be adult contemporary propaganda – imagine John Tesh with a rifle pointed at you? The man is in power as he took it via the military (a “coup d’état”) in 2014. The military, under his direction today, is not tolerant of dissent.

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Stevie Wonder – He’s Misstra Know-It-All

This song by Stevie Wonder, on his phenomenal social and musical achievement, the Innervisions album of 1973, takes on the 37th US president, Richard Nixon. Well, the lyrics detail an over-confident, know-it-all trickster. But it was widely figured to be about “Tricky Dick.”

You might today feel it applies to President Donald Trump, too, with verses like:

Makes a deal
With a smile
Knowin’ all the time that his lie’s a mile
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Must be seen
There’s no doubt
He’s the coolest one with the biggest mouth
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Also by Stevie Wonder and reviewed here:

Some other songs here about Richard Nixon:

Jackie Shane – Any Other Way

U.S. born Jackie Shane lived in Canada and some like to think he is a relative of Little Richard. This song, a cover, became popular in Canada in 1962.

What’s political is Shane is seen to be using the word ‘gay’ in the lyrics for its sexual orientation connotation, and not simply as a synonym of ‘happy.’ This double meaning was not mainstream back then.

“Tell her that I’m happy/tell her that I’m gay”

The singer was a gay performer who often dressed in drag, and to many today, is seen as an early LGBT artist. Rumours are he is no longer alive, in hiding, or incognito, living her life today, as a transgender woman.

Aimee Mann – Can’t You Tell?

Old school hipsters will want you to know that like them, you should appreciate Aimee Mann. She led 80’s new wavers ‘Til Tuesday, but has a longer, more distinguished, if low-key, solo career.

Today, with this song, Mann is singing as if she was 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

It is part of an artist’s campaign, sort of like these social media challenges of posting inspirational happenings for one month. This one, is 30 Days, 30 Songs, wanting a “Trump-Free America.”

Mann imagines “The Donald” as a sociopath who has no plan for America beyond winning. He can’t stop the damage he is wreaking, and would wreak more, if president. But that, Trump has a conscience and truly, privately wishes someone would put a stop to him getting the top political job of the land.

Who is to blame? Trump for, sure. But Mann as Trump suggests his supporters carry responsibility, too, wanting to crown Donald Trump and troll and lambaste his detractors. That’s an interesting point: Donald Trump is who he is, but what is it in the American political culture that has put this person in prominence?

One could argue, this instalment of 30 Days, 30 Songs could try to get into the minds of Trumpsters to better understand their feelings and motivations, and support for Trump. What gave rise to their stridency?

Mann doesn’t like Trump, and by extension, maybe his adherents, too? But the song even accords some humanity to the man. This is not just from it suggesting Donald wants off this runaway train, but through the tune’s fluid, effortless melody and soothing, jangly instrumentation.

It might be one of the sweetest salves of a protest song, despite Trump being so abrasive in style?

AKB48 – Kimi Wa Melody

Infectious bubble gum pop ecstasy, or borderline “ear worm” annoying?

AKB48 (pronounced A.K.B. Forty-eight) is a Japanese pop act, a super-group not just in their popularity throughout Asia, but because somehow the band has more than 100 members.

The group has found controversy for seeming to use underage sexual imagery in lyrics and videos, and at public appearances such as in their own theatre. For example, a magazine photo showed a member with her naked breasts covered by what looked like a child’s hands.

AKB48 is also seen as providing examples of strong female role models to Japanese culture, in a larger society that is seeking to make gains for gender equality. But another member shaved her head as some sort of apology, after she stayed over night with a man.

Zeb And Haniya – Dadra

“Two days after a bombing in Lahore killed over 70 Pakistanis at an Easter gathering this year [2016], the pop duo Zeb and Haniya released ‘Dadra,’ which they dedicated to their beloved city. It’s a sweet lullaby of lament, the Urdu lyrics guided by an electric guitar’s undertow. Zeb and Haniya have found an especially strong following in South India. Zeb says she was surprised and touched by how many Indian fans wrote with sympathy from across the border” (The Economist, “1843 Magazine,” June/July 2016, p. 25).

Zeb and Haniya, cousins, are American college educated Pakistanis. They blend pop music with traditional melodies from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

A Pakistani branch of the Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack. It appears to be a failed political mission: it killed mostly Muslims, and women and children, though the group’s apparent intent was to target Christian men.

Bruce Cockburn – Call It Democracy


Canadian folkie Bruce Cockburn argued back in 1986, that the foreign policy of powerful countries is about making a buck, not lifting people in poor places out of their misery. As well, that international organizations are not benevolent, either. The International Monetary Fund is a target in one verse.

The IMF goes back to 1944, and on the face of it, with almost 200 member countries, seeks to encourage financial stability in countries dealing with low revenues, high debt, inflation, high unemployment, and more. The IMF works to foster international trade.

Cockburn figures the IMF does more harm than good, leaving developing countries in debt.

More generally, the IMF has been criticized for the conditions it has sometimes imposed on countries to get into their version of fiscal shape. This has meant getting troubled countries to reduce public spending to address government debt. The IMF has also been criticized for not been sensitive enough to local conditions and on-the-ground needs of the places it exists to serve.

Also by Cockburn: If A Tree Falls, If I Had A Rocket Launcher

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