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.

Coven – One Tin Soldier

An AM radio anti-war message that highlights the ignorance of greed.

This song was originally done by a Canadian band, The Original Caste, but this 1971 version is better known, having been in a film, “Billy Jack.”

It’s a song with a story. It resonates on listening, with the Pachelbel Canon type melody. The lyrics might seem simplistic and Dr. Seuss-like when summarized in print.

There is a nation or country (the mountain people), and a warring nation or country (the valley people). The mountain people have a hidden treasure that they will share with the valley people. But the valley people want it all for themselves. So they kill off the good guys. But then… spoiler alert… the treasure is just a message about peace!

The joke’s on the you, genocidal valley boys and girls!

International conflict is rarely this simple and never this hummable!

Beach Boys – Roll Plymouth Rock

“Smile” is the legendary Beach Boys album that consumed Brian Wilson in its development. This pastiche has the surfer boys harmonizing about American Indians losing their land and identity. A “ribbon of concrete” eroded a culture and history of an entire people.

Sort of that’s what this is about. Who knows! The reach could be broader than native Americans, because the song, sometimes or formerly known as Do You Like Worms, also puts into melody a Hawaiian thanksgiving prayer.

Ernest Van “Pop” Stoneman – The Titanic

Born in a log cabin, motherless from a toddler on, and proficient at many instruments, Stoneman (1893-1986) helped pioneer American country music. This song, from 1915 or 1916, is also known as “It Was Sad When That Great Ship Went Down” and “Titanic (Husbands and Wives).” Its composer is not known.

There is something about popular culture that loves tragedy, the way drivers also slow down to get a look at a car accident. Some critics of government like to claim that high profile accidents and disasters are used as excuses for further state intervention in our lives, and correspondingly, less personal freedom.

Thus, a ship sinking leads to oceanic regulations, the way a terrorist attack leads to phone tapping with the U.S. Patriot Act?

See also: Céline Dion – My Heart Will Go On

Ani Difranco – Self Evident

Difranco gets a lot off her mind in this 2002 poem of a song. It highlights the anger many artists felt about U.S. policy in the 2000s. It covers 9/11 and terrorism, abortion, energy policy, the media and technology, elections and more… all with a hate on for George W. Bush.

The scope is impressive, though could one wonder if the singer appreciates the depth of detail to be an authority on so much? It could be seen as a laundry list of political issues and areas many of us could be better informed about.

The style is similar to another Difranco song, Amendment.

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – Power To The People

Apparently, Lennon didn’t think that much of this 1971 song as the years passed. It was inspired by an interview the singer gave to Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn of the Marxist newspaper, Red Mole. From this source, peaceful revolutions were inadequate to dismantle the existing capitalist system. It’s not clear if Lennon was writing from their perspective the way a fiction author may not necessarily believe in the thoughts and actions of their characters. However, the lyrics suggest support for a worker’s revolution of the kind that Karl Marx envisioned: to take to the streets and even violently usher in communism.

Billy Bragg – To Have And Have Not

The melody seems to come from Rudy Can’t Fail by the Clash, or maybe their version of I Fought The Law. Like the Clash, Bragg is British, and his folk and protest music is punk-tinged.

This song communicates that the privileged aren’t better people than those less well off. It tries to correct a stereotype that those out of work aren’t in all cases lazy, but that they just have less opportunities than the upper class.  It came at a time of hardship for the working class in the 1980s, when even if industrious, may have found themselves struggling to get by, unemployed.

In politics “haves” and “have nots” are popular ways to describe economic classes of people in a fixed social structure. Here, the “haves” accumulate more and more wealth, at the expense of the “have nots.” In Marxist terms, these would be the bourgeosie and proletariats. Today, we have seen the division described as the 1 percent and 99 percent, from the Occupy Movement.

The title is also from the 1937 Ernest Hemingway novel, which became a film with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.