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.

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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.

Lil Wayne – God Bless Amerika

Lil Wayne, in 2013, critiques his country for a foreign policy that lives and dies by the sword. The same point is made for domestic policy in terms of police and jail. The rapper then seems to get off track, describing performing a sex act on his girlfriend. Maybe it’s all somehow related? It could be about the country having no soul, being even aimless, putting disparate things together. Regardless, the image of seeing a butterfly in hell is vivid.

 

Bruce Hornsby – The Way It Is

Does passing a law change people’s thoughts and behaviors?

Bruce Hornsby was skeptical in 1986 – “the law don’t change another’s mind” – thinking back to the US 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This law banned discrimination based on skin color and religion at private establishments like lodging and restaurants, and public places at the state and local government level. Employers were forbidden to discriminate on these grounds and gender, too. The law eased restrictions on voting for African Americans, though did not end qualification requirements. It started the progress toward desegregation of public schools.

 

Against Me! – True Trans Soul Rebel

Singer Tom Gabel said he was transgender, and is now known as Laura Jane Grace. This song is from the punk band’s sixth album, Transgender Dysphoria (2013). This is another term for what psychologists may refer to as gender identity disorder: believing/knowing one is born the wrong sex, basically.

When people identify with the interests, perspectives, values and beliefs of groups in society, this is sometimes called “identity politics.” A big part of identity politics is concern and advocacy for minority representation and rights.

 

Jackson Browne – Redneck Friend

Perhaps it is too “on the nose” to use slide guitar and a Southern rock boogie beat, for a song possibly about rednecks.

The term ‘redneck’ comes from farmers getting sunburned. It has come to mean, more pejoratively, a put-down way to describe people with certain political views. These political views tend to be, in the USA, to be small ‘l’ liberalism (classical liberalism, sometimes annoying just called conservatism). Redneck good old boys believe in the ways things have been done in the past, and aren’t open to new ideas. Thus the term is a slander: it paints the redneck as being racist, sexist, homophobic… you name it! Maybe even against dancing suggestively. Browne sings how a redneck has a list of things of which they do not approve.

Or is he not being literal? This 1973 song has been widely interpreted as a double entendre – that the redneck friend is Jackson’s penis. Umm, now this post has become awkward.

INXS – Original Sin

1980s Aussie rockers liked laying down sparse grooves that if not so danceable, might also seem like unfinished demos. The song is widely thought to be a message of patience for eventual acceptance of mixed-race couples, and perhaps back in 1984, this was considered less acceptable.

The reference to “original sin” may be a Biblical one. In this context, original sin typically refers to the fall of man with Adam’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden. But given that the verses refer to murder, perhaps singer Michael Hutchence had something else in mind (some online interpretations of this song think it is about colonization in Australia).

Whatever, how about the message from INXS is to treat all people equally?