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Crossing Genres, Finding Love
Socially-conscious tunes from rap to sad girl pop
You may have noticed that much of the music featured on this newsletter is from young, female singer-songwriters. This is no coincidence. On the one hand, I think young, female singer-songwriters are uniquely attuned to the climate crisis in their art. On the other hand, it is quite simply most of what I listen to.
But even I am stepping out of my genre comfort zone today. Why? Well, Kendrick Lamar has released a new album, which means THAT is the pop culture news of the day. Kendrick Lamar has had a number 1 and triple platinum album, and he’s even a Pulitzer prize winner (the first non-classical or jazz artist to win the award). Beloved by critics and the public alike, Kendrick Lamar is a rare kind of superstar.
His new album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is not about climate, but it is about social justice. Kendrick deals with racism, sexism, abuse, transphobia, and more. Whether he handles it perfectly is another story — there has been both widespread praise and criticism about a few guest and lyrical choices. What is clear, though, is that he is attempting to use his platform to radically subvert some of the most enduring power structures in our society. This is the same thing that the climate justice movement tries to do.
The climate justice movement acknowledges that the root cause of the climate crisis is much deeper than carbon emissions. The real story? An extractive capitalist system that puts profits over all else, colonial policies that reject indigenous sovereignty, systemic racism that considers some people to be expendable, and a patriarchal world view that denies holistic decision making are killing us… not so slowly. Kendrick can give us a model for how we deal with these deep, deep harms. We can both hold the the people and systems that are abusing our climate accountable and find the understanding for them that will heal society. As Kendrick raps, “As I set free all you abusers, this is transformation.”
“Mother I Sober” is a song about trauma, transformative justice, and love. It parallels the history of social movements that rely on both accountability and love and healing to create change. I’d encourage you to try to understand and forgive someone that’s complicit in the harmful systems causing the climate crisis. Because isn’t a future of love the kind of future we’re fighting for?
Another artist sang about love and climate change today as well. Sasha Alex Sloan released her album, I Blame the World (I reviewed the titular single a while back). She’s a completely different kind of artist… For one — she has not reached Kendrick’s superstardom. For two — she’s a connoisseur of sad girl pop, which makes the climate crisis a ripe topic. It comes up a couple times in the altogether morose album. Ironically, the song actually titled “Global Warming” is one of the most upbeat.
How can this be? Well, Sasha sings about how being in love provides momentary relief from the massive, existential problems we face. It’s an important reminder that not only is love important for creating the future we want to see; it’s important for bearing the present we live in right now. I’m certainly not advocating for turning a blind eye to the crisis, but I do think there is truth in her refrain, “Now I know why they say ignorance is bliss, your love makes me forget bad things exist.”
So, I hope you find love this week. Whether it ends in a reprieve from the bad news or a model for how we begin to forgive each other and chart a path out of the oppressive system we live in, I don’t know. What I do know is that love crosses genres. It’s the great uniter, the ultimate common theme, the driving force of our lives. And if there is hope to be had, it is to be found in our shared capacity to love our homes, this planet, and each other.