Last Updated on September 21, 2022 by Karl Thompson
Some popular songs from across the decades which illustrate various social trends.
The 1960s…. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones (1965)
No, it’s not (just) about sexual frustration, in a word (or rather a concept) it’s about anomie… with possible links to Strain Theory.
The 1960s witnessed the acceleration of consumer culture, and in this song Jagger outlines his frustrations at the commercialization of everything. He’s a rebel, and yet he’s part of the system, maybe realizing he can’t escape it….. socially induced cognitive dissonance, aka anomie.
The 1970s.. Imagine, John Lennon (1971)
Sociology started in something of a Utopian spirit, even if August Comte’s hopes for a Positivist ‘progress through order‘ was somewhat different from John Lennon’s take on Utopia, so what other song was it going to be from the 1970s? Other than this:
Pink Floyd… Another Brick in the Wall (1979)
To my mind the contrast between ‘Imagine’ and this song just about sum up the mood change in British society from the beginning to the end of the 1970s. NB If Pink Floyd thought education was bad back in the 1970s, that was nothing compared to terrors of performativity unleashed by Marketisation in the 1980s, talking of which….
The 1980s…Like a Virgin, Madonna (1984)
You’ll struggle to find a better representation of dawn of postmodernity than this…it’s all here – the beginning of self-branding, and the themes of reinventing yourself (it’s in the title, unless I’m reading too much into it!).
The 1990s… Outside – by the legendary George Michael (RIP), 1998
As it says in the comments – it’s the ‘best ‘proud’ I’m gay’ song ever, but we can do a little better…
If you contrast how the public persona of GM in Outside has changed since his ‘in the closet’ days of ‘Last Christmas‘ this can be used to illustrate the extent to which social attitudes to sexuality changed between the years 1986 to 1998… in fact, according to this Guardian article, George Michael used this song explicitly as a message that he would not be shamed about his sexuality. To bring this a bit more up to date – you might also like this performance of George in the first ever ‘Car Pool’ (2011).
Of course you could even backtrack to Humphries’ Tea Room Trade Research (1968 I think that was) to further emphasize changing attitudes to sexuality.
The 2000s… Add Me, Chumbawamba (2008)
- Add me, Add me,
- Me mother says she wish she never had me.
- Add me, add me,
- Would you like to add me as a friend?
You’ll never guess what this is an early critique of!
The 2010s… Ghosts of Grenfell, Lowkey (2017)
Just watch it. Every single victim is named at the end…..
And maybe to avoid a tragedy like this happening again, what we need is the…
Death of Neoliberalism, Lowkey (2017)
- Your public service died, death to World Bank and IMF; is it freedom?
- The kleptocracy orchestrated, subjugated corporate state that isn’t freedom!
- Theresa’s a terrorist, we could be standing at the precipice of freedom!
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