Does Anyone Listen? Protest songs have probably been written almost as long as people have created music. When you’re a musician and your voice is your music, how better to express yourself than in your song? After all, music normally has some story behind it, sometimes expressed in happiness, sadness or frustration. To the listener, the song can be just another hit on the weekly top 20 countdown. We can interpret the composition in our own way, but unless we talk to the composer, we may never know the true meaning. But if we never step back and really listen, we may not hear the “true message” in the song lyrics, much like the latest release from Evanescence, “Yeah Right”.
There have been numerous subjects of protest music over the years with a variety of themes. Some songs have slightly veiled meanings like the 1939 Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ which talks about the lynching of black people in the south. Others protest war like the Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ or The Doors’ ‘The Unknown Soldier’. Then you have some that are in direct response to an actual event that happened such as the U2 ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ OR CSNY’s ‘Ohio’. Both written in response to a military force firing on civil rights protestors. And then there are some that reflect the musician’s personal preferences as in The Smiths’ ‘Meat is Murder’, obviously advocating vegetarianism.
My point is that there have been many protest songs with some topics more widely protested than others. But the new release, ‘Yeah Right’, by Evanescence may be the first which appears to protest the industry behind the singer. The huge voice of Amy Lee kicks off the song with “I’m the widow on the tip-tippy-toppy of the highest high of the low”. This seems to refer to her being at the top of the music scene. After all, who wouldn’t want to be at the top of their business?,
This is not the typical sound I would have expected from Evanescence when compared to the sound of songs like ‘Bring Me to Life’ off their first album. Obviously ‘Yeah Right’ is being released roughly 17 years after their debut, but it was originally written almost 10 years ago around the time of their self titled Evanescence album release. Where most of their music has a metal edge with a driving beat this release has more of a pop rock vibe. The normal big haunting operatic vocals in Lee’s other music has more of rock singer sound in this new LP. But having said that, this change in style does not take away at all from my enjoyment of this new song.
After listening to the song myself and reading the lyrics, the term carpetbagger comes to mind. What the heck is a carpetbagger you may ask? Going back to an earlier time of protests, the slavery of the civil war era, this term was used to describe people from the north that went to the south to take advantage of the local population. Carpetbaggers would try to scam the southern people, due to the desperation of the post war economy, to do work for them where the carpetbagger would get most of the profit and the southerner would barely scrape by.
Similarly to the frustrated people of the early south, Lee sums up her frustration with the cost of her sacrifices while belting out, “Someday we’ll get paid more than it was worth to sell our souls”. Apparently the vexation of some artists is not unique to those who are struggling in their local areas, but is prevalent up to the highest levels of “success”.
But as with all songs of protest, it’s only another song unless the message stimulates a physical response. Will Evanescence’s cry of frustration with “Yeah Right” be just another hit on the music billboard, or will it trigger a change in the music industry?
The Bitter Truth is set to release March 26th but pre-orders are on sale now!