Music is powerful and musicians wield a lot of power in their hands, I’m sure we agree on this. That’s why when we see music videos with environmental messages and our favourite musicians get involved in matters that are closest to our hearts, we get all excited.
For instance, when I found out that the tour and launch of Coldplay’s eighth studio album ‘Everyday Life,’ would be a concert streamed on YouTube through sunrise and sunset performances, in an effort to obtain carbon-neutral concerts, I cried. No shame. Chris Martin, the lead singer of the band, said they want to work out how their tours “can not only be sustainable but how can they be actively beneficial.”
We love it when powerful people use their power for good, because as Uncle Ben said “with great power, comes great responsibility.” So, here are some examples of musicians who’ve used their influence to create music and music videos to share the message of environmentalism. We’re all familiar with Michael Jackson’s epic “Earth Song,” but do you know these gems:
Childish Gambino – Feels Like Summer
This man is brillant, to be honest. He addresses critical social issues in a lot of his music, take “This is America.”
In Feels Like Summer, not only does he create epic nostalgia vibes with animated cameos of popular artistes like Whitney Houston (circa the 1980s), Michael Jackson (circa the 1970s), Will Smith washing his car, Nicki Minaj playing with blocks as Travis Scott knocks them over, The Weeknd, Ty Dolla Sign and Frank Ocean playing tug of war against ASAP Rocky, Kanye West being comforted by Michelle Obama, Beyoncé wearing a shirt paying tribute to Fredo Santana, and much more, but if you get over the awesome sceneries you will hear lyrics with deeper meaning.
“You can feel it in the streets, on a day like this, the heat, it feel like summer.” and he’s not just referring to the time of year when skirts get shorter and vests replace t-shirts. It’s all about global warming and how quickly our planet is overheating.
“Every day gets hotter than the one before
Running out of water, it’s about to go down
Air that kill the bees that we depend upon
Birds were made for singing, wakin’ up to no sound.”
Donald Glover is a musician with a message.
Billie Eilish – all the good girls go to hell
The song is from the 18-year-old singer’s debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Well, I love Billie’s music, it’s everything I wanted (get it?). But when I listened to ‘all the good girls go to hell’ and watched the video, I felt goosebumps actually raise all over my body. Billie Eilish’s Southern California homeland has changed, dramatically, by a surge in climate-enhanced wildfires. And as her brother and producer Finneas O’Connell said in an interview with Vulture, “all the good girls go to hell” is about climate change.
In the video directed by Rich Lee, large wings emerge grotesquely from Eilish’s back before she falls from the sky. She drops on Earth, into an oil spill and her once all-white feathers and outfit become covered in oil. As the song begins, she attempts to free herself and walks slowly down the street as the world around her burns.
Billie, keep them coming girl!
30 seconds to Mars – A Beautiful Lie
The song’s title comes from the band’s “A Beautiful Lie” album, which presents lyrics dealing with humanity’s struggle for meaning and justice and the impact we have on our planet.
Unlike the subliminal message in Billie’s video, this one is pretty blatant. It was filmed entirely on location 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle and encourages us to pry ourselves loose from the lies created by corporate industries, hence “beautiful lie.” Before he became The Joker, Jared Leto, in all his eyeliner glory, sings about letting go of consumerism and living beyond the bubble we create for ourselves by buying things which all, in the end, negatively impact our planet.
At the end of the video, there is a clear message about the disappearance of the arctic shelves and states “The time to act is now.” This was ten years ago.
Xavier Rudd – Bow Down
Heading to the land Down Under, Xavier Rudd is one of my all-time favourite musicians. His lyrics are always about protecting the environment as well as ethnic and religious minorities, especially the rights of aboriginal people, from which he descends; he tries to spread their culture and values.
In this song, he uses his sweet and soulful voice and indigenous sounds to carry the hurts, cries, and hopes of Aboriginal Australians. It brings to light the fight against capitalism and imperialism which seeks to value the bottom-line and profit more than our lands and the environment.
“I sit here now 2010 government still stealing land
Making lame excuses for their greed while that|
Oil spills into the sea
And the Whalers now still killing whales and old
Growth bush still being raped….
…Give thanks to the sun
When you open your lungs
Throw your buts in the bin
Help the old turtles swim
Selling tourism on sacred land while the local
Mob sit on their hands.”
He says it all, in those couple lines really. How much longer will life on earth be put at risk because of greed?
Calle 13 – Latinoamérica
Let’s turn now to Latin America and the Caribbean for the next two songs, because, well, these are my people.
Calle 13, a Puerto Rican hip hop and reggaeton group brings tears to my eyes with the lyrics in this song. It is an open cry against the abuse of the resources of Latin America and to an extent the Caribbean region, all for profit of foreign companies and governments. Environmental wastage and exploitation is the theme they cover here, while the chorus chants steadfastly:
“Tú no puedes comprar al viento
Tú no puedes comprar al sol
Tú no puedes comprar la lluvia
Tú no puedes comprar el calor
Tú no puedes comprar las nubes
Tú no puedes comprar los colores
Tú no puedes comprar mi alegría
Tú no puedes comprar mis dolores”
You can not buy the wind
You can not buy the sun
You can not buy the rain
You can not buy the heat
You can not buy the clouds
You can not buy the colors
You can not buy my happiness
You can not buy my pains
Mi tierra no se vende = My land is not for sale
Brother Resistance – Mother Earth
Bringing it even closer to home. This one falls under the genre of ‘rapso,’ which is a musical style created in my homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. It mixes rap with calypso and oftentimes involves the singer freestyling. Think spoken word meet rap meet calypso. Rapso grew here in the 1970s out of social unrest and the Black Power and union movements and Brother Resistance is one of the most popular rapso artistes.
Released in 1996, Mother Earth pays homage to what many Latin Americans call “Pachamama,” a motherly embodiment of our planet and everything she provides us with.
All I will say is listen and enjoy. I’ve already crossed my word limit, so if you have difficulties understanding his accent, hit me up on Twitter. I’ll be happy to explain.