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Author Tract / Music

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  • A Perfect Circle's album Emotive is an anti-war tract, specifically against the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in the Aughts.
  • While normally Bob Dylan puts enough subtlety in his protest songs that you could naively assume they were made purely for the artistic merit, he didn't even try with "Neighborhood Bully." His 1964 song "Ballad in Plain D" is a fairly straight forward rant about the end of his relationship with Suze Rotolo (the woman with him on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan), blaming her "parasite sister" for breaking them up.
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  • Early Chicago had a lot of these. If it's penned by Robert Lamm, expect this trope (also, expect a lot of vitriol aimed at the establishment). Exemplified by "A Song for Richard and His Friends."
  • Most of the work of The Cranberries is about their political views stemming from The Troubles. Even their international hit song "Zombie" ("It's been the same old theme since 1916") is a cry to Think of the Children! and stop the fighting.
  • Taken collectively, the soundtrack to the 1994 fantasy-action film The Crow is a combination of this and Author Appeal by proxy. The line-up is primarily a showcase for the kinds of bands that James O'Barr, the creator of the comic on which the movie is based, enjoyed growing up (especially The Cure, who contribute the movie's unofficial theme song: "Burn"). But there are also a few songs that get preachy, sometimes excessively so, reflecting some of the more extreme left-wing positions of the 1990s. "Golgotha Tenement Blues" (by Machines of Loving Grace) is a more subtle example, since it comments on the urban corruption ("Down on the boulevard, children are sold, to pave the way for your streets of gold") that is one of the major undertones of The Crow. But Pantera contribute the anti-cop "The Badge," which outright refers to policemen as "badge-wearing fascist villains" (while the police lieutenant in the film is sympathetic). And on "Darkness," Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha raps: "My people were left with no choice but to decide, to conform to a system responsible for genocide!" The Crow is, at its heart, about one man's private anguish and contains no explicit political themes (except, perhaps, for "slumlords are evil").
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  • Diary of an Unborn Child is an anti-abortion Author Tract.
  • Dixie Chicks did this so much in "Not Ready To Make Nice." They basically come to terms with their now-dwindling fan-base (due to a disdainful comment by lead singer Natalie Maines after President George W. Bush was re-elected). They even recognize the death threats they received on their tour that year.
  • The album Firestorm by filk musician Leslie Fish is intended as a set of instructions for surviving after a nuclear war. Many of her other songs are author tracts on the subjects of religion, anarchism, and civil liberties.
  • Much of Green Day's American Idiot album contains constant Take Thats against the George W. Bush administration. One song on the album, "Holiday", despite already being an Author Tract manages to still have an Author Filibuster where the song stops for the singer to Strawman Political Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Bush directly through spoken word, complete with pulling a Godwin. Only a couple of tracks on the album ("Holiday" and "American Idiot" especially) are explicitly political, though, with the main focus of the album being a narrative about disaffected youths. Most assume the entire album is nothing but political ranting because the two most Anvilicious songs were released as singles and, consequentially, received the most airplay
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  • Not the Discovery album specifically, but the music video Interstella 5555 is basically a giant middle finger to the celebrity system and the corporate world's exploitation of artists, which fits Daft Punk's core philosophies quite well.
  • Several of John Lennon's works from '72 and '73. "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" is a good example. There is even the Nutopian International Anthem — which is silent...
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd created quite a few:
    • "All I Can Do Is Write About It" talks about the destruction of the Southern environment.
    • "God and Guns" takes a stand about anti-gun politicians.
    • "Saturday Night Special" talks about the dangers of readily-available cheap guns.
    • "Simple Man" extols the virtues of simple, humble living.
    • "Things Goin' On" shines a light on poverty in the United States and claims it doesn't have enough attention from politicians.
  • Marilyn Manson's "Triptych" albums, Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood (In The Shadow of The Valley of Death) are three separate ones that, at times, overlap. The first is about individuality, a tract against Christianity and also an adaptation of the Book of Revelation (though it took the fandom a while to figure this out, because Manson says little about the plots and embedded a lot of obscure imagery from both the Bible and occult and historical sources) from the viewpoint of the Antichrist, who is also a musician. The second is a tract against the rock star life, based on Manson's own experiences, told from the viewpoint of two alien rock stars and the "Mechanical Animals" are their band. The aliens, Alpha and Omēga, are enslaved to their label, addicted to drugs and in love with a woman named Coma White, who might not even be real (though, Holy Wood shows she is). Finally, Holy Wood (In The Shadow of The Valley of Death) was written in 1999 and 2000, hot off the heels of the Columbine Massacre and Manson's misblaming, and is another tract against Christianity, as well as America's gun culture, sports culture and government worship, centered around a protagonist named Adam Kadmon, a musican and revolutionary. His name comes from the Kabbalah and means "original man". Much of this era was also explained in various public appearances and even a few speeches, and there was to be a Holy Wood book, but it was never released (although Manson still wants to, 15 years after the album). Oh, all three are connected, as stated before. In the opposite order.
    • Outside of the Triptych, there are numerous songs about various things, including many off of the first album, Portrait of An American Family, as well as ones off of later albums like the song We're From America.
  • Ministry did an entire TRILOGY of full-length albums specifically against George W. Bush.
  • Neal Morse left his Prog Rock band Spock's Beard after becoming a Christian. His Testimony album is pretty much the story of his conversion, although he tends not to be didactic and simply calls it "my story."
  • Oingo Boingo danced around this trope. They drifted into politics occasionally throughout the 1980s... but since Danny Elfman's sociopolitical views are (or were) all over the map, he comes off more like an extremely disgruntled anarchist ranting about how he hates everything. He even admitted that the entire point of Oingo Boingo's existence was to "piss everybody off."
  • Nerina Pallot's "Everybody's Gone to War" was even lampshaded on the radio, with DJs saying she had a slight problem with Iraq.
  • "Long Leather Coat" by Paul McCartney, issued in 1993. If you are not an animal liberationist, you will get chills listening to this.
  • Porcupine Tree delivers a bitter and blistering Take That! against the music industry in "The Sound of Muzak", accusing it of robbing music of any creativity, emotion, and sincerity.
  • Just about all the music of Canadian far-left band Propaghandi is like this, although it's gotten to the point where they spend so much time at their concerts ranting to the audience instead of actually playing music, that their fans have been known to yell at them to shut up and play.
  • Rammstein prefers to stay out of politics, but made an exception with the song "Amerika", a song mocking America and sarcastically "celebrating" how America's culture has dominated and overwritten other peoples', and "Moskau", a sister-song to "Amerika" from the same album that focuses on Russia's corruption and comparing the country to an old prostitute.
  • Rush's Rock Opera 2112 was heavily inspired by Ayn Rand's Anthem, and a number of the group's other songs reference Objectivist ideals, such as "Tom Sawyer", and (appropriately enough) "Anthem".
    • Their much later album, Roll the Bones, particularly the title track, can be seen as an Author Tract repudiating their earlier Objectivism, or at least softening it greatly; and propounding more of a 'life is random, you deal with what you get' attitude, incorporated with a strong anti-religion/superstition message.
  • Stan Rogers sang unabashedly about many social issues, but really only dabbled tractfully into politics by taking on the subject of The Troubles with his song "House of Orange" — this despite being Canadian, not Irish.
    And causes are ashes where children lie slain.
  • Stereolab have a lot of songs espousing a Marxist / Situationist worldview. It's all but impossible to find a professional review of the band that doesn't mention this fact.
  • System of a Down lost a lot of their fandom after their concerts became political talk-downs instead of politically charged music.
  • Parodied with a hint of deconstruction by Tenacious D in the song "City Hall", where the duo take over the world — first, they legalise pot, then they try to reduce pollution with an absurd and impractical tube system, then they start to lose steam, showing that rock stars aren't really the type of people who you should take political advice from. After they've settled down, the band tries to kill each other — and succeeds.
  • Woody Guthrie wrote an entire album protesting the bias that was shown in the landmark Sacco and Vanzetti trial, which took place about 20 years prior.
  • In the 2000s, it has become chic to produce remixes of existing songs (protest songs in particular) containing soundbytes from the creator's political candidate of choice. Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" has been mashed up with a John Kerry speech in 2004, and 2008 has seen a hip-hop remix of several Barack Obama speeches.
  • Many thrash metal bands moved in this direction during classic metal's Götterdämmerung between 1988 and 1991, trading sex and violence for left-wing politics and anti-war messages, and beer-fueled fury for punkish societal indignation. Some bands, like Sacred Reich and Toxik (whose second album is a Concept Album about how television is bad for you), made their entire careers doing this sort of music.
    • With that said, at least 70% of post-"The World Needs A Hero" Megadeth is frontman Dave Mustaine taking personal potshots at the American government.
  • Terre Thaemlitz's entire career as a musician has revolved around exploring leftist and queer socio-political issues, all of which are printed in extensive liner note essays (and available on her website.)
    • Since Instinct Records wouldn't allow any liner notes in their albums to keep ambient music as "a universal experience", she protested that notion sonically on her albums for that label. Tranquilizer includes a song designed to sound like a jerk-off session; others commented on brutality and domestic violence. Soil followed suit, with commentary on AIDS and abuse. Both album titles were double entendres meant as additional commentary (on the genre's banality and on its then-obsession with undefined earth-positive spiritualism, respectively.)
    • Her album Couture Cosmetique subtitled, Transgendered electroacoustic symptomatic of the need for a cultural makeover (Or... What's behind all that foundation?), is a discussion on the dominance of male heterosexual producers in electronic music, the influence that their gender has over all producers, and what a queer piece of electronic music would really sound like.
    • Love for Sale: Taking Stock in Our Pride, released in 1998, was ahead of its time in criticizing the media and retail worlds' attempts in repackaging and selling queer culture back to LGBT people. The album also criticized LGBT peoples' decision to exchange their fight for all basic human rights for the sole ability to get married.
    • Lovebomb talks about the overexposure of the word "love" to the point that it has become almost meaningless in the Western cultural climate.
    • Her piano cover albums of Gary Numan, Kraftwerk and DEVO songs contain essays exploring how each artist queered their surroundings (by camouflaging in dystopian landscapes, transforming themselves into robots or by just plain being weird, respectively.)
    • Soullessness meditates on the decontextualization and repackaging of cultural and subcultural mores to fit into and satiate "the mainstream norm", and where transsexuality, wage labor, and spirituality belong in that conversation.
    • Deproduction takes an uncomfortable and unflinching look at how every sector of the LGBT+ community conspires to live and act like heterosexual people, down to marriage, children and military service, and offering commentary on why this isn't the correct path. The first half of the text/visuals that accompany the album depict explicit and disturbing scenarios of teen pregnancy, forced child support, pregnancy denial, and cultural sex taboos from around the globe, in an effort to highlight things swept under the rug that are much, much worse than LGBT+ couples being allowed to live as they are (as in, not as a married, cohabitating, one-person-is-the-bride-and-the-other-is-the-groom kind of way.)
    • Her entire body of work as DJ Sprinkles is about the re-appropriation and homogenization of black and Latinx queer culture for heterosexual masses. The song "Sloppy 42nds" was about and dedicated to all the transsexual people and bars that were thrown out of Times Square when it was revitalized into the tourist trap it is today. Her critically adored album Midtown 120 Blues posits, "The House Nation likes to pretend clubs are an oasis from suffering, but suffering is in here with us;" and that house music, while promoted as a universal shared experience, is actually hyper-specific and means different things to each person you talk to. The 21-minute, two-part "Grand Central" ends with an ambient re-imagining of her traumatic one-way move from Missouri to New York City at age 18 by train, taken to escape the near-constant physical and emotional abuse from all sides for being queer, to illustrate that last point.
  • Todd Rundgren's 1975 album Initiation was a retort to his fans who wanted him to ditch the synthesizers and Buddhist symbolism that had crept into his crunchy rock/AOR pop sound on previous albums A Wizard, a True Star and Todd. Instead, he went on for 68 full minutes about it, telling his fans that he was a "Real Man" "Born to Synthesize", and taunting them to follow him or lose him forever. Then came the 32-minute synth freakout that closed the album, containing movements named after the seven chakras.


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