Protest Pop: Katy Perry and LeAnn Rhimes

In the wake of a conservative boom in both the US and Britain, pop stars have turned their art into a platform for equality and protest. Of course, this cycle has recurred in popular culture (perhaps most famously in the 60s). In celebration of freedom of speech, let's chat about two divas fighting the good fight with their music: Katy Perry and LeAnn Rhimes.

Perry's chilled out protest dance pop tune, "Chained to Rhythm" is already a hit, debuting on the Hot 100 at no. 4 after a solid premiere performance at the Grammy's and its official video release. Though it has a smooth surface, "Chained" works as a satire of complacency and criticizes a nation that has become a zombie to technology. Perry's message about the false sheen of the American Dream is made clearer in the tune's video, where her character visits a theme park called "Oblivia." If you watch the video a few times, you will see both her wit and the expansive vision of her protest.

Of course, "Chained" works as a pop tune. A few critics have criticized the track's polish, but Perry is not a punk artist; she's a mainstream pop star, and crafting a catchy tune with a message is a logical and socially responsible move for the singer.

In general, audiences and critics alike have embraced the new "woke" Perry and commended the political messages in her new material. Her 2017 Grammy performance is also the best of career. Though Perry has never won a Grammy (despite many nominations), I predict that these tides will change with this new creative era. 2017 has great things in store for Perry, and her forthcoming new record is going to be a game-changer, both for the sound of mainstream radio and for Perry's position with critics.

In contrast to Perry's splashy pop rebirth, LeAnn Rhimes made a quiet return to the charts with the US release of her new record, Remnants. The album made a modest debut on the Billboard 200 at no. 88, which is a shame because it's a solid soul record in the 70s tradition. Mixing stories of personal romance (like an excellent cover of "The Story") and social politics, the album has a lot in common with the work of artists like Marvin Gaye.

I want to zoom in on one song in particular: the catchy "Love is Love is Love." The tune is light and frothy thanks to the soft handclaps that provide percussion and Rhimes warm vocal. While Perry plays with camp and satire to deliver her message. Rhimes directly schools us in equality, singing, "We know the times are changing. Let me shout it to the whole world: love is love is love... Let's start a revolution."  I hope Rhimes decides to release the tune as a single, because it is the kind of music we need right now, and it would be perfect for early Spring radio.

Sadly, there is no video for "Love is Love is Love" on YouTube, but maybe this video for "The Story" will peak your interest enough that you will grab a copy of Remnants to get the tune:

So, dear reader, what are your favorite protest pop tunes? Why do you love them? Let's chat about it.

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