When people think protest music, Bob Dylan or one of the Guthrie’s might come to mind. If you’re like me and prefer divas, Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez might be up your alley. Although to be honest, I don’t know any of their catalogs and couldn’t pick them out of a police line-up. Until recently, I thought protest music was left blowing in the wind of the 60’s inside an aromatic cloud of pot, body odor and patchouli.
However, over the past few years, I’ve been woke by some of my divas with their mix of pop and protest that’s spoken to my inner rebel. I was instantly a fan of Doria Roberts’ “one man insurrection” when she warned of being a “pissed off rock and and roll dyke n***** bitch so I think you better start running” on her socially fed-up anthem “Iguana.” While Be Steadwell’s lyrics “Let’s go home and have gay sex / We’ll do it for the President / The Sons Of The Confederates / Oh they wish they could fuck like us / This is my civil unrest / There are so many ways one can protest / Hold up your sign in the street / And when you’re done, bring your fine ass home to me” on her song “Gay Sex” had me feeling part of a revolution.
So my ears perked up when I heard a new-to-me queer musical poetress, Crys Matthews, was releasing her own revolutionary album called Changemakers. Where Doria and Be do a mix of protest and pop, Crys is on a mission to spread her message on every song she sings. Crys wages war on drugs (“This Kind Of War”), politics (“Time Machine”), guns (“Safe”), racism (“How Many More”), homophobia (“Prodigal Son”), and the patriarchy (“For The Women With Steel In Their Bones”). Her sound is mostly modern folk, a little country, and just enough pop to be catchy. The messages are heavy but her mood is a light full of positivity, hope and love.
Crys puts lyrics and beats to our current history as it’s being made. Some of the lyrics are already outdated with the change of presidential leadership but other injustices are just as topical as when the Flower Children sang about them decades ago. In my gay opinion, my hope is that in time, Changemakers will become totally obsolete without a need for protest music. Until then, we can listen to Crys’ Tracy Chapman-esque sound, get lost in her Maya Angelou worthy lyrics, and learn to incite change.