What We Need: Artists with Positive Agendas

Like School of Rock’s Dewey Finn once said, “It’s time to stick it to the man.” Although, music with a strong message as such doesn’t just mean songs like “American Idiot” or have to come from artists like John Lennon. There are an array of bands and artists who are thriving in every way right now. They’re doing great things for music and even greater things for their fans and the world around them, so it’s time to give those artists a bit more recognition when it comes to taking stands, speaking out, and being true to their beliefs, morals, and (of course) musical style. 

 

1. SWMRS

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Straight out of Oakland, California is one of the hottest bands at the moment: SWMRS. The four piece consists of Cole and Max Becker, blonde haired brothers who individually and together crush the vocal game. Seb Mueller, the bassist and wildest of the four wild childs who recently revealed he was born in a geodesic dome on the way to a Grateful Dead concert, and Joey Armstrong, whose stellar drumming skills on and off the stage mirror those of his heroes, The Beatles’ Ringo Starr and Green Day’s Tre Cool.

They might be musicians at their core, but this band does much more for their fans and the world than make music. For example, in a piece they did with Ones to Watch, they started their interview by saying: “We're SWMRS and all eyes are on us because you're gonna have times in your life where somebody maybe isn't there for you, but we put music out in the world that's going to be there for you and we'll always have a space for you to come express yourself.”

Furthering that honest sentiment, the band uses their platform for the greater good and general self expression – creatively, musically, politically, and socially – but they truly act on it. This past Christmas season, they designed and sold a limited edition shirt that stated “All I Want for Christmas is Gun Control,” and donated all of the proceeds to anti-gun violence initiatives.

SWMRS also just posted a social media video explaining to fans and viewers what Title X is and why we need to fight to protect it.  Not to mention that frontman Cole Becker tautes an acoustic guitar that states “This Machine Kills Fascists,” and “No Ban, No Wall.” Nowadays, it’s not new for people who have strong opinions about the political and social climate to express their feelings, but to fully act on them to try and make a difference is something vital and truly commendable.

The SWMRS Fund accepts individual, outside donations on top of donating a portion of ticket sales to an abundance of organizations that touch upon an abundance of relevant, important topics across this country and the globe. Cole explains that the reason behind creating this non-profit on their website, stating: "We're so lucky to be able to pursue a life of art and music. Singing, dancing, and playing shows makes us feel free and empowered. We wanted to start this fund to acknowledge how fortunate we are to do what we love, and to do our part to make the world a place where everyone can feel as free as we do."

You can read up more about The SWMRS Fund and the organizations it supports here, and if you haven’t heard much of their music, I recommend one of their latest singles, “Trash Bag Baby,” which can be listened to live here.

 

2. As It Is

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As It Is is a severely underrated band musically and socially and I’ll stand by that statement for the rest of my life. The British-American pop punk band brings a sense of emo nostalgia to the 2010s, but they’re breaking modern barriers all of the time... and the band just so happens to be fronted by one of the kindest people in music: Patty Walters.

In an interview from this past January, Walters talked about why their single “The Stigma [Boys Don’t Cry]” was as empowering and blatantly honest as it is, and as to why now was the perfect time to put it out into the world. “I think it is a very important song because mental health is a particularly prevalent conversation right now, and equally, gender identity is a particularly prevalent conversation right now. I think the two go hand-in-hand with the conversation and the two are kind of seamless in that song.”

A song AND a video that showcases and breaks down the negative correlation between men not being able to be truly emotional beings and awfully toxic masculinity? In this social and political climate? It is exactly what we need. Now is the time to give the world this song and something to look at closer in a more cultural way so that it’s message really gets across to those who listen and watch with eyes and ears that are wide open, accepting, and ready for this stigma to come to an end.

Not only has As It Is put out thought provoking, relevant music to make a change, but their live shows do just the same since they partnered with A Voice for the Innocent this past year. The band brought representatives from the non-profit along on tour with them to educate during the first part of the set, give out pamphlets, and have information booths at every single tour date for fans and concert goers to learn more and take action when it comes to being a resource and having resources when victims of abuse, harassment, and sexual assault are struggling

Both the band and the organization are striving to create a safe community for those in need, provide support, and advocate for those who might not be able to speak up for what they need, what they’re feeling, and how they’re coping in such a tramasutzing situation. The first steps to creating that space is education and that is why As It Is brought A Voice for the Innocent on tour with them: to educate and advocate. In addition, part of the proceeds from the merchandise sales when to A Voice for the Innocent, to help raise funds for what they do and keep their story telling, resource granting, community building organization alive and strong for those who need it.

To learn more about A Voice for the Innocent, click here. To listen to more music by As It Is, of which I highly recommend, listen to their most recent, absolutely fantastic record, “The Great Depression,” a timely, relevant, emotional grouping of music to say the least.

 

3. Aerosmith

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Time and time again, Aerosmith come out on top. One of the world’s most notorious rock and roll bands constantly comes back with more fervor than before – and fans (like me) don’t complain. New music, world tours, a Las Vegas residency… The band might be well into their 60s and 70s, but music truly keeps them going.

Lead singer and arguably the most notable member of the classic rock group is Steven Tyler. While he isn’t always looked at as just the über cool, wildly talented, scarf loving father of four, he has still made a name for himself as just that. Janie’s Fund launched in 2015 and is, in a way, a derivative of Aerosmith hit from 1989, “Janie’s Got a Gun.” The song documents a semi-fictional story of a girl who was abused by her father; which was unfortunately slightly inspired by events that Tyler learned about while on his own recovery journey to sobriety from a woman who he had group therapy with.

“[..] since that song was released, Steven says he has often thought about what could have been done to prevent that kind of abuse. What kind of help could [fictional] Janie have received that would have prevented her trauma? How often does sexual abuse like this happen in our country? What can we do about it? With Janie’s Fund, Steven is using his big voice to give a voice to the thousands of victims who haven’t had one. He feels this is his life’s work and legacy.”

Partnering with Youth Villages, Tyler hosts events and concerts on his own, with others, and with Aerosmith to raise money for Janie’s Fund. It provides help for children who are or were victims of sexual abuse. The fund expands to helping young girls across the globe grow into a life with a better, strong support system behind them throughout every step of their physical, mental, and emotional lives.

For those of you who didn’t grow up surrounded by parents who grew up with Aerosmith and a love of the culture of rock music, I suggest “Cryin’,” one of their best songs. It so happens to be one of the music videos that Alicia Silverstone (Yes, Cher from Clueless) starred in.

To see a little bit as to why Steven Tyler loves Janie’s Fund and how proud it has made him you can click here.

 

4. Ariana Grande

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Miss Grande is no stranger to speaking her mind and doing what she feels like she should for her fans, the music industry, herself, and society. The “God is a Woman” and “Thank U, Next” singer has branched out a lot lately from her once bubble gum pop image and half up-half down hairstyle.

The pop star has stands set up at all North American dates of her world tour where fans and concert goers can register to vote courtesy of partnering with HeadCount, a non-profit organization based around working with artists to encourage voting and registration at festivals, concerts, and entertainment events.

The tables set up at her live shows aren’t just there to push signing up right then and there, since fans can simply text “ARIANA” to a venue specific number to start the process right from their cell phones. Since it is an Ariana Grande concert after all, it’s done in the coolest, cutest way possible. Signs in the stands can be seen taking a spin on her already iconic lyric from her recent hit “7 Rings” stating “You like my rights? Gee thanks, just voted!”

One of her most valuable and powerful moments as a person and artist, as well, came from the tragedy that was the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017. Within days Grande had gathered some of the biggest names in music, sold out thousands upon thousands of tickets, and brought together the world in the most positive way after one of the most negative events in modern history. Music can really be there for you through it all and Grande learned that and applied it. She raised over $23 million at the One Love Manchester benefit concert that her and her team bravely and quickly put together. It was broadcasted around the world online and by the BBC.

There really is a reason why she is adored by so many now more than ever. Although, if you aren’t one of her many super fans and haven’t been out from under your rock in the last year or so, you should watch her emotional tribute that closed out the One Love Manchester show. Also, check out her greatest video for her greatest single of all time (imo) here.

 

5. The Regrettes

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Girl power, feminism, rock and roll. Frontwoman Lydia Night of Los Angeles punk band The Regrettes might only be 18 years old, but she has always made sure that her message gets across loud and proud through her band’s songs, music videos, and overall persona.

During the Kavanaugh trials, Lydia and her bandmates, Drew and Genessa, were so angered by the whole ordeal that they wrote one of their best songs to date, “Poor Boy,” which is an anthemic piece that takes feminism, strength, and sticking-it-to-the-man to the next, musical level.

She told LA Weekly in May 2018, “The more I played shows, the more I noticed, because of my age and gender, I was more of a target. ... I know how to stand up for myself. Men are scared of us because we are so powerful. Women have to apologize for themselves. ... When you stop giving a shit, the world is yours."

Even one of the band’s earliest and most iconic hit songs, “Seashore” starts off punching sexism right in the face: “You’re talking to me like a child. Hey I got news, I’m not a little girl, and no I won’t give you a little twirl.”

Which goes right along with this music video for “Hey Now,” that outright makes fun of and points out the toxic masculinity and unequal culture that a lot of people see in the workplace, and often gets misunderstood when it comes to females in rock and roll. The culture of the 1950s is exploited and squashed in the barely five and a half minute video. I suggested checking it out if you want to understand a bit more about the social stance of almost all-girl, modern day version of Bikini Kill.

If you have yet to hear about The Regrettes and the truly tough, but lovely and melodic music they make, listen to “Ladylike/WHATTA BITCH,” off their debut album. I feel as though in encapsulates all that being a feminist is and how Lydia is killing the game when it comes to portraying that through music.