5 Albums That Made a Political Statement in 2016
In a year that all but exhausted us politically, we found solace in a few shining beacons of artistic purpose and light. Because let’s face it: if there were ever a time to use one’s star power for the good of mankind, it’d be 2016, and these five artists grabbed the mic not a moment too soon. We laughed, we cried, we rallied…though more bitter than sweet, it was undeniably a year never to be forgotten.
Without further ado, here are the five albums that turned political messaging into art.
A Seat at The Table – Solange
A Seat at The Table is proof that Solange is at the top of her game—and definitively out from underneath Bey’s shadow. She gets straight to the point: with tracks like “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “F.U.B.U.,” her message of black empowerment is clear as day, no two ways about it. The cherry on top? Accounts from her mother and father on growing up black in an America that maybe hasn’t changed as much as we thought. According to Solange, A Seat at The Table is a “project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief, and healing,” and post-election, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered.
Freetown Sound – Blood Orange
Dev Hynes already made waves as Blood Orange with his 2013 album Cupid Deluxe, and this year he came back with a more politically-charged second serving. Featuring the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Debbie Harry, and Nelly Furtado (among others), Hynes wrote in The New Yorker that Freetown Sound is for those who’ve been told they’re “not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way.” Inclusivity is his M.O., and he hits the nail on the head every time.
Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper
Arguably his best album to date, Chance uses Coloring Book to join the ranks of a long list of hip hop artists using their stardom to bring light to suffering within their communities and beyond. With heavy gospel influence and musicians like Kanye, Young Thug, and Ty Dollar Sign throwing in their two cents, his message is delivered with passion and relevance. Chance manages to both celebrate his hometown of Chicago (think “All We Got,” which features the Chicago Children’s Choir) while still spotlighting its struggles with songs like “Summer Friends,” speaking to the violence the city suffers from. In this way, Coloring Book acts as a nod to the balance of gratitude and ambition for a better tomorrow, and it has made this album a standout feature of 2016.
AIM – M.I.A.
Though it wasn’t met with the same praise as her previous work (and was, unfortunately, released alongside some self-inflicted drama), AIM did exactly as its name implies: taking aim at the worldwide refugee crisis, it called for empathy and compassion where there seems to be a severe lack thereof. With “Borders,” especially, M.I.A. speaks to the divided nature of our current global crisis: “Freedom, ‘I’dom, ‘Me’dom / Where’s your ‘We’dom?” in an attempt to start the conversation on a more unified humanity. And while AIM may not be as legendary as its predecessors, it’s undeniably political, and definitely caused a stir.Lemonade – Beyoncé
Beyoncé blessed the world with her magic again this year and gifted us with a supremely powerful album, further proving her ability to deliver impactful messages while looking like royalty. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and if 2016 women needed a feminist anthem to accompany their rise to equality, it’s Lemonade. But it’s about more than just Bey and J’s marriage turmoil; there’s a much broader focus. Think female empowerment, pain, transformation, and self-worth. There’s a lot to unpack, and it goes without saying that as her second visual album, round two was even better than the first.Images via Saint Records, Columbia Records, The New York Times, Chance the Rapper, Interscope Records, and Parkwood Records
Stay tuned to Milk for more politically savvy musicians we love.