A listening guide to help cope with an impending Donald Trump presidency
Anger. Disbelief. Sadness. Horror. Disillusionment. These are the feelings that voters who thought a Donald Trump presidency impossible woke up to Wednesday. Like the United Kingdom facing the Brexit before it, the United States of America has witnessed a home-grown, authoritarian, misogynistic and racist movement push a reactionary new politics into its capitol. We face a new America today — two actually: one emboldened and excited by the possibility of a newly whitewashed and populist future, and another scared to death of it.
The silence on trains and street corners the morning after in New York City was deafening, something that made the few stray gleeful comments ("So does this mean it's okay to grab women by the pussy now?") that much more audible and disturbing.
What should people turn to fill this silence? The past two years of protest music failed to deliver the defeat many hoped for. Tragedy and division continue to thrive, despite our ever-growing catalog of songs insisting that love is the answer. Yet America has faced moments like this before, and with music, dialogue and faith, it has pushed through.
Below is a playlist curated by Mic, bridging past and present, filled with songs that feel fit to heal, motivate and rally around in the difficult days ahead. Read on for a breakdown of a few of the highlights from the list, featuring lyrics, context and words from the artists.
John Coltrane, "A Love Supreme, Pt. 1 — Acknowledgement"
He will remake us ... He always has and He always will.
The above quote comes from a poem included in the liner notes of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, an album he described as a "humble offering" to God. It's first movement "Acknowledgement" is its invocation. Coltrane and the rest of the quartet plays with such spirit and meditative determination, attempting to realize the peace and love that connects all beings through God. "A love supreme, A love supreme/ A love supreme," Coltrane intones at the first movement's end. There is nothing more supreme than love.
Bon Iver, "22 (OVER S??N)"
And I'm gonna shout all my trouble over
These same questions of love, pain, God and fate are explored on Bon Iver's most recent album, 22, A Million, but over a profoundly different sonic terrain. Much of the album is built out of broken, found samples. This song in particular centers upon one of Justin Vernon reciting the words "It might be over soon."
During a press conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, that Mic attended, the artist explained his fascination with the lines as being simultaneously tragic and hopeful: "Like 'Oh no, I want it to last forever,' and like 'It might be over soon. Thank you, God. I really don't want to feel this way anymore.'"
Helado Negro, "Young, Latin & Proud"
And the people
The quiet and reassuring "Young, Latin & Proud" by experimental Latin electronic music artist Helado Negro was originally intended as a personal reflection.
"My interest in creating this song was always a private one, a possible dialog between me and a very young me," Helado Negro, real name Roberto Carlos Lange, told Billboard in August 2015. "Singing me to sleep after a long day, letting me know that it's okay to be young, Latin and proud."
The song's soothing lullaby intonations will likely resonate with anyone dismayed by the open hostility towards Latinos the president-elect has engendered throughout his campaign.
Solange, "Cranes in the Sky"
I tried to drink it away
Solange Knowles wrote "Cranes in the Sky" eight years ago, long before the hate and derision newly normalized by this election took on a distinctive, physical form. But the healing sentiment it contains is timeless. It serves as the centerpiece of the artist's resplendent A Seat at the Table, an ode to family, New Orleans and the movement for black lives.
D'Angelo, "The Charade"
All we wanted was a chance to talk
One of the most crucial releases of 2014, D'Angelo's Black Messiah was 10 years in the making, and it was worth every single one of them. Though the title of the album seems to uplift one prophesied man, one movement, the artist intended it to speak to all movements struggling to create change across the world.
"It's about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen," D'Angelo wrote in the album's accompanying lyric book. "It's not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them."
Blood Orange, "Hands Up"
Are you sleeping with the lights on baby?
"My album is for everyone told they're not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way, the under appreciated, it's a clapback," Dev Hynes wrote of his most recent Blood Orange album Freetown Sound in June. He used an palette of '80s synths and idiosyncratic harmonies to underscore the importance of dialogue and understanding in an increasingly divisive world.
Leonard Cohen, "You Want It Darker"
There's a lover in the story
The title of Leonard Cohen's farewell album You Want It Darker is not styled as a question, it is a statement. On the album's title track, Cohen attempts to come to terms with God's will, facing the evil that He purportedly allows to thrive. The song's final moments invoke the Hebrew, "Hineni, hineni," which translates to "Here I am," a statement of responsibility and preparedness that appears throughout the Torah.
Knowing the fate Cohen met Thursday night, the words feel different, heavier and all the more important to heed.
Coehn was creating and seeking truth right up until his dying breath. In his stead, all those who see art as a way to bring more understanding into the world most continue to celebrate life in his stead. Because the pendulum always swings back, and when it does, we must be ready to glorify that and show the world how beautiful an open and equal world can be.