Occupy Wall Street in music media

11.10.11

The ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests have sparked a deluge of media coverage over the past week and various websites have reported on the demonstrations in a host of different ways. While the issue of straight up news coverage of the protests remains controversial, many arts and media websites have focused on the musical side of the rallies.

NPR’s Record blog weighed in on Saturday with a few words about the nature of modern political or protest song. Beginning with the question, “What is the music of Occupy Wall Street?”, blogger Ann Powers attempts to find out if there is, can be or should be a new Bob Dylan or Joan Baez for this time and this protest. While there is no clear answer, Powers provides an interesting look at the suggestions made and the reality on the ground.

One aspect of the protest music she dwells on momentarily, is that of celebrity endorsement and performances (or lack thereof) from well-known musicians at the demonstrations. While the rumour of a Radiohead performance circulated and disappeared, other acts like Jeff Mangum, Talib Kweli and Michael Franti have all played at the protests.

Though there has been no major star backing, the brief appearance of Kanye West at the protests sparked the attention of Pitchfork, amongst others. The hip-hop stalwart is well known for his hedonistic lyrics and dedication to all things glamorous and expensive (see: His entire last album) so it’s possible a performance from one of the world’s biggest pop stars would have done more harm than good. His exact reason for being there remains a mystery.

On a lighter note, the Village Voice sought out the music of the protests in a different way by snooping around the growing “lending-library” that has sprung up there. Picking out four records that reflect more on the protestors’ than the nature of protest, Maura Johnson takes a look at the songs that protestors are leaving in. Like a thrift shop in the eye of a hurricane, the classic hits and left-of-field finds that make up this post “weren’t exactly political, but they were pretty solid.”