Think of the songs that you hear on the radio. Chances are they include Macklemore’s recent hit single “Same Love,” which addresses same sex marriage, or Kelly Clarkson’s anthem “People Like Us,” which encourages empowerment and acceptance of eccentricity. Would you believe that punk music was the inspiration for songs like this to be produced? Underneath the angst-ridden music, punk’s legacy has set the stage for controversial song topics on overlooked issues and starting a movement to raise awareness to spark a change.
Punk’s history is really a tale of two cities: New York and London. The Ramones, a band that was much more a hit in the U.K. rather than right here in the U.S.A, sparked the creation of the Sex Pistols, the first band known to throw controversial topics—anarchy, abortion and facism—into their song lyrics. They were neglected by conservative mainstream society, but were by no means unnoticed. The punks weren’t like the hippie movement before them; they spoke up about what they thought needed to be mentioned through their song lyrics, in hopes to spark a change. They didn’t just wanted to rebel against mainstream society—they wanted to challenge them to make a change.
Punk’s sphere didn’t only encompass large cities such as New York, but spread to small cities and towns such as Fort Collins. Fort Collins serves as the home of The Blasting Room recording studio, started by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore. The Blasting Room was built in 1994 originally to record the music of Stevenson’s bands, the punk bands the Descendants and All, but has taken on a life of its own, now recording music for artists such as Rise Against, The Epilogues and the Flobots.
Stevenson, said that the main genre the studio records is “loud, overdriven guitar based music,” but has expanded its spectrum of music to include many different sounds. “Music is always evolving; it’s never been something finite,” said Stevenson.
It’s not just the type of music that’s evolving but it’s also the composition of the music. While there are songs about what it’s like to be in love or broken up with (sorry, Taylor Swift), music now is shifting more towards communicating serious social messages through powerful yet meaningful lyrics. Take the two songs I mentioned earlier; both address pressing issues in our society. Same sex marriage has made its rounds in both the states and nationally, hoping to be legalized sooner rather than later. Macklemore made his stance public, being an advocate on the issue. In fact, he won a Video Music Award for “Best Song with a Social Message” at this year’s VMAs. Kelly Clarkson’s “People Like Us” is a message for all the young girls out there telling them that it’s all right to be different and that it’s what makes you unique, something I see as quite inspirational since it’s an issue among young, adolescent girls.
Music doesn’t just serve as an outlet anymore. Songs aren’t called “hits” for a reason. Music serves as a form of communication for the artist to their listeners. They wouldn’t waste any time recording a song if they didn’t think it would connect with an audience. Through word of mouth, music gets spread worldwide. Once a song is listened to by the masses, the artist knows his or her job is done. It’s just up to the people to spark a change.
Music is among many of the things that have been touched by punk’s legacy, but it still remains the most influential. Though it may have been looked down upon in the past, a new era of standing up and speaking out for what you believe in is highly looked upon. It takes a lot of courage to share your opinions with the world, which is why these artists serve as role models, for hopes that one day they might be courageous enough to start a movement of their own.
College Avenue reporter Alexa Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for College Avenue Magazine on racks Sept. 11 in your Collegian!