Graduation Year


Date of Submission


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Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Jon Shields

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© 2022 Anthony Madubuonwu


Throughout the late 20th century, protest music was a pivotal tool for musicians in the United States to galvanize public support for different socio-political causes. Protest music has existed for years: when people are dissatisfied with the status quo, they compose songs about it. These songs are generally written to be part of a social or ideological change movement, and to rile up that movement by bringing people together, empowering them to act or reflect. This thesis argues that we have seen a decline in contemporary protest music that is political in nature. When reviewing the last three presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump and juxtaposing tracks of this era with newer ones, I believe it becomes apparent that contemporary political protest music is experiencing a decline both in the propensity of its production and in the commercial success such tracks garner. While this decline began with the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, it accelerated at the turn of the century. This comes despite the increased adoption of several media technologies like social media that have assisted in the virality and diffusion of contemporary songs that evoke themes of prior protest music and the vast array of pertinent social issues for musicians to use as subject matter. Some of this subject matter has been harnessed by other groups in the entertainment sphere, like Hollywood directors and professional athletes, to display their views to broad nationwide audiences. Comparatively, musicians have not kept up with diffusing protest sentiment into the mainstream. This decline also coincided with the breakdown of unified and prolonged public protest movements in America as the Cold War concluded and the United State's status as the predominant global superpower became increasingly unquestioned. Contemporary protest movements like the Women’s March often arise as fragmented offshoots responding to specific cultural triggers like the election of Donald Trump.

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