Directed by Hiro Murai. Single out now.
Protest music doesn’t typically reach the top of the charts. A couple notable exceptions: “War” by Edwin Starr (1970) and “Indian Reservation” by the Raiders (1971). Many songs that you may think of as big hits (“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, “Russians” by Sting) were kept out of the top spot.
But Childish Gambino has reached number one with “This Is America,” which he released immediately after performing it on the May 5 episode of Saturday Night Live. The video is powerful and shocking and thought provoking.
The song had 65.3 million U.S. streams and 78,000 downloads sold in the week ending May 10 and 9.4 million in all-genre radio airplay audience in the week ending May 13. The video made up 68% of the song’s streaming total.
Billboard points out that “This Is America” is a “rare socially-themed Hot 100 No. 1 (such as ‘We Are the World’) and perhaps the most pointed example since Lady Gaga’s equality anthem ‘Born This Way’ in 2011.” Socially-themed? That’s an odd euphemism but okay…
A friend I’ve known forever sent me the video that Sunday morning with the comment, “Of all the dumb shit I thought as a young man, thinking that I could somehow understand or identify with being black in America takes the goddamn cake.” It’s true. We were sheltered suburban white kids who listened to N.W.A. and read Malcolm X and watched Do the Right Thing and we sincerely believed we were down with the revolution. I listened to Gil Scott Heron without noticing that “Comment #1” was aimed directly at “silly trite motherfuckers” like me! The hubris of youth is something else. Adulthood is realizing you don’t know dick about shit.
I hope this video encourages people to question their assumptions about some things they think they know. And to shut up once in a while and just listen to others.