‘Make America Great Again’ by Pussy Riot

With everyone nervously awaiting the imminent U.S. elections we take a look at this topical new offering from Russia’s most-famous political-activist intellectual art-punk group.

The last time we reviewed Pussy Riot on this site it was with a song protesting the killing of Eric Garner and, more broadly, racism, and police brutality and state-sanctioned violence. And now they’ve released three new videos in a week, each dealing with a different topic, and in ‘Make America Great Again’ both eyes are firmly fixed on the U.S. elections and in particular Donald Trump, the man who has defined, for better or for worse, the entire discourse of the campaigns on both sides, as well as showing us all just how scary it can be when a man with more money than brains or charm inexplicably manages to manouvre himself within ranting distance of the most powerful political position on the planet.

As with all of their songs, this one relies on direct sloganeering to get it’s message across. For all the informed intellectuality that comes across in their interviews their lyrics are generally pretty free of complex or ambiguous imagery, instead leaning more towards simple, easily consumable statements. “What do you want your world to look like? What do you want it to be? Do you know that a wall has two sides? And nobody is free?” sings Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the group’s de-facto frontwoman breathily sings. It’s not Chomsky, and if anything it’s all a little adolescent or student-y in tones but it doesn’t have to be a grand, complex manifesto of intent. This is pop music, and in that context the lyrics, for all their lack of any searing insight or deeper levels of meaning, are a damn site more biting than 99% of their competitors.

It’s all about the video though, a dystopian vison of a totalitarian Trump presidency which features Tolokonnikova as newsreader, judge, police-woman, Trump himself and a prisoner who is branded, imprisoned, and ultimately raped both literally and figuratively by the state for being an ‘outsider’. With the election days away this is a timely statement if nothing else. One can’t help but feel it will get pretty lost in the current blizzard of commentary on the Donald, satirical or otherwise, and soon be forgotten but it’s good to know someone out there is using music to talk about something that actually matters, even if ultimately it feels a bit airy and ephemeral.

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