Songs about discrimination

  • Here are some of the most powerful songs about discrimination, bullying, domestic violence, abuse, maltreatment, beating and harrasment. Each one of them has a strong message in lyrics. Listen to it and think about it. Maybe you know the song but have never thought about it this way...

    Can you imagine buying a human being? It was not a problem just a couple of decades ago. Here you can read about adverts in newspapers offering slaves for sale. The first song was inspired bu such advert.

    1) Rhiannon Giddens - At the Purchaser´s Option  

    written after the singer´s research into slavery when she uncovered a chilling advert from the 1830s. It announced the sale of a “smart healthy Negro Wench”, and added, “she has a child about nine months old, which will be at the purchaser’s option”. Giddens transformed this bleak discovery into a furious cry of defiance, the most pained and powerful song of a triumphant and varied set.

    2) Soul Asylum - Runaway Train

    Soul Asylum chose to deliver a message with their clip. The video shows photographs and names of missing children who are abused, bullied, maltreated. It ends saying: “If you’ve seen one these kids, or you are one of them, please call this number.” Alternative versions were edited for other countries and other children, and in the end several families were reunited with their estranged kids.

    3) Suzanne Vega - Luka

    This song deals with child abuse. Suzanne Vega said:

    "A few years ago, I used to see this group of children playing in front of my building, and there was one of them, whose name was Luka, who seemed a little bit distinctive from the other children. I always remembered his name, and I always remembered his face, and I didn't know much about him, but he just seemed set apart from these other children that I would see playing. And his character is what I based the song Luka on. In the song, the boy Luka is an abused child—in real life I don't think he was. I think he was just different..."

    4) Lady Gaga - Till it Happens to You

    This is a song about sexual assault at a college campus (See the documentary The Hunting Ground). The video depicts various instances of violence against women and sexual assaults. It ends with a note about the effects of such distress, and individuals finding solace with their close friends and relatives.

    'You tell me it's going to get better?' 'Really? It gets better? No. You don't know until it happens to you...'

    5) Phil Collins - Another Day in Paradise

    This black and white video shows images of homeless people, immigrants and the poverty of the children in the streets. There are many messages about the homeless to express the full message of the song with Collins appearing in the dark background. It was shot in New York.


    6) Savage Garden - Two Beds and a Coffee Machine

    This song is about a woman who is trapped in an abusive relationship. To protect herself and the kids, she often runs away and spends the night at cheap hotels with two beds and a coffee machine. She knows there will be bills, that she can't survive on her own and eventually she will have to go back home.

    7) 10,000 Maniacs - What´s the Matter Here

    A powerful song about child abuse from the perspective of a woman how lives near a family that is abusing their young son. She hates the abuse, but isn't sure what to do about it. Afraid to take action, she wants to confront the family and ask, "What's the Matter here?" but she doesn't dare.

    8) Eminem - Love the Way You Lie

    when Eminem approached Rihanna to be featured on the track, she felt a powerful connection with its lyrical content. The singer, whose domestic violence troubles with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown made headlines around the world, discussed her decision to collaborate with Eminem. "It's something that, you know, [Eminem and I have] both experienced, you know, on different sides, different ends of the table," Rihanna said. "It just was authentic. It was real. It was believable for us to do a record like that, but it was also something that needed to be done and the way he did it was so clever. He pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence and it's something that a lot people don't have a lot of insight on, so this song is a really, really powerful song and it touches a lot of people."

    9) Demi Lovato - Warrior

    "That song was probably the hardest and easiest song to write on the album," Demi Lovato told Billboard magazine. "I was writing about personal experiences, and it's the type of song where you can't fit all of it into one song - you can't put all of the emotions into one song. It was the hardest song to write because it was the most vulnerable for me, and you can't sum up that experience in three or four minutes. But it was the easiest song at the same time because it's something that I wanted to say. Like I said in the first line [of the song], 'This is a story that I've never told. I gotta get this off my chest to let it go.' I wanted to let it go."

    10) Beyonce - If I Were a Boy

    The video depicts common things that men do to hurt their significant others, such as not answering their phone. Beyonce explained: "It's about all of the little things that mean so much in a relationship. At the end of the clip, you realize that I was acting out his life, and it all starts over again. He was a cop and everything that happened was really him doing the same thing to me."


  • Are there any other of your favourite songs about this topic? Add them to this Twinboard and share with your friends.

    Christina Aguilera - I'm OK

    In the song she talks about her mother being her "shield" and her childhood growing up with an abusive father.