Liar Liar GE2017 is a fiercely anti-establishment anthem that has hit number 1 on iTunes’ UK charts despite being banned by the state-run BBC radio network. This takeoff is in large part due to the fact that “People are fed up with this government” according to the song’s creator Captain SKA.
Many people are familiar with the politically charged music of the 1960's and 70's and hold artists like Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan, and Creedence Clearwater in high regard because of the message that their music conveyed.
Part of the appeal that drove the success of protest music in the 60's was the subtlety with which the artists made their point. Bob Dylan’s classic The Times They Are A-Changin’ acknowledges the growing social movements of the 1960s but never cites an intention to lead them. Instead, Dylan pleads for “Senators, Congressmen [to] please heed the call” and respond to the changing times. Buffalo Springfield’s instantly recognizable For What It’s Worth also did not seek to lead a movement but to recognize the social action that was present. The group simply painted a picture of the political climate at the time and asked for “Everybody [to] look what’s going down” and make up their own minds about what to do – Public Enemy famously sampled this song decades later in He Got Game.
As the 60s waned into the 70s social movements became more focused on specific problems within the establishment, a development mirrored by the protest music of the decade. Neil Young’s Ohio took direct issue with the treatment of protestors at the infamous Kent State shooting of 1970 while Creedence Clearwater was famous for its anti-Vietnam song Fortunate Son.
Liar Liar GE2017 is an ideal poster child for the new wave of protest music that we are seeing emerge in the changed political landscape. The chorus, “She’s a liar liar ….. No you can’t trust her,” is immediately preceded by voice clippings of British Prime Minister Theresa May where she makes promises Captain SKA clearly thinks have been reneged on. Liar Liar capitalizes on the momentum of YG’s election-cycle internet hit F*** Donald Trump and uses language evocative of lines in Kendrick Lamar’s The Heart Part IV, “Donald Trump is a chump,” and Joey Bada$$’s Land of the Free, “Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over”
This striking shift in the message of protest music makes sense when you take into account the increasingly candidate-driven nature of electoral politics. Where protest songs used to be vague, they now leave no room to interpret their messages. Whether artists like Captain SKA will leverage their newfound social power into meaningful action remains to be seen but one thing is for sure. Liar Liar GE2017 shows political music has as solid a position in pop culture that we have seen in decades.