June 24, 2013 at 10:12 am

Can One Playlist Change the World?

agit8 spotify protest
The realistic answer to the above question is “probably not.” Still, we have to give some credit to the organizers of Agit8, an initiative from the anti-poverty foundation One.org, whose board includes Bono, Sheryl Sandberg, and Condoleeza Rice, for a unique, well-executed idea: a Spotify playlist of protest songs that you can filter by topic.

Fancy an anti-Apartheid jam? The Specials’ “Free Nelson Mandela” should suffice. Is war not your thing? Queue up cover versions of CCR’s “Fortunate Son” or Arcade Fire’s “Intervention.” Then, it’s civil rights time, kicked off by Kid Rock’s treatment of “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield.

Agit8′s goal with its Protest Songs campaign was to “raise awareness to end extreme poverty before the 39th Annual G8 Summit.” The summit took place on June 18 and 19, and we haven’t read about extreme poverty having ended, awareness having been raised or not. It’s also a bit of a leap to assume that awareness alone can end extreme poverty, but insofar as awareness-raising goes, a nice, filtered playlist appears to be a fine way to go about it.

The songs play in Spotify, or you can watch the video via YouTube, while reading the lyrics to the song, reading about the original version, looking at photos people have uploaded, and creating customized images based on lyrics from the song, suitable for sharing on social networks to, you know, raise awareness. You also get celebrity protest playlists from Angelique KidjoTom Morello, and Pharell Williams. There’s a wealth of information there, and it’s all nicely laid out and easy to get to, courtesy of F#’s design (the company is “the leader in music-powered digital ad experiences.”

Other than protest songs, the theme of the playlist appears to be connecting modern artists with protest singers of the past. It’s unclear whether music still has the power it once did as a protest medium, but if it does, the fact that it’s delivered by a contextualized Spotify/YouTube web experience with viral lyric sharing, rather than, say, a music festival on a farm in upstate New York, tells us everything we need to know about how the times are a-changin’.