Music making politics: beyond lyrics


  • M.I. Franklin



Music, My Way, Race, Gender, Class, Politics, Musicking, Performance, Bob Dylan, Nina Hagen, Gil Scott-Heron, Nina Simone, Sid Vicious


In this article I argue that considering how any sort of music is made more closely - as sonic material, performance cultures, for whom and on whose terms, is integral to projects exploring the music-politics nexus. The case in point is “My Way”, a seemingly apolitical song, as it becomes repurposed: transformed through modes of performance, unusual musical arrangements, and performance contexts. The analysis reveals a deeper, underlying politics of music-making that still needs unpacking: the race, gender, and class dichotomies permeating macro- and micro-level explorations into the links between music, society, and politics. Incorporating a socio-musicological analytical framework that pays attention to how this song works musically, alongside how it can be reshaped through radical performance and production practices, shows how artists in diverging contexts can ‘re-music’ even the most hackneyed song into a form of political engagement. 


Adorno, T.W. (2002a [1938]). On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening. In: R. Leppert, ed., Essays on Music: Theodor W. Adorno. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 288-317.
Adorno, T.W. (2002b [1969]). On the Problem of Music Analysis. In: R. Leppert, ed., Essays on Music: Theodor W. Adorno. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 162-180.
Attali, J. (1989). Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Barenboim, D. and Said, E.W. (2003). Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society. New York: Pantheon Books.
Barrett, G.D. (2016). After Sound: Toward a Critical Music. New York, London, Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic.
BBC News (2000). Sinatra ‘loathed’ My Way. BBC News. Available at:
Byrne, D. (2012). How Music Works. Edinburgh UK: Canongate.
Clifford, J. (1998). Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Bos-ton: Harvard University Press.
Caso, F. and Hamilton, C. (2015). Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, Pedagogies, Bristol, UK: E-International Relations Publishing.
Davies, M. (2005). Do It Yourself Punk Rock and the Disalienation of International Relations. In: M.I. Franklin, ed., Resounding International Relations: On Music, Culture, and Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan: 113-140.
Davies, M. and Franklin, M.I. (2015). What does (the Study of) World Politics Sound Like? In: F. Caso and C. Hamilton, eds., Popular Culture and World Politics: Theories, Methods, Pedagogies. Bristol, UK: E-International Relations Publishing, pp. 120-147.
Dillane A., Power M. J., Devereux E., and Haynes, A. (2020). Songs of Social Protest: International Perspectives. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.
Doran, J. (2017). Vanishing: Where Is The Music Of The Impending Apocalypse?. The Quietus. Available at: -end-of-the-world-shellac-botanist
Dunn, K. (2016.). Global Punk: Resistance and Rebellion in Everyday Life. London: Bloomsbury.
Feld, S. (1996).“Pygmy POP. A Genealogy of Schizophonic Mimesis. Yearbook for Traditional Music, vol. 28(1996), pp. 1-35.
Feldman, Z. (2017). The Politics of Visibility and Art. London: I.B. Tauris.
Feldstein, R. (2005). ‘I don’t trust you anymore’: Nina Simone, Culture, and Black Activism in the 1960s. Journal of American History, vol. 91(4), pp. 1349-1379.
Franklin, M.I. (2005). Resounding International Relations: On Music, Culture, and Politics. New York: Palgrave.
Franklin, M.I. (2019). Um die Welt mit einem Song. In: R. Grätz and C. Höppner, eds., Musik öffnet Welten: Zur Gestaltung Internationaler Kulturbeziehungen. Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Deutscher Musikrat, Göttingen: Steidl Verlag, pp. 115-130
Franklin M.I. (2020a). Sampling Politics: Music and the Geocultural. New York/London: Oxford University Press (in press).
Franklin, M.I. (2020b). Music: Women Rewriting Punk Performance Politics. In: S. Rai, S. Jestrovic, M. Gluhovic, and M. Saward, eds., the Oxford University Press Handbook of Politics and Performance. London/New York: Oxford University Press (in press).
Gaines, M. (2013). The Quadruple-Consciousness of Nina Simone. Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, vol. (23)2, pp. 248-267.
Géant-Vert (2004). “Sid Vicious – My Way” on God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Single-ton. Available at:;
Gates, H. L. Jr. (1988). The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. Oxford University Press.
Gilroy, P. (1993). The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge: University of Harvard.
Griffiths, P. (2010). Modern Music and After. 3rd edition. London/New York: Oxford
Hall, S. (1996). New Ethnicities. In: D. Morley and K.-H. Chen, eds., Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London; New York: Routledge, pp. 441-449.
Horkheimer, M., and Adorno, T.W. (2002 [1944]). Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, translated by E. Jephcott. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
Katz, M. (2004). Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music. University of California Press. (2014). Konzert für Berlin '89: Mauerfall und das legendäre Konzert für Berlin '89. Available at:
Krims, A. (2000). Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Laderman, D. and Westrup, L. (2014). Sampling Media. New York, London: Oxford University Press.
Longhurst, B. and Bogdanović, D. (2014). Popular Music and Society. 3rd edition. London: Polity Press.
Miller, P.D./DJ Spooky (2004). Rhythm Science. Boston: MIT Press.
Miller, P.D./DJ Spooky (2008). SOUND UNBOUND: Sampling Digital Music and Culture- Boston: MIT Press.
Mowitt, J. (2002). Percussion: Drumming, Beating, Striking. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Ozturkmen, A., & Martin, C. (2014). The Park, and Penguin, and the Gas: Performance in Progress in Gezi Park. The Drama Review, vol. 58(3), pp. 39-68.
Rai, S. and Reinelt, J. (2014). The Grammar of Politics and Performance. London, New York: Routledge.
Reddington, H. (2007). The Lost Women of Rock Music: Female Musicians of the Punk Era. London, New York: Routledge.
Rose, T. (1994). Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press.
Ross, A. (2010). The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. New York: Picador.
Ross, A. (2011). Listen To This. London: Fourth Estate.
Rühlig, T. (2016). “Do You Hear the People Sing” “Lift Your Umbrella”? Understanding Hong Kong’s Pro-democratic Umbrella Movement through YouTube Music Videos. China Perspectives, no. 2016/4, pp. 59-68. chinaper-spectives.7125
Said, E. W. (1992). Musical Elaborations. London: Vintage Books.
Scott-Heron, G. (2012). The Last Holiday: A Memoir. London/New York: Canongate.
Şener, Ö. (2013). The Gezi Protests, Polyphony and 'Carnivalesque Chaos'. In: B. Gökay and I. Xypolia, eds., Reflections on Taksim-Gezi Park Protests in Turkey. Staf-fordshire: Keele European Research Centre.
Shapiro, M. J. (2004). Methods and Nations: Cultural Governance and the Indigenous Subject, London, New York: Routledge.
Small, C. (1998). Musicking; The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press.
Smith-Spark, L. (2016). Bob Dylan wins 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. CNN International Edition, October 13 2016. Available at: 10/13/world/nobel-prize-literature/index.html
Stratton, J., and Zuberi, N. (2016). Black Popular Music in Britain since 1945. London: Ashgate/Routledge.
Zehfuss, M., and Edkins, J. (2019). Global Politics: A New Introduction. 3rd edition. London, New York: Routledge.
Zuberi, N. (2017). Listening while Muslim. Popular Music, vol. 36(1). Cambridge University Press 2016, pp. 33–42.





Franklin, M. (2020). Music making politics: beyond lyrics. Politik, 23(1).