Ryan Adams Uses Music To Speak Out Against Trump

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This is a very new and often scary world that we're all living in, and people are still exploring how best to express themselves and make their voices heard. But one thing that gives me hope is seeing celebrities start to use their art for dissent, like Ryan Adams, who spoke out about Donald Trump without ever even using his name through the performance of a polarizing song. That song was Radiohead's "Karma Police", which the singer performed during a BBC Radio 2 visit last Saturday.

Lest anyone think that the choice to retool a classic like "Karma Police" was a meaningless one, Adams made it very clear that the message of the song was pointed at one individual in particular. Every performance is an opportunity to say something to your fans and share your beliefs, and Adams made the most of this one:

I wanted to do a couple of covers. And I know plenty, but I wanted to do something new that I hadn’t done before... So I went, ‘What are two or three songs I could try to learn before I have to go to my first thing?’ And this was one. I don’t know if I’ve learned it in a great new and interesting way, but I also thought it’s fitting, because there’s a pretty awful person who just got elected in the United States. So I don’t know why, but that song popped into my head this morning.

And whether he understands why "Karma Police" specifically jumped into his brain or not, it makes perfect sense once you look at the lyrics. They describe the sensation of observing individuals who are incomprehensible from the outside.

Karma police
Arrest this man, he talks in math
He buzzes like a fridge, he's like a detuned radio
Karma police
Arrest this girl, her Hitler hairdo
Is making me feel ill and we have crashed her party

But for all the ways that the song describes someone patently irrational and seemingly untouchable, its message is one of hope: ultimately, all that negativity will come back around. The Karma Police are going to get you. Radiohead's Thom Yorke describes "Karma Police" as "a song against bosses," saying:

Karma is important. The idea that something like karma exists makes me happy. It makes me smile. Karma Police is dedicated to everyone who works for a big firm.

And, since Donald Trump is now the biggest boss of all, for better or for worse, Adams' performance couldn't come at a better time. Especially since it leaves listeners with a positive message, with lyrics that repeat:

This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get
When you mess with us

In a later chorus, the word "us" is replaced with "love." When you mess with love, you upset the delicate balance of karma in the universe, and you can expect to see that negativity reflected back at you. Potentially in the forms of protests, marches, vocal dissent, and rallies... just in case anyone was wondering.

The American people have been very much making their voices heard in all the ways I described above, and I love seeing celebrities start to add their voices to ours — especially when they do it through artistic avenues. Music and film and theater and all manner of fine arts are perfectly posed to speak truth to power, and their messages are all the more effective when amplified. The more people who infuse their talent with their activism, the harder it will be to slow down this movement, and the sooner the Karma Police will arrive on the scene.