There are different ways to do a protest song. There’s the explosive anger favoured by the likes of Rage Against The Machine, there’s the two-fingers-up punk spirit embodied by The Sex Pistols, the poetic despair of Nina Simone and the come-together, peace and love vibes of John Lennon. In short, there’s no right way to do a protest song, no surefire formula that captures the hearts and minds of the public and forces them into action. Rather, protest songs are reflections of their times, mirroring the musical styles and prevailing attitudes that characterise their era.
It’s fitting, then, that running through the latest track by alt-pop musician MALKA is a quiet despair masked by bright, airy beats and MALKA’s light, floaty vocals. ‘Fell For You’ is a track that encapsulates the everything’s-awful-but-what-can-you-do spirit that seems to have sunk into our modern culture, a nagging feeling that while the world under President Trump is becoming increasingly terrible, there’s very little we can do to stop it. On the surface, ‘Fell For You’ feels almost care-free, its jaunty, summery sound concealing the serious subject matter of the lyrics like an Instagram filter.
There’s an unmistakable misery as MALKA sings “I don’t know why they fell for you, they fell your lies,” as well as a quiet anger in the line “Why you holding on to her hand?” in reference to Trump’s love-in with Theresa May. But the track retains its irreverent spirit throughout, not getting too bogged down in the nitty-gritty, instead regarding Trump as a cartoonish clown figure, as shown in the track’s accompanying animated video by John Riordan and Paul Roper.
Along with an animated Trump – orange faced and white around the eyes – Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove also feature in the ‘Fake News’ broadcast, captioned by the words “**ite House Briefing”. It’s with this mix of humour and her trademark catchy beats that ‘Fell For You’ really works. It is undeniably of its time, a blend of anger, helplessness and apathy – or in other words, 2017 in a nutshell.