The new faces of protest music -- Bjork, Prince, and Jill Scott are among the artists recording protest songs in the spirit of musicians past

By Neil Drumming
October 15, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Even artists who aren’t part of the Vote for Change tour are finding a way to have their say. In fact, as the nation’s political climate becomes more uncertain, some musicians are beginning to sound more like wary rockers of yesteryear. Here’s how today’s message tunes compare with those of decades past.

Nowadays Jill Scott’s ”My Petition,” a tender ballad barely masking the singer’s disillusionment with U.S. leadership. ”I wanna trust you…but you lie to me repeatedly.”

Recalls Nina Simone’s fiery ”Mississippi Goddamn” from 1963: ”Oh, but this whole country is full of lies.”

Nowadays What Prince’s ”Dear Mr. Man” lacks in specificity (”What’s wrong with the world today?”) and wisdom (”Ain’t no use in voting”), it makes up for in slow-cooked grooves.

Recalls Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit ”What’s Going On” as much for its ”us against them” vibe as for its soulful smoothness.

Nowadays ”Mouth’s Cradle” is filled with otherworldly imagery, but Björk leaves herself space to express an earthly desire: ”I need a shelter to build an altar away from all Osamas and Bushes.”

Recalls Nena’s apocalyptic 1984 smash ”99 Luftballoons,” if only for the alien delivery and murky antiwar metaphors.

Nowadays As misdirected as his finger-pointing may be on ”Why?” (”Why did Bush knock down the towers?”), rapper Jadakiss’ litany of world-weary queries proves that even thugs have cause for concern.

Recalls Bob Dylan’s 1963 classic ”Blowin’ in the Wind.” Songs that ask a lot of questions never fall to get folks thinking.