A Revolution Needs a Soundtrack

Welcome back to Climate Culture! On the Level is here again to bring you reviews and essays of the latest pop culture happenings. The catch? We look at culture through a climate lens.

This week, we’ve once again been dealing with disasters. The summer’s climate has been relentlessly depressing, and so I find myself looking to pop culture for hope, inspiration, and the motivation to keep fighting.

The climate beat should be a hopeful one, about the solutions to be implemented, inventions created, positive change enacted. Instead, for another week, it feels like the apocalypse beat, b/w wildfires and heat in US and the staggering loss of life in Germany. Ugh.

— Andrew Freedman (@afreedma) July 16, 2021

As climate reporter Andrew Freedman shows in his tweet, we could all use some hope.

Today, I’m looking to Tones and I and her debut album Welcome to the Madhouse for my dose of positivity. If you haven’t heard of Tones and I, chances are you’ve at least heard her 2019 breakthrough smash, “Dance Monkey,” which catapulted her from busking on the streets of Australia to global pop super-stardom. 

While the new album largely deals with her life since her overnight fame, there is also a useful lesson to be found. Sometimes, you just need to smile and dance. Tones is known for driving, catchy beats and a distinctive vocal style. She’s infectious. On the track “Cloudy Day,” I found what we need in this moment. “Cloudy Day,” is a bit like the modern EDM/Pop version of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Despite disaster, we can, as Tones sings, “look up into the sky and find the sun on a cloudy day.” This is not to say that we should not be angry, upset, or scared. Of course, we are and we must be. However, we need to have hope to take action. This track reminds me that the “sun” can be found in the work we’re doing across the world for a better future. The “sun” can be found in the communities we’re building together. The “sun” can be found in the fact that, in just a few short months, On the Level is launching a way to make it easier than ever to take climate action!

So, take a minute. Take a deep breath. Put on “Cloudy Day” and get ready to bop.

She also has music for once you finish dancing and are ready to get back to work, though too. Tones is no stranger to more obvious movement music. She titled her first EP The Kids Are Coming, which was also the title of the opening track — a powerful, creepy, and clear anthem for the movement generation. In the music video, she even partnered with real activists from across the globe.

This song (as well as the entire 2019 EP) was re-released today as part of the deluxe version of Welcome to the Madhouse. Over the past two years,  I’ve found “The Kids Are Coming,” to be one of the most on point climate protest songs. The climate movement stands out for how prominent the youth perspective is. Globally, Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future, and, in the US, the Sunrise Movement both use the power of youth to demand change. And while “The Kids Are Coming” does not explicitly mention the climate crisis, the lyrics speak directly to the feelings of frustration many young climate activists have.

“No one seems to understand the kids these days
And why we live this way
We got to clean up the mess you’ve made
Still you don’t wanna change”

It’s eerily similar to this speech by one of the earlier environmental activist kids — Severn Cullis-Suzuki — who called out world leaders (at age 12, no less!) in a famous speech at the 1992 UN Earth Summit.

As an older kid myself, I take pride and hope from seeing my generation fight for our future. However, we can’t do it alone. Everyone has something to bring to the climate movement, and On the Level will help you join in. In the meantime, whether you’re full of hope or feeling overwhelmed; a kid or a grandparent; in Tones and I’s demographic or not; I hope you take a moment to check out Welcome to the Madhouse. I hope it will remind you that the kids are coming to change the world, and you can join them. No matter how cloudy things get, that is a ray of sunshine you can truly believe in. So smile, put on your record player or streaming platform, and remember, every revolution needs a good soundtrack.

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