You don’t have to line up and shove your way into a mall on Black Friday to be stressed out by the “festivities.” Sometimes, just thinking about the extent of our consumer culture is enough to ruin your post-Thanksgiving bliss. With that in mind, I’ve created an anti-consumerism playlist for those of us who know shopping can’t procure happiness. That way, when the images of Americans getting trampled at malls inevitably hit the news, at least you’ll have some good music to remind you that not everyone buys into buying:
1. Lorde – Royals
This current #1 song in America is markedly different from most pop hits these days: rather than celebrating ostentatious behavior, it criticizes it. Even as a (now successful) teenager, Lorde resists the urge to glamorize wealth and reflects on the joys of a simpler lifestyle.
2. The Beatles – Can’t Buy Me Love
Although members of The Beatles would go on to make enough money to put their theory to the test, this early hit for the band diminished the impact of money by declaring it incapable of purchasing life’s most important treasure: love.
3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Wing$
The popular rapper, perhaps best known for his celebration of thrift stores (because if you’re going to buy, buy used!), really rips into consumer culture as he reflects about his obsession with designer sneakers as a kid. The “must-have” shoes he once justified spending $100 on to make him “cool” and an “individual” now leave him feeling embarrassed and manipulated.
4. The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony
The Verve effectively – if not utterly depressingly – articulates our contemporary consumer culture: “It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life./Try to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money, then you die.” Throughout, the singer struggles to figure out how to escape this monotonous cycle. Although ultimately not optimistic, the tune is refreshing in that it searches for meaning in life outside of earning and spending money.
5. Janice Joplin – Mercedes Benz
Joplin’s tongue-in-cheek ode to luxury goods is still a hoot – so long as you’re in on the joke. Nowadays, enough people mistake Joplin’s prayer to God for expensive material possessions as literal that Mercedes can use the song in a car commercial. Sigh.
6. Lauryn Hill – Consumerism
Just a month ago, the musical legend leaked a new song for the first time in ages. It’s clear from the content that she’s used her time away to contemplate society’s evils… all seemingly stemming back to consumerism. The song’s harsh beat matches the jarring lyrical content, which reads as enlightened free association poetry.
7. Billy Joel – Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
The narrator of the song is unimpressed that his neighbors are practically willing to kill themselves while working to obtain material possessions. Finding upward social mobility less attractive than his peers, he concludes, “If that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out.”