Engraved inside the lower level pedestal of the Statue Of Libery is a sonnet by Emma Lazarus entitled “The New Colossus.” The last half of the sonnet reads:
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Written to help raise money for the construction of the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, Lazarus’ words, along with the statue itself, has become a symbol for immigrants in particular. It’s hope that the American Dream is within reach.
The week of the release of their debut album, About U, self-proclaimed dark pop trio, MUNA, performed on Jimmy Kimmel in front of Lazarus’ words. In the bridge of their latest single, “I Know A Place,” lyrics were added to make MUNA’s outlook on Trump’s America loud and clear.
“Even if our skin or our Gods look different
I believe all human life is significant
I throw my arms open wide in resistance.
He’s not my leader even if he’s my president.”
With her fist in the air, singer Katie Gavin was joined by guitarists Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson with their final, minor but important change to the track: “Let’s build a place we can go.” Welcome to the resistance; MUNA is here to guide you.
“I want people to feel like we’re looking out for them”
— Naomi McPherson
Since we first met MUNA, their message has always been apparent. With their breakout hit, “Loudspeaker,” they were more than just a pop band — they were a band fighting for representation for people whose voices have been stifled. About U was always going to be political because MUNA is political simply by existing. Comprised of three women, all who identify as queer, and McPherson also being biracial — MUNA is, in every sense, what true diversity looks and sounds like. So when it came time to compile their debut, their first true introduction to the world, MUNA didn’t hold back.
“We didn’t see this as our future. We thought we were going to have a lady president and I wasn’t thinking about it in relationship to the album,” Gavin said over the phone. “Honestly, I didn’t imagine it for us. That being said, now that this is our reality, there’s a lot of natural resonances with what the album has to offer. I’m happy, in a way, that we were already thinking about a lot of things that I think people need to be thinking about right now. After he won, I was thinking, ‘Fuck this, we should rewrite the album. We should make a punk album.’ But no, what we have and we have to offer in pop music is what people need now.”
The songs on About U deal with some heavy subject matters. “Crying On The Bathroom Floor” is about an abusive relationship; “If U Love Me Now” touches upon depression; “I Know A Place” evolved from an LGBTQ anthem to a memorial for the victims of the Orlando night club massacre. Despite these dark themes, About U pulses with ’80s inspired rhythms and upbeat melodies. If anything, the juxtaposition of the two isn’t like all the other acts who are unofficially part of the “cry-dance” genre that millennials have been subjected to over the last 5 years — it’s the warmth and comfort needed to combat the cruel coldness of the current state of the world.
One of the most wonderful things about MUNA (besides every single goddamn thing about them) is their transparency. They’re outspoken about who they are and what they’re trying to say and they use the platform they have to amplify it. They are a band that will tell you exactly what a song is about, in great detail. Because knowing that they’re calling out Trump, oppressors of the LGBTQ community, abusers, and anyone who continues to silence minorities and women — that is important. It’s important that these things have no subtext and aren’t left to interpretation.
“We understand that there is a real danger [in speaking out] but that’s not at the forefront of our minds,” McPherson explained. “Most of the time, it’s just trying to build a safer world for everybody.”
“We have a platform, we might as well use it,” Maskin echoed.
By eliminating pronouns (a very conscious decision on their part), MUNA opens up their music to everyone and becomes that safe haven they’re striving for. About U becomes that rare breed for an album that is so versatile that it can be politically charged, accessible, supportive, empowering, angry, and sad simultaneously. It’s as complex and layered as the girls themselves, and ultimately, the world itself.
“I want people to feel like we’re looking out for them,” said McPherson. “It’s both a blessing and somewhat of a curse that our music resonates more because it reflects on the fact that we happen to be in a more tense, political climate, which is definitely unfortunate. But at the same time, I am glad we are doing what we’re doing.”