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The Year in Active/Alt Rock 2020: Rock examines its place in politics and social justice issues


While the COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest story overall of 2020, the summer was dominated by the Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations in response to the police killings of Black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Artists in the rock world expressed their support for Black Lives Matter, with musicians including Blink-182‘s Travis Barker and Machine Gun Kelly participating in protests. Fall Out Boy announced a $100K donation to Black Lives Matter, while Avenged Sevenfold‘s M. Shadows penned an op-ed in support of the movement.

Rock artists also shared their support through their music. The Shinedown side project Smith & Myers’ song “Not Mad Enough” was written in response to Floyd’s death, while FEVER 333 frontman Jason Aalon Butler wrote the band’s new EP, Wrong Generation, after spending 13 days protesting. Rise Against, an already political band, found their new song “Broken Dreams, Inc.” eerily mirroring the ongoing protests.

As the protests continued, fans asked their favorite musicians to use their platforms to help encourage social change. Twenty One Pilots frontman Tyler Joseph landed in hot water when he made fun of that idea by posting a photo of himself wearing platform shoes. He later deleted the post and apologized.

In addition to this year’s political demonstrations, 2020 included one of the most contentious presidential elections in U.S. history. Leading up to November, rock artists spoke out regarding voter participation and voting safely amid the global health crisis.

Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee, who had long been silent about her political views, spoke out in 2020 to encourage fans to vote with the new song “Use My Voice” and a voter registration campaign. The Postal Service briefly united to register voters, while Tenacious D hoped to increase voter participation with a viral “Time Warp” cover.

Additionally, artists including Foo Fighters, Pearl JamBillie Eilish and Dave Matthews launched campaigns and participated in virtual events in an effort to encourage voting.

By Josh Johnson
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