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10 Pop Songs With Social Messages

Pop music has long been stigmatized for being, well, empty.

Some unfairly view pop merely as fluff music, something light and irreverent and fun to dance to. And while there’s plenty of pop music that’s been perfectly primed for the dance floor (which, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with!), countless pop artists have concerned themselves with creating music with a message.

As widely listened to as it is, pop music can be used as vessel for change, a tool for discourse on social issues. There are numerous pop songs — including more than a handful of well-known singles — that tackle social, political, and cultural issues as diverse as racism, feminism, police brutality, LGBT representation, and much more.

In 1987, the reigning King of Pop, Michael Jackson, released his classic record, Bad. One of the singles from the hit album included “Man In The Mirror,” an uplifting and critically acclaimed pop ballad about society’s tendency to turn away from difficult social issues. The song, and its politically-charged video, acted as a literal call for change, touting the message that change begins from within.

Almost 25 years later, Lady Gaga released the lead single and titular track off her highly anticipated sophomore album, Born This Way, in 2011. With its thumping bass, infectious hook, and slamming club beats, “Born This Way” sounded like any sexy dance-pop song should, but its progressive lyrics transformed the contagious track into the powerful anti-prejudice, pro-LGBT, pro-self-acceptance anthem Gaga intended it to be.

But these two aren’t the only pop songs that tackle issues more pressing than getting lit in the club. From Gwen Stefani advocating for interracial relationships alongside André 3000, to Madonna taking down the patriarchy with trip-hop, check out ten pop songs packed with powerful social messages in our gallery above.

Oh, and if you wanna make a change, don’t forget to start with the man in the mirror.

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