The story of the relationship between music and activism is a long and colorful one.
From the abolitionist songs of the Civil War to the rousing organizing tunes of The Almanac Singers to the generation-defining poetry of Bob Dylan to the empowering stylings of hip hop groups like N.W.A. and Public Enemy, music has been an invaluable mirror to some of history’s most consequential moments. And with an unprecedented global pandemic being the dominating force of the past year, it makes sense that music has, once again, risen to the occasion to try to make sense of our world.
Many artists—including H.E.R., Dorian Electra, a reunited System Of A Down and many more—have quickly responded to the history unfolding around them, resulting in some of the most compelling tracks of their careers. Among these artists is The Trusted, a pop-rock group from Southend-On-Sea, a town on Britain’s eastern coast. On April 23, the band put out “Rebel Song,” a Britpop-inspired track brimming with modern indie angst.
“Musically, we were inspired by everything going on in the world at the time,” Tom Cunningham, the group’s lead singer, told American Songwriter. “We were in the middle of a lockdown and everyone was feeling tired and isolated. There was a lot of social unrest and anger going around. I remember coming up with the initial idea, recording it onto my phone at, like, 3 a.m. and then sending to the boys. When we came together and finished writing it, we were so excited. We took it into the studio immediately. Out of all our songs, I think this one was the quickest to write and record! We‘re really proud of it.”
With verses that simmer with tension—thanks to a grungy bassline, a driving backbeat and Cunningham’s fuzzy vocals—and choruses that blossom into a soaring, melodic hook, “Rebel Song” is a moving number that can get your head bobbing and your brain thinking.
“It’s about fighting for what you believe in and finding beauty through the act of defiance,” Cunningham said. “We are all rebelling against something, whether it’s against political ideals, discrimination or even ourselves. I like to think that we are all pre-programmed to resist. It’s a part of our human nature, and it’s wonderful. ‘Rebel Song’ is a celebration of all this stuff.”
One of the highlights of the song comes at the top of the second verse when, after a moody guitar break, Cunningham sings: “It’s easy to cry with the lights out/ ‘cause there’s so much pain outside.”
“To me, that’s a sharp reflection of how I’m feeling and how many others are feeling at the moment,” Cunningham explained. “The world is hurting and people are really struggling with mental health. We as a society are still very uncomfortable when dealing and talking about mental health. People try and hide away, but by doing this, they basically destroy themselves. It’s really sad to see. The pandemic has basically made the world feel a lot heavier and it’s been emotionally exhausting.”
While “Rebel Song” might not be the next “The Times They Are A-Changin,” Cunningham makes a starkly profound observation in commenting on the heaviness that so many feel in this moment. While times might be hard, The Trusted are making an effort to prove that music is always there to push folks on and keep hope alive.
For his part, Cunningham’s closing note on what he hopes listeners take away from the song is: “Keep fighting.”
The Trusted’s new single “Rebel Song” dropped on April 23 and is available everywhere. Listen to it below: