Where Music Meets Travel: 17 Songs to Celebrate Equality in 2017

by Published

Here at GoAbroad, providing resources, access, and the most up to date information about meaningful travel is more than just a job; it’s a passion and lifelong commitment.

A huge component of meaningful travel is learning about, appreciating, and understanding cultures different from our own. When we encounter people around the world, we have the chance to find out that we are all wonderfully, uniquely different, but also fundamentally the same. All travelers can relate to having their eyes opened and preconceived notions or stereotypes shattered.

Accepting others for their differences is at the root of achieving equality for all, and ties in to GoAbroad’s mission to strengthen intercultural communication within diverse communities and provide a platform for sharing diverse stories.

The lessons we learn as meaningful travelers apply not only when we are overseas, but also in our day-to-day lives.

Man holding a bandurya guitar

This year, the liberty of people in minority and underrepresented groups could be seriously threatened. Over the last few months, we have seen an escalation in divisive dialogue full of hate, with xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic comments and acts making headlines almost daily. Instead of seeing progress, the world only seems increasingly intolerant and turbulent, with majority groups fearing and violently rejecting people who are “other.”

In 2017, it is up to all of us to turn the tide. We need to be defenders of equality: to be open-minded toward others, stand up for those more vulnerable than ourselves, and answer hate with love (and organized action).

In her final speech as FLOTUS, (the glorious) Michelle Obama spoke about the power of hope, telling us, “something better is always possible if you are willing to work for it and fight for it.” Her message is clear: now is not the time to sit back and let things happen, or to feel overwhelmed and helpless. Instead, it is time to continue educating, protesting, voting, and fighting for a better future.

This fight is always best represented by the artists of our time. Throughout history one thing remains constant: anthems (aka songs about equality and freedom). When the going gets tough, the artists get to work. Musicians take the stress and strife we feel and channel it into songs about diversity and songs about equal rights. This is how we begin the fight against divisive language and hate—with music that inspires us.

In the spirit of hope and global understanding in 2017, our team has come together to share 17 songs from artists around the world that take a stand for equality and happiness for all.

Play Them Loud & Play Them Proud

1. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion. Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment”

Macklemore targets acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ community with this song about equality, but he also points out the division that is caused by fear of the “lesser,” or “other.” He reminds us that we need to fight for equality for everyone, and combat the hatred toward all minority groups. Human rights apply to everybody, no exceptions.

2. Where Is The Love? – The Black Eyed Peas

But if you only have love for your own race Then you only leave space to discriminate”

Released in the early 2000s, this song was a response to the hate and fear generated after the 9/11 attacks. Urging people to love one another, and questioning why so much hate exists in the world, this song remains relevant more than one decade later, a pertinent reminder that we should extend love to people of all races and religions. 

3. One Love – Bob Marley

Let’s get together and feel alright.”

A call for world peace and unity, this song is timeless. It is a peaceful, but powerful, human rights song with tension boiling beneath the surface as Bob Marley voices his anger at oppression and injustice in the lyrics.

4. All You Need Is Love – The Beatles

All you need is love, love. Love is all you need”

The meaning of this song is laid out pretty clearly in the title. The Beatles express a simple but profound belief that love can overcome everything. This song is forever a reminder that life is better when it is filled with love: so let’s all love one another.

5. Imagine – John Lennon

I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one”

Calling for a unified world, where greed and violence don’t exist, this song about equality is an anthem that has inspired so many to fight for peace and love. Imagine stands out as a message of hope with Lennon’s faith that if we come together we can make a better world. He sings about his belief that we are all one people and that we do not have to be divided by borders or religions. In today’s multicultural communities, this is a more important message than ever.

6. Black Or White – Michael Jackson

I'm not going to spend my life being a color”

This human rights song is an open plea for racial harmony. Michael Jackson sings about his own experiences and observations of racism, while reminding us we are all equal. Released in 1991, this song still hits home in 2017.

7. Respect – Aretha Franklin

All I’m askin’, Is for a little respect”

Big, bold, and completely unforgettable, Aretha first belted out this anthem for women’s empowerment in the 1960s. Literally spelling out her rights in this song about equality, Aretha stands up to the patriarchy in this song, demanding respect from men and treatment as an equal. As she put it, everyone is worthy of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

8. Love Today – Mika

Everybody's gonna love today. Anyway you want to, anyway you've got to”

It is impossible to listen to this song and not catch Mika’s optimism that everybody can learn to love. His ebullient conviction that he can convince you to love, regardless of your situation, will lift you up. Just listen to it and feel happy. 

9. Amendment - Ani DiFranco

And if men can kill and be decorated, instead of blamed. Then a woman called upon to mother. Can choose to refrain.”

Ani DiFranco is a feminist goddess who speaks all kinds of truths in this simple song. Highlighting double standards, women’s reproductive rights, and gender stereotypes, this is one of the most powerful songs about equality and freedom to inspire you to take action in 2017. 

10. Born This Way - Lady Gaga

No matter gay, straight, or bi. Lesbian, transgendered life. I’m on the right track baby. I was born to survive.” 

Fierce and loud, this is passionate celebration of being different and one of the great songs about diversity. Gaga is a champion for the LGBTQ community, and in this song she delivers encouragement to everyone to be true to themselves and believe that you are perfect just the way you are

11. Beautiful – Christina Aguilera

You are beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down”

The lyrics and the video to this song celebrates the beauty of diversity, and the freedom to live your life as you wish, free from persecution. The powerful message of self-love and self-acceptance rings true for every generation.

12. Brown Girl - Aaradhna

I’m more than what they think of me. More than the color tones that they see.”

Of Indian and Samoan heritage, Aaradhna knows what it feels like to be labeled according to the color of her skin. In her songs about equality and freedom she explores the theme of prejudice, calling out casual racism that permeates everyday life for people of color.

13. Freedom - Beyonce, featuring Kendrick Lamar

Freedom! Where are you? Cause I need freedom too!”

Freedom is a fearless call for black empowerment as a human rights song. Beyonce has not held back from lending her powerful voice to the Black Lives Matter movement, with overtly political statements in her Formation video (where she lies on top of a sinking police car, and the words “stop shooting us” appear scrawled on a wall) and with Freedom she added a protest anthem to the fight for racial equality.

14. Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil

The time has come, a fact’s a fact. It belongs to them, let’s give it back.”

This song goes right to the heart of Australian aborigines’ fight for land rights. Although specifically talking about aborigines being forced off their land, this song about equality and fighting for human rights is relevant to indigenous groups worldwide, who have been driven away from their ancestral homes.

15. The Power Of Equality – Red Hot Chile Peppers

American equality has always been sour. An attitude I would like to devour.”

A song that boldly tackles socio-political issues, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers make their anti-racism stance clear through these lyrics. Although this musical genre might not be for everyone, the lyrics are sure to strike a chord with every individual who cares about equality. 

16. Greatest Love Of All – Whitney Houston

No matter what they take from me. They can't take away my dignity.”

The “greatest love” that Whitney is referring to is self-love. This song expresses the importance of caring for and depending on yourself: loving yourself first is the most empowering thing you can do. This is a powerful message for songs about diversity, equality, and freedom.

17. What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do. But they're really saying I love you”

Despite being written at a time when everyday life in the U.S. was racially and politically charged, this song remains hopeful for the future. The optimistic tone and messages of love are just as necessary even today. When things look a bit bleak, it’s nice to have Louis Armstrong’s soothing voice remind us that there are lots of good things to look forward to in the world. 

We hope you are inspired by this selection of songs about equality and freedom (for a full playlist of equality-loving songs, check out our Spotify playlist). We hope you stand up for what is true and what is right— even when things feel hopeless, even when the odds seem stacked against you and you’re feeling overwhelmed. Let these songs lift you up and move you forward. 

Pssssst! Extra points for reading these inclusive, comprehensive eBooks: