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1984: 1984- Related Music Videos

Year 12 Advanced English

RadioHead 2 + 2 = 5

Radiohead - 2+2=5 (Live on Jonathan Ross Show) ➥ Lyrics on video ━ 2+2=5 (The Lukewarm) ➺Track inspired by "1984" (George Orwell)

Radiohead’s 2003 album Hail to the Thief has undeniable political underpinnings, but the song “2+2=5” is Orwellian by title and content. “I was listening to a lot of political programs on BBC Radio 4,” Yorke told Rolling Stone in 2003. “I found myself—during that mad caffeine rush in the morning, as I was in the kitchen giving my son his breakfast—writing down little nonsense phrases, those Orwellian euphemisms that [the British and American governments] are so fond of. They became the background of the record,” said Yorke.

The song’s opening lines reflect Yorke’s statement in the interview. “Are you such a dreamer / To put the world to rights,” he wails. “I’ll stay home forever / Where two and two always makes a five.” The nonsense equation refers to the Party’s ability to control information and deny even objective reality. Nearing the book’s end, protagonist Winston Smith has been heinously tortured by the Ministry of Love. Broken like a horse, he mindlessly traces “2+2=5” in the dust of a chess table, no longer questioning its absurdity

David Bowie- 1984

The song pays worthy homage to the book. Despite his glam plumage, Bowie could do dreary nihilism with the best of ‘em. “1984” maintains the novel’s oppressive weight, honing in on Orwell’s depiction of thought control, specifically the state-issued propaganda which makes intellectual amputees of its citizens.

Douglas Dare- Doublethink

The timeliest Orwellian nod, Douglas Dare released “Doublethink” on his sophomore LP Aforger just weeks before Donald Trump was elected president, and just months prior to Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” remark. “Doublethink” was named after Orwell’s term for state-ordained cognitive dissonance—“To know and not to know,” as the book claims. “To be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic.”

Stevie Wonder- Big Brother

Hey, 1984 isn’t just for punks! Perhaps the most unexpected name to crop up on this list, even pop icon Stevie Wonder got the Orwell bug. Released on 1972’s Talking Book, “Big Brother” is one of the subtlest protest songs ever recorded (even if it does contain the word “protesting”). Wonder sings in his velveteen voice, “Your name is Big
Brother / You say that you’re watching me on the telly / Seeing me go nowhere / Your name is Big Brother / You say that you’re tired of me protesting.” If it isn’t the most understated song about “Big Brother,” it is certainly the only one to employ the clavinet.

Subhumans- Big Brother

Punks love 1984. It is perhaps the only book referenced more in the punk rock canon than A Clockwork Orange. Written on the heels of the actual year 1984, “Big Brother” communicates a frustration with Thatcher-era Britain—a popular target for punk music at the time. Here Subhumans leverage the text’s portrayal of mass surveillance (i.e. “telescreens” in the novel) to comment on the brainwashing effect of mainstream media: “Here we are in a new age / Wishing we were dead,” shouts lead singer Dick Lucas. “There’s a TV in my front room /And it’s screwing up my head.”


Rage against the machine- Testify

Rage Against The Machine brought revolution to the forefront of commercial rock in a time when politics had taken a backseat on the charts. RATM, much like Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith, were disillusioned with systemic flexes of absolute power. Their 1999 record The Battle of Los Angeles coincided with many politically tense events—Bill Clinton’s deregulation of Wall Street, the continued Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas and the WTO riots (or “The Battle In Seattle”) that sought to tear down corporate hegemony.


The Jam- Standards

Paul Weller of The Jam was a pro at sneaking subversive content into chart-topping hits, and “Standards” doesn’t stray from that model. The 1977 track is sung from the perspective of a totalitarian regime, much like the one controlling 1984’s Oceania. Though the entire song is Orwellian, Weller overtly references the book when he sings, “And ignorance is strength, we have God on our side / Look, you know what happened to Winston.