Taken from St Matthew-in-the-City (Dec, 2003)
Everyone Deserves Music - Michael Franti & Spearhead
Boo Boo Wax, 12 tracks, 52:38 minutes
by Brendan Boughen
Remember the song that U2 used to kick off their Zoo TV concerts in the early 90's; "Television: the Drug of a Nation"? That was Michael Franti.
Since fronting the now-defunct hip-hop outfit The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Franti has been hanging out with his new band Spearhead and recording albums of stripped down, funked up, reggae-tinged, neo-hippie love grooves that he describes as "conscious music for the masses."
As in those early days, with his resonant baritone voice evoking shades of the late Barry White, Franti is still a fierce political animal, eschewing the corporate music world with a vengeance and leaving no stone of government corruption, social injustice and manufactured war unturned.
On Everyone Deserves Music, Franti is as direct, acerbic and confrontational as ever with a message that is clear and sharp as a crystal shard. Written during the lead up to the recent war in Iraq, the first single "Bomb the World" (of which there are two mixes on this CD) lays down the political stance in no uncertain terms.
I don't understand the whole reason why
You're telling us all that we need to unify
Rally round the flag and beat the drums of war
Sing the same old songs, we've heard them all before
You tellin' me it's unpatriotic, but I call it what I see it when I see it's idiotic
It's not a war on evil, it's really just revenge
You can say what you want on propaganda television
But all bombing is terrorism
We can chase down all our enemies, bring them to their knees
We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can't bomb it into peace
I say, power to the peaceful / Love to the people
That's just a brief sample of some of the most piercing comment on US foreign policy, 9/11 and the ensuing war on terrorism that you'll hear these days. Similar sentiment is rapped out in track two, "We Don't Stop":
They got a war for oil, a war for gold
A war for money and a war for souls
A war on terror, a war on drugs
A war on kindness, a war on hugs
World war one, two, three and four
Chemical weapons, biological war
Bush War One, and Bush War Two
They got a war for me and a war for you!
While one might imagine that protest lyrics like those above would be matched with equally serious and biting music, the pure disco track behind these words seems to mock the subject by saying, in spite of this "New World President" spinning the world out of control, Michael Franti and Spearhead ain't going to stop spreading love instead of hate.
Franti rather laughs in the face of potential apocalypse, imagining in another track that "If I were the rains, I'd wash away the whole world's pain" and gets on with doing so by spinning his joyous funk grooves. Where the Disposable Heroes ominous slow beats and samples matched the dark lyrical content, the songs on Everyone Deserves Music are almost flippant in comparison. Similar to the disco-funk of Jamiroquai, the vibe on this record is a sweaty, 70's retro party soundtrack for the new anti-American Century.
Franti's causticity is never whiny and his optimism never saccharine. He is also clearly an artist with a strong sense of God, the eternal aspects of life, and a man of prayer, evident from tracks like "Pray for Grace", "Feelin' Free" and "Love Invincible". These songs offer powerful statements of truth and hope, albeit not in the usual churchy jargon of CCM. Songs like "Never Too Late", "Yes I Will", "What I Be", and "Crazy Crazy Crazy" proclaim an earthy vision for life based in faith and love, rather than might and power.
Shine on / Let your heart be boundless like your faith in the One
Sing on / From the language of your ancestors
Sing on / Be playful in your innocence and lift your head up high
And rejoice for all you see without your eyes
Sing on / Like a bird that's making love in sunset skies
Unfortunately, considering the lyrical content mentioned earlier, US listeners probably won't hear wonderful songs like this one from the album on mainstream radio. And let's just say that if you live in the US and were planning on voting for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, you will probably not warm to this album either. However, if you are as equally suspicious as Spearhead is of the administration currently in the White House, you should get a hold of this album before they ban it. (While you're at it, pick up a copy of Franti's 1992 album Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury. Ominously, it is as relevant today as it was ten years ago.)
Franti's mission is summed up best in one of the closing lines of the title track, "I pray for them, and I play for them." Everyone Deserves Music is just that; a superb blend of spirituality and soulful disco. Highly worthy, infectious listening that will get your feet moving on the dance floor as much as it will move your brain to (hopefully) reflect seriously on the politics. As Franti sings, "Even our worst enemies Lord, deserve music, sweet music."