Will There Also Be Singing?: An Examination of “This is America” in Relation to Modern Apocalyptic Media
Bertolt Brecht, a noted East German poet and playwright, wrote in his poetry collection, Svendborg Gedichte (translated as Svendborg Poems), a question and answer which resonated not only in his own time, but throughout time: “In the dark times/Will there also be singing? /Yes, there will also be singing. /About the dark times” (Brecht). When Brecht wrote this poem, he was writing about the Nazi Germany which he had been exiled from, but a similar type of darkness has also spilled into today’s time period in forms including but not limited to political division, economic disparity, and environmental distress. At times, this can be understood as being similar to an apocalypse, or the time period which can be assumed as being world-ending. While the truly apocalyptic nature of today is debatable, the reporting style around these events has twisted this time period to be inarguably dark.
However, just as Brecht says, there is still singing.
Since the 2016 election, news media has become nothing if not more apocalyptic in reporting style. As a result, other forms of media, such as songs, literature, and artwork, have been reacting in two distinct modes: first, through a realism in describing the pain of those going through the events, and second, through a blind romanticism of the truth.
In this essay, I describe the origin of apocalyptic rhetoric, and the way that this type of rhetoric has unfolded throughout a few key moments of human history. From there, I move into a discussion of song as one form of a reaction to this, making sure to keep intact the dichotomous lines as described earlier. As an emblem of this reaction in the post-2016 era, I then analyze modern apocalyptic thought, and as an example of this reaction, I analyze the song “This is America” by Childish Gambino. I then look towards the future and theorize as to what type of singing will come from future dark times.