#pmpsjs23 protest anthem podcast assignment

About the Protest Anthem Podcast Assignment

The Podcast Assignment has four primary goals:

  • for students to engage critically and analytically with a contemporary protest or social justice song
  • to see how many of the theories we read about apply to contemporary music
  • to build and/or enhance important audio communication practices and processes
  • to create a podcast that is creative, fun, engaging, and that makes the audience think about a song in a new way

The assignment is informed by five Course Learning Objectives:

Objective 1. Communication Technologies
Students will develop and enhance their use of various communication technologies for the purpose of creating media objects with specific rhetorical goals and for specific audiences.

Objective 2. Critical Awareness of the Social Role of Media
Students will understand the history and context of the role that communication media (recording devices, music, text, samples, videos, etc.) has played in social movements. Students will be able to articulate and critique the role media has historically played and currently plays in society.

Objective 3: Effective Communication
Students will understand the principles, practices, and ethics of effective media communication, in particular in terms of how it applies to social movements, society, and protest music.

Objective 4: Reflection
Students will develop their understanding of the important role of reflection during the reading, creation, and communication process.

Objective 5: Experminentation
Students will know what it feels like to step out of their comfort zones and take risks with their approaches to and understanding of protest and social movements.

The project will be completed in 6 stages:

  1. Proposal
  2. Listenings
    • 9/29 (Friday): First Listen (Critique and Context)
    • 10/6 (Friday): Second Listen (Lineages)
    • 10/11 (Wednesday): Third Listen (Delivery, Versions, Performances, Videos, Covers)
  3. Background Research
  4. Transcript with Timeline
  5. Podcast Rough Draft
  6. Podcast Final Draft

Assignments 1, 2, 5, and 6 will be posted to the he Protest Anthems web site. Others will be submitted via GoogleDrive. Details will appear in each assignment.

Podcast Assignment Specifics

This semester each student will be creating a podcast for what we are calling the Protest Anthem Podcast series. The podcasts students create will be modeled on NPR’s American Anthem series and Studio 360’s American Icon series, such as:

We will be taking a disparate and intersectional approach to our analysis. That is, we will not be focusing on just the music and the lyrics. We will also be considering many other factors and media objects, as in these prior student protest anthem podcasts:

(Note, the below podcast deals with domestic abuse.)

(Note, the below podcast deals with suicide.)

Since podcasts are meant to be heard by the public, we will be publishing them online on the Protest Anthems web site. If students are interested, I can talk with members of the SJU radio station to see if we can get them aired on the radio. In class we might talk about the possibility of uploading them to podcasting sites so they can be found by the general public.

Each student is responsible for writing, recording, editing, and publishing 1 Protest Anthem podcast that adheres to the following criteria:

  • runs 8 – 12 minutes long
  • has a clear intended message that includes information (not necessarily in this order) about:
    • the musician(s) and songwriter(s)
    • the history of the song (such as, writing period, release date, album it appears on, etc.)
    • the historical context in which the song was written and released
    • the social justice topic being discussed and/or being protested against and what the song is critiquing
    • the music alone
    • the lyrics alone (be sure to distinguish between the singer and writer if they are different)
    • the vocal delivery alone
    • a complex interpretation of the meaning of the song overall and not just about the lyrics
    • how it was received
    • how it is connected to an organized movement (such as the civil rights movement)
    • the song’s intertextuality
    • how it exists within a lineage of a particular genre (such as, spiritual, folk, punk, pop, etc.)
  • includes your own original narration, relevant scholarship quotes (can be from class readings), clips from the song, and any of the following that will enhance the story being told:
    • quotes from popular online and print media
    • descriptions of videos (official or other)
    • alternate live and studio performances of the song
    • associated songs
    • interview clips
    • social media posts
    • album or song artwork and/or packaging
    • anything else that you think will enhance your discussion
  • includes background music when that music is necessary
  • is accompanied by a complete transcript to ensure it is accessible for people who are deaf or are not able to listen to the audio at the moment
    • the transcript will include associated links and embedded media referenced in the audio, such as those on the NPR anthems page, as well as citations.

Though not required, if possible students can include:

  • musicological analysis, such if the song is in a major or minor key, if time signatures change, etc.
  • interviews with experts and/or fans
  • personal recordings of live performances

Song Selection

Some guidelines and tips for selecting a song:

  • The song must have been released within the student’s lifetime—or, with permission, it can be a song released prior to your lifetime but you believe has certain relvance today.
  • The song can be an original composition or can be a re-interpretation of an older song (such as when in 2006 Springsteen redid the slavery spiritual, “O Mary Don’t You Weep”).
  • The song can be an overt protest song (such as, anti-war or against a political person) or can be about an important social justice issue
    • Don’t limit yourself to songs about race just because that’s mainly what we have covered so far in class. The song you choose can be about any form of protest and/or social justice, which includes labor issues, poverty, women’s rights and empowerment, LGBTQ+ rights and empowerment, abuses of power, bullying, religious intolerance, Native American discrimination, environmental justice, and so on. And since the songs are to have been released in your lifetime, that includes all the post-9/11 anti-war songs, too.
  • Steer away from recent songs that have been analyzed to pieces. For example, Childish Gambino’s “This is America” is an excellent song with a phenomenal video, but the video has been deconstructed to the micro-second level. There isn’t as much room for you to do work with it.
  • Avoid songs that cover a variety of social justices issues in one song. For example, “Junky” by Brockhampton is a social justice-related song, but each member of the band sings about a different issue. It’s hard to narrow down a subject when that happens.
  • Avoid “We Are The World”-type collaborations, like in the Will.I.Am and others’ remake of the Black Eyed Peas’, “Where is the Love.” Too many people and the video is just all over the place.
  • The video can be the object that draws you to the song, so you can feel free to focus on that primarily, especially if it is the video that suggests, reinforces, or solidifies the idea that the song is a protest/social justice song.
  • Try to avoid songs that are too obvious. The more work you need to do the more nuanced your discussion will be. Consider, for example, the complexity of our analysis of “Born in the U.S.A.” when we had to consider the (supposed) paradox of the lyrics versus the music.
  • This work should challenge you in new ways. It should not be easy.

The following songs cannot be chosen because they have been analyzed too often, we will be listening to them in class, and/or students have covered them in the past:

  • songs from Lemonade
  • any other song on the course list of songs
  • any of the songs covered by NPR’s American Anthem series
  • “The Man” by Taylor Swift
  • “P.M.R.C.” by the Bouncing Souls
  • “I’m Not Okay” by My Chemical Romance
  • “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae
  • “Pretty Hurts” by Beyonce
  • “A Living Human Girl” by The Regrettes
  • “Fake Happy” by Paramore
  • “FOR MY PEOPLE” by Joey Bada$$
  • “TEMPTATION” by Joey Bada$$
  • “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken” by P!nk
  • “Love it if we Made it” by The 1975
  • “Woman” by Doja Cat
  • “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
  • “Cough Syrup” by Darren Chris
  • “Hunger” by Florence + The Machine
  • “What About Us” by Pink
  • “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monae
  • “The Bigger Picture” by Lil’ Baby
  • “Burn the House Down” by AJR
  • “Promises & Pills” by SOJA
  • “1-800-273-8255” by Logic
  • “Glory” by John Legend and Common
  • “Female” by Keith Urban
  • “American Idiot” by Green Day
  • “Cherry Wine” by Hozier
  • “Preach” by John Legend
  • “Crooked Smile” by J. Cole
  • “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga
  • “I Might Vote For Donald Trump” by JPEGMAFIA,
  • “Don’t Shoot” by The Game
  • “Mystery of Iniquity” by Lauryn Hill
  • “Zombie” by The Cranberries
  • “Praying” by Kesha
  • “Not Ready to Make Nice” by The Dixie Chicks
  • “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (with Mary Lambert)
  • “Guerilla Radio” by Rage Against the Machine
  • “Where is the Love?” (2003) by Black Eyed Peas
  • “The Story of O.J.” by Jay-Z
  • “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People
  • “Neighbors” by J.Cole
  • “Now” by Miguel
  • “Paranoia” by Chance the Rapper
  • “XXX” by Kendrick Lamar
  • “You Don’t Own Me” (2016) by Grace
  • “Don’t Touch My Hair” by Solange
  • “My Mind is for Sale” by Jack Johnson
  • “Just a Girl” by No Doubt


I would like you to think about this proposal in terms of several things.

First, consider two possible songs you would like to investigate. After I read your proposal I will make suggestions on which of the two would be best for the project.

Consider what it is about that songs that intrigue you, that you are curious about, that makes you want to learn more about them. (Don’t just write that you have always loved the song—really engage it critically.) Are the songs too obvious or will they be challenging (challenging is good)? Discuss what make them protest songs and what they are protesting against, and/or the social justice issue being raised. As stated above, the songs must have been released during your lifetime, either as an original recording or a re-interpretation of an older song.

Second, where do you think the songs will lead you, in terms of research and other music? How do the songs exhibit the characteristics of their genre? How do they connect to a particular moment in history?

Third, I would like you to consider what the songs mean to you, personally. Why do you think they are important? Are you willing to dedicate 10 weeks to studying one or the other, which will mean listening to it over and over and over again?

Fourth, I would like you discuss what concerns you have about completing the project.

Embed and/or link to all media referenced, including a version of the song itself (assume that Bill might not know the song and will need to listen to it).

You don’t need to address the items in the order listed above, and your proposal shouldn’t read like a bulleted list. Rather, the ideas and topics should appear seamlessly in your discussion. The goal is to showcase why you want to this, what you will do, where it might appear, and why it is important.

Please post your proposal to the Protest Anthems Podcast web site by Friday, 9/15, by class time.

When posting, be sure to click the “Proposal Fall 2023” category and add appropriate tags.

The proposal can be as long you think it should be for an upper level Communication Studies course.


The goal of the Listenings posts are to reflect on the song you have chosen to investigate through the process of close listening. These posts will directly inform the podcast you make, so by putting in time and extended thought now, you will be helping yourself when you get to the podcast itself. You will share your Listenings on the Protest Anthems web site.

(If you are not familiar with blogging, please let me know and I will point you in some directions to help get you started.)

Each student will be responsible for individually composing and posting THREE listening posts during the semester.

Each listening post will be in response to a set prompt, which will be provided beforehand.

Each post should:

  • be informed, insightful, curious, authoritative, and in-depth, and very well written;
  • be 450 – 500 words long;
  • have at least 5 meaningful tags and placed in the proper category (First Listen Fall 2023, Second Listen Fall 2023, etc.)
  • features that are important to blogs and blog readers: headings, bold print to highlight important phrases in the discussion, links whenever having one will help educate a reader (Bill!) who may not know as much about the song as you do (again, Bill!), images, embedded video and/or audio, and so on;
  • The posts should be online by 11:00pm the day they are due.

Take pride in your work. Use care when composing your posts; make sure to check your spelling and grammar. Use paragraphs. Use author’s names and make sure to refer to the author with the correct pronoun. Distinguish between the artist who sings or performs the song and any song writers that wrote the song — often the two are different. Cite page numbers when quoting and/or paraphrasing.

due dates

Each student is required to complete THREE listening posts. They are due by 11:00pm on the following days (click on the links below for the prompts):

Please see the Course Calendar for any changes to these due dates.


Each response will be graded on the basis of 25 points–20 points for the content; 5 points for the blog post aesthetics. The proposal is also 25 points, making a total of 100 points for the Listening and Proposal assignments. It counts for 15% of your overall course grade.

Transcript and Timeline

Your transcript and timeline will be built over time and will most likely change as you move toward your final draft as you refine your ideas and the way those ideas are presented. However, we need to get started somewhere….

The Transcript
We are going to create transcripts for our podcasts, so we know exactly what we are going to narrate, when we are going to narrate it, and what clips will be appearing between our narrations. Our transcript formatting will be informed by best practices for radio transcripts (see Radio: An Illustrated Guide by Abel and Glass on the Readings and Texts page — not required due to time constraints).

Those practices include and yours are required to include:

  • providing time-stamps for all content
  • labeling when content is “tape”—that is, source material that is not original narration, such as song clips, interview footage, news reports, etc.
    • “tape” should include at the least the first few phrases that will wind up in the podcast
    • include links to the sources, as in the student sample below
  • Exact wording that you are going to say aloud
  • color-coding source types

Here’s the operative illustration created by Abel and Glass:

And here is a color-coded sample (partial) transcript (.pdf) created by a prior student you can used as a guide:

The Timeline
I’d like you to create a visual timeline, like this one (yours, of course, will be more complete and nicer looking):

The goal of this part of the project is to help you visualize how the various clips in your podcast interact and overlap. Having a visual will help you as you move from the written drafts to positioning your audio clips in whichever audio editor you choose to use.

Break your timeline down by the minutes and then add start and end times or each clip you are using.

You can use colored markers or pencils, whichever you have/prefer. The important thing is to keep the different clips colored by type, so all of your narrations should be the same color, all clips from the song you use should be the same color, all interviews with the artist should be the same color.

Due dates

Monday, 10/30: First two minutes of transcript and timeline due by class time
Week of 11/6: At least 5 minutes of transcript and timeline due by start of your conference (only 2 minutes of audio due)

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