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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Tyranny Of Either/Or’ By Evan Greer

Evan Greer is an example of someone who uses their music as an extension of their activism. She is
releasing her latest album “Spotify is Surveillance” on April 9, the follow-up to her excellent 2019 album

With regard to “Spotify is Surveillance,” Greer declared, “Big Tech companies’ business models are based in surveillance, and they’re fundamentally incompatible with basic human rights and democracy. Spotify likes to present itself as hip and progressive and friendly to artists, but its profit model is based on harvesting our data, monitoring emotions, and using our behavioral profiles to enrich advertisers.”

“The company recently filed a patent for a product that would literally monitor listeners’ speech patterns and tone of voice in order to recommend music (and of course, advertisements). Music should be about connection and collective experience, not surveillance and exploitation.”

Greer is the deputy director for Fight For the Future, a nonprofit that campaigns for digital and privacy rights and challenges internet censorship.

“The internet has the potential to profoundly transform our society for the better. As a trans artist playing way outside the mainstream, I’ve seen how technology has the power to lift up marginalized voices and foster community and solidarity amongst musicians, like we’ve seen with organizing efforts like the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers and their ‘Justice at Spotify’ campaign,” Greer stated. “But if we allow a parasitic business model based on surveillance and manipulation to dominate the music industry, it’s clear that this will serve to simply reinforce and exacerbate existing forms of injustice in an industry that has long been plagued by systemic white supremacy, patriarchy, and heterosexism.”

“I titled the album ‘Spotify Is Surveillance’ not because every single song is a diatribe about surveillance capitalism or current politics but because it’s a way to raise these issues every time someone clicks play, even if it’s just on a love song or a song about missing shows,” Greer added.

The second single off the album, “The Tyranny of Either/Or,” is a fist-pumping anthem for “trans and gender nonconforming people,” who are still under attack despite it being more than 50 years since Stonewall.

“We still face systemic violence and discrimination, and we still have to struggle just to have our basic humanity recognized,” Greer asserted. “Not just by the public at large, but even within the mainstream LGBTQ rights movement, which has consistently failed to fight for the most marginalized members of our community, especially Black and brown trans women, sex workers, incarcerated people, and unhoused youth.”

Greer said “Tyranny of Either/Or” is a song that she “needed as a young trans person navigating the world. It’s about reconnecting with our collective history of resistance and self-determination, and celebrating all of the bullshit that trans people have overcome, while recognizing how much further we still have to go. And it’s a punk rock open letter to transphobes of all varieties to just piss off and let us live our lives in peace.”

The rousing tune appropriately begins with a poignant audio clip of gay liberation activist Sylvia Rivera,
who jumps on the stage at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day rally and reprimands mainstream gay activists for ignoring the oppression of transgender people. She defiantly shouts outs, “Y’all better
quiet down,” over a jeering crowd.

“We just want to be ourselves,” and, “We just want to live our lives” are lyrics that convey this empowering message.

As another example of how Greer uses her music as a platform for her activism, all proceeds from
Bandcamp downloads will be donated to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. The organization carries on the legacy of Johnson, who was a “prominent figure in the Stonewall uprising.” It nourishes and supports Black trans people who are “resisting, grappling with survival, and looking for community.”

Listen to Evan Greer’s “Tyranny of Either/Or”:

CJ Baker

CJ Baker

CJ Baker is a lifelong music fan and published writer. He recently started a website chronicling the historical developments of protest music: ongoinghistoryofprotestsongs.com, and can be found on Twitter @tunesofprotest