What good do protest songs do? On her new album she/her/they/them, Boston-based singer-songwriter Evan Greer questions the use of singing through the present day’s mounting political crises. Greer is best known as an activist and organizer on the front lines of the fights for LGBTQ and digital rights, but for a decade she’s played folk-punk songs that bristle with agitative sentiments. In that way, her music is a complement to her work on the picket line. And yet on her new song “Six Strings,” a jazzy tune on which her acoustic guitar is bolstered by drums and piano, she finds herself wondering: what’s the point of all this? “These songs will never change the world / Or save anyone’s life,” she laments.
It’s easier than ever to get disillusioned about the purpose of art, but music can both invigorate social movements and offer respite from the stress of marching in their ranks. It may not start revolutions on its own, but it can impact people in a way that mere words can’t. On she/her/they/them, Greer follows the long protest-song tradition of using humor to balance out the deathly seriousness of her subject matter. She sings about the gendered conditioning she survived as a child, when she was told regularly that she had to be a boy; she sings too about the weight of staying alive day after day as a trans woman in a world that punishes transfeminine expression. On “Assimilation,” she makes a spirited and comic bid against the phenomenon of gay normalization: “We don’t need gays in the military / We need militant gays!” For those who live each day to stick it to the powers that be, Greer’s new album opens up space to scream away their frustrations. Hers is a daring and spirited voice that doesn’t shy away from reaching for a better world—even if there’s no guarantee we’ll get there.