Musical White Flags

The white flag of surrender is a recurring motif in popular music. Here is a brief survey, courtesy of YouTube:

Our first and most popular musical white flag was a 2003 pop hit by Dido with a video featuring Whedonverse actor David Boreanaz.  “White flag” appears in the chorus:  I will go down with this ship / And I won’t put my hands up in surrender / There will be no white flag above my door / I’m in love and always will be.  (But: since when has surrender been signaled by placing a white flag above a door?)

The virtual pop/hip hop band Gorillaz also has a song titled White Flag, from their 2010 concept album Plastic Beach that envisioned the band on an floating island of trash. “White flag” appears in the third verse, as a symbol of peace:  Cool! White flag! White flag! / (Uh-huh, no war!) / No guns! (No corps!) / Just life (Just love) / No hype (Just fun).

White Flag is also a song by the Christian Contemporary Music singer Chris Tomlin, the lead single from the 2012 album Passion: White Flag.  As in the Dido song, the white flag here is the flag of surrender: We raise our white flag / We surrender / All to You / All to You.  But also the flag of peace, as in the Gorillaz song: We raise our white flag / The war is over / Love has come / Your love has won.

Shaun Groves is another Christian singer/songwriter with a song about white flags and surrendering to God:  There’s a white flag / Waving where my colors used to fly / You win / There’s a white flag / Giving up and giving all of me — I give in / I’m Yours to reign and to rule / I’m just a fool / With a white flag.

Disney teen actress/singer Sabrina Carpenter‘s 2014 song White Flag continues the “surrender” theme in its chorus: I’ll throw the white flag of surrender / Knock me down, not forever, just for now.  (But: since when is surrender — even an apparently temporary one — signaled by throwing a white flag?)

Cinnamon Chasers is the name of a solo project by Russ Davies, the son of The Kinks’ Dave Davies.  His 2009 song White Flag includes this mellow yet aggressive lyric, demanding surrender:  I don’t want to hurt you now, / I don’t want to hit the ground, / Show me white flag, / I won’t fight no more.

Sri Lankan/South African/Australian hip hop/punk singer Ecca Vandal chose White Flag to be her 2014 debut single.  it’s been nominated as people’s choice Single of the Year by Rolling Stone Australia.

Our last musical White Flag was a punk band from California’s Moreno Valley whose name was a play on the famous hardcore band Black Flag (itself a reference to the black flag of anarchy). Their guitarist, the late Pat Fear, said “we’re trying to get back to an archistic state of music”.  This is a track from their 1984 album Third Strike.

The cover art for their Third Strike album is a nice mash-up of the US flag, the famous photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, and their four-bar logo (the inverse of their anti-namesake's, Black Flag).
The cover art for their Third Strike album is a nice mash-up of the US flag, the famous photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, and their four-bar logo (the tipped-over inverse of their anti-namesake’s, Black Flag).

This list is by no means complete. Do you know of other “white flag” songs? Please tell us about them in the comments below.

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

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