A woman in a green beret and a leather jacket sings in front of a band dressed in military fatigues. Tires burn in the distance and attack helicopters hold formation above them, a line of deadly weapons overseeing the music. Soldiers run through an open field, tanks roll forward and fire their cannons, and a convoy of armored personnel carriers creep forward all while the woman sings and the guitarist shreds.
This is a music video promoting Azerbaijan’s State Border Service, the military wing that protects the borders of the East European country. It’s official state propaganda, produced by the military and hosted on the Azerbaijan SBS YouTube channel.
It’s a strange mix of military themes and pop music, and it’s just the tip of the Iceberg. From China, to Russia, to Iraq and the good ‘ol US of A, militaries love spending money to produce lavishly surreal music videos. They’d be really funny if they weren’t promoting death, defense, and destruction.
In South America, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have fought against Bogotá for more than fifty years. During the long war, FARC has occasionally put down its weapons to release rap tracks dissing the government and asking for peace. Not to be outdone, Colombia’s National Army released its own music video called ‘Sword of Honor.’ The auto tuned pop track tells the story of a young soldier defeating rebels and rescuing kidnapping victims before returning home to a worried family.
All of these music videos are propaganda in one way or another. While Colombia’s factions seek to sway public opinion with music, China and Russia use it to recruit. China’s People’s Liberation Army used militant rap lyrics about an approaching war over footage of military equipment and training to see young people on the cause. This video for Russia’s Airborne Troops is similar. Both countries have compulsory military service.
In terms of raw military madness, nothing comes close the music videos produced for and by the Iraqi military. One of the most popular has more than 55 millions views.
The most famous of Iraq’s military music mavens is Shams al-Maslawe, a woman who often capers through her videos in full military kit. Similarly, Iraq’s Special Operations Forces produced a video where a singer in full military gear sings about the glory of the operators while brandishing an assault rifle. Iraq’s military loved producing these videos and each branch had their own set of slickly produced jams, many of which live on on the military’s official Facebook page.
America, of course, is no stranger to bizzare military music videos. Remember when Katy Perry joined the US Marine Corps? What about that time the National Guard in California produced a music video starring active duty soldiers? Defense contractor paid an indie band to perform in front of stock footage of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force released a punk cover of its official theme song (yes, there’s an official U.S. Air Force theme song) and has an official band called Max Impact.
We live in a world built and maintained by a vast military-industrial complex. These music videos are just a small part of the pop-culture that complex is creating.