Portugal. The Man released an Indigenous Peoples’ Day anthem featuring The Last Artful, Dodgr and a serious contribution from “Weird Al” Yankovic. The song is called “Who’s Gonna Stop Me,” and came with a music video featuring Indigenous artists and collaborators.
According to the press release, the idea for the song goes back several years, with famous songwriter Paul Williams working with Portugal. The Man singer John Gourley to capture a youthful memory of freedom. The lyrics didn’t come to Gourley until he revisited it over quarantine. While reminiscing about growing up, he thought about “Weird Al” and decided to ask him to sing the second verse and help with the outro.
Producer Jeff Bhasker put the recording together. It starts out somewhat downtempo, focusing on the doubled vocal part and tight drum rhythm. Sustained piano chords fill it out. After a drum fill, the song widens with a bass drop of sorts and the anthemic group vocal “Who’s gonna stop me when there’s no one to stop me but me?”
Music video directors Josué Rivas and Aaron Brown were more than happy to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ traditions and move past them to find harmony. The first half happens at night with firelight paired with backing vocals via phone screens. Drawn phrases flash on screen calling for support and a drawing of a coyote transforms into “Weird Al” at one point. The second half of the song happens in daylight, with jingle dancing champion Acosia Red Elk demonstrating her dance talent and many more Indigenous people singing along.
Currently, only seven states officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota and Vermont. Alaska-born, Portland-based band Portugal. The Man and the PTM Foundation recently launched a fundraising campaign to support DigDeep, a human rights nonprofit. Their Indigenous-led Navajo Water Project is working to improve water access for the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, where more than 30% of residents are living without clean, running water in their homes. Portugal. The Man’s website also offers a limited-edition “Water Is Life” t-shirt, with all proceeds going to DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon. The band will match up to $20,000 of fan donations.
Portugal. The Man also added a quote to the video’s caption, “Before the cowboys, for time immemorial, the indigenous peoples of the Americas looked to the earth as their spiritual authority.” They say near the start, going on to further compare how Indigenous people treated the Earth compared to how the colonists treated it. “The PTM Foundation turns a conscious heart to the ancestral youth of the indigenous elders to shepherd our sacred planet and peoples through this time of difficulty.”
A second paragraph provides additional details about the video, “‘Weird Al’ Yankovic has been an inspiration for Portugal The Man since their inception until now. In the tradition of the indigenous cultures of the western North American territories, the Coyote represents the trickster and the maker of new worlds.” They conclude by saying, “PTM Foundation strives to forge bridges between the materialist contemporary culture in which we are immersed and the indigenous stewards to whom we strive to give a larger voice.”
Photo credit: Kalyn Oyer