This paper, which was presented at Union Institute & University’s MLK Capstone event, explores the relationship between popular music and Dr. King’s legacy by reviewing and reflecting critically on the top five songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as of September 14, 2018. The purpose of this research is to inspire scholarly debate around what popular music has to say about the trajectories of racial reconciliation, economic justice, multiculturalism, and human dignity in the U.S. The research suggests that popular music displays an expanding multiculturalism that contradicts the narrative of generalized deepening social and cultural divides in the U.S. although there is yet much work to be done toward King’s legacy in the popular sense. And the research concludes with a call to future research on the relationship between consumerism and popular music.
Keywords: King’s legacy, master narratives, popular music