John Mellencamp is getting political.
The heartland rocker is releasing a new song and music video called “Easy Target” inspired by the turbulent political climate, and PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at the clip.
Over a grim string arrangement, Mellencamp solemnly sings: “So Black Lives Matter, who we tryin’ to kid / Here’s an easy target / Don’t matter, never did / Crosses burnin’, such a long time ago / 400 years, and we still don’t let it go / Well, let the poor be damned and the easy targets, too / All are created equally, beneath you and me.”
The grave, down-tempo track’s release comes just one day before President-elect Donald Trump‘s inauguration in Washington, D.C. As for the singer’s own political leanings, Mellencamp is a life-long Democrat and has publicly rallied behind progressive leaders, previously campaigning for President Barack Obama and, in 2004, playing at a John Kerry fundraiser.
“‘Easy Target’ is John’s reflection on the state of our country,” reads a Jan. 18 statement on the artist and activist’s official website about the song, which addresses weighty issues including gun violence, racial justice and poverty. “An outspoken artist, Mellencamp continues his journey to convey the truth through this passionate and plain-spoken song.”
Mellencamp, 65, further opened up about the new song in an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo News.
“Slowly but surely this country changes by the men we admire and I’m very aware of that,” he told Couric. “The country is changing by what has happened and, you know, welcome to Suckertown.”
When asked for his thoughts on Trump taking office, Mellencamp said: “You don’t really know what he’s really going to do or what because he says one thing and does another. You know, ‘We’re not going to have Wall Street involved,’ and his whole cabinet is Wall Street. I’m just going to sit back and see how weird it gets.”
Furthermore, the singer said that, if asked, he would have declined to perform for Trump’s inauguration.
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“I don’t view it as an opportunity,” Mellencamp said.“This is where I fall into that Midwestern mindset. It’s not really an opportunity. You’re being used. You’re being used.”
“Easy Target” anticipates Mellencamp’s upcoming album, Sad Clowns and Hillbillies, due out this spring. And it is not the first time the veteran singer-songwriter has made a political statement. In 2015, the Indiana native shared his dissent over Vice President-elect (and then-Governor) Mike Pence‘s passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which opponents at the time said was discriminatory towards the LGBT community.
“I know firsthand that our state is populated with a great diversity of people who hold varying religious and political beliefs. The people in our neighborhoods are also racially diverse, live in different types of family units and also span a broad spectrum of sexual and gender identities. Indiana is now, in many ways, the American Melting Pot we all learned about in school. We are more than just tolerant, most of the time. We are welcoming,” he wrote in a 2015 open letter on his website at the time.
“So it is with a very heavy heart that I’ve watched the divisiveness that has occurred over our state government’s actions. I am not questioning the sincerity of those who believe they have acted in the interests of religious freedom, but I am resolutely stating my opposition to this misnamed and ill-conceived law. It is discriminatory, hurtful, and a stain on Indiana’s national reputation,” his 2015 letter continued.
After Mellencamp — who has previously attended the Democratic National Convention — and ex Christie Brinkley split in August, a tabloid report speculated that they broke up because of opposing political views. However, the supermodel slammed the story, saying they both share the same ideals.
“John and I are actually both patriotic Americans who do our fair share of working to bring Americans together John primarily thru his work with Farm Aid and thru his music, which by the way he just gave Hilary Clinton his song for her campaign ‘Our Country,'” Brinkley wrote in a lengthy Instagram post. “We both believe that we stand a better chance of overcoming the problems America faces when Americans of every race religion ethnicity, gender, black lives, blue lives, come together in mutual respect and love and that’s why we are both voting for Hillary.”