As if in response to Jason’s post of the other day, someone’s created a list of the top ten protest songs of the twenty-first century. I noted in the comments how little I thought of the genre as practiced today, and I won’t rehash that here.
I’ll leave it to you to judge their selections–I haven’t heard them all. I will note that neither “Hoist That Rag” by Tom Waits nor “C*nts Are Still Running the World” by Jarvis Cocker is anywhere close to a great song–far from the worst these artists have ever done, but light years from their best. And if Conor Oberst actually wrote the quoted lyrics, he shouldn’t be number one on any list–in fact he ought to fire himself as lyricist and hire, well, just about anybody.
It’s not on the list, but the guy writing the article about it mentions “Ashes of American Flags” by Wilco. I don’t pretend to know what Jeff Tweedy was writing about, since that song is from the album where they went all Radiohead, but I don’t think it’s political at all. It seems to me to be a personal song about someone who sees decay everywhere in his life. Besides, at the time it was written and recorded, there was no war to protest.
My personal pick would be Steve Earle’s “Jerusalem.” It has intelligent, heart-rending lyrics and a (probably unwarranted) note of optimism. Here it is:
(Sorry to post on Steve Earle twice in two days. Obviously I’m a fan, but that’s just the way the topics rolled.)