F2K Presents: The Nine Worst September 11 Response Songs

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Today is the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a moment in American history that was pretty horrifying for reasons that have been enumerated countless times. Their effects on pop music weren't as tragic, to be sure, but they were pretty unfortunate—artists on both sides of the aisle manned their battlestations and put forth musical invective and sloganeering pap that diminished everyone involved, and turned the radio into a potential lightning rod for angry disagreements about the state of American politics. Even Aaron Carter got into the fray, which probably gives you an idea of how dire things got. Our nine picks for the most offensive pieces of music brought forth by the attacks below.



9. dc Talk, "Let's Roll"

What would happen if you crossed nu-metal with insufferable patriotism and the vaguest recollection of a high-school lesson about manifest destiny? Apparently the answer is "a mess of a song from Christian rock-rap lifers," which comes complete with a central conceit inspired by Todd Beamer's declaration before he and other passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 attacked the hijackers who had taken over the plane.

"Let's Roll" sounds like an amalgam of eight terrible rock-radio stations from the early part of the '00s playing at once; there's a lot of concurrent shouting and Durstian vocalizing about rolling and fighting and reminders that America possesses a divine right to be the best country in the world because of God's will—until the 2:50 mark, when a whisper cuts through the yarling and yelling to offer the most melodramatic reading of "Our Father" since John Black exorcised the devil from Marlena Evans on Days Of Our Lives that one time. God help us all! Or, you know, at least the people who were forced to hear this pile of jingoistic slop while going about their daily business.

8. Alan Jackson, "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)"

You can't fault the man who wrote "Drive (For Daddy Gene)" for being sentimental or overly emotional. You can't fault the man who's wore a cowboy hat on literally every album cover since 1990 for being patriotic. However, you can fault Alan Jackson for not opening a newspaper.

I'm just a singer of simple songs I'm not a real political man I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran

Hey, Alan, it's OK if you don't like to rock the jukebox or whatever, but the fact that a sizable number of Americans can't tell the difference between Middle Eastern countries is a not a homey affectation, it's a huge fucking problem. If more people knew the difference between Afghanistan and Iraq, we probably wouldn't have lost more than 4,400 American lives in the Iraq War, not to mention the $612 billion hole in our economy. And you have a computer that you can look that stuff up on—after all, you did write a song called "www.memory."

7. Xiu Xiu, "Support Our Troops OH (Black Angels OH)"

Xiu Xiu's six-album run from 2002's Knife Play to 2008's Women As Lovers is one of the strongest, most unfuckwithable bursts of any band in the entire decade—avant-indie at its most rubbed-raw, forward-thinking, exploratory, provocative. This is why writing about "Support Our Troops OH" is so difficult. It's like when your uncle says something completely racist at the dinner table and you have to explain to your date that he's actually a swell guy when he's not being backed up by five bottles of Bartles & Jaymes. Only this time the reasons for the full-body cringe are evidenced by the kicker:

You shot your grenade launcher into peoples windows and Into the doors of peoples houses just to see them blow up. Why should I care if you get killed?

Git 'er done, amirite? Someone as clearly enlightened as Stewart confronts the war with the myopic entitlement of an 11th grader who just got shoved in a locker. Clearly the only reason that people join the military is because they're all just jock bonehead football asshole prickface jerkmos. Certainly not because our country leaves few other options for people on the lower tiers of the economic ladder, and not because swarms of recruiters offer "enlistment bonuses" to high school students who don't see a lot of options for themselves, and not because it offers a full-time job in a country that's always struggled with high unemployment rates, and not because military service in simply a proud tradition in some people's families, and not because we live in a society that promotes the military's ideals, and not because some people have criminal troubles and join the army to turn their life around, and not because other people just want to find that asshole Bin Laden and wring his neck, and not because sometimes you just join the army and it's no fucking business of some dude in Oakland tapping on a gamelan. Congratulations, dude, you just reduced the entire military-industrial complex to a Trenchcoat Mafia diatribe of "All jocks are assholes, wah!"

6. Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys, "Empire State Of Mind"

"Empire State of Mind" is a tribute to the enduring strength and unbreakable spirit of New York City or something. However, anyone who actually lives here will tell you this gooey, sentimental tourist trap is cornier than getting your photo taken with the whisky-breathed sweatball in the sooty Elmo costume.

As the worst Jay-Z single to not feature Mr. Hudson singing Alphaville, "Empire State Of Mind" is a tipping point for our hero Jay. He went from cheekily rapping over Broadway showtunes to actually making something that would be too saccharine to appear in Billy Elliott. No true New Yorker should hear the phrase "concrete jungle where dreams are made of" without vomiting up a bowlful of Momofuku; anyone who's ever paid for an apartment the size of a closet knows that New York is the place where dreams go to eventually puke up their guts, curl up in the sewer and die in gangrenous agony. Statistically, the phrase "New York... where dreams are made of" probably contains less truth than Jadakiss asking, "Why did Bush knock down the towers?"

5. Trade Martin, "We've Got To Stop The Mosque At Ground Zero"

During the most scorching days of 2010, a disproportionate amount of crazypants attention was paid to the possibility of a "mosque at Ground Zero," since "community center at the old Burlington Coat Factory" had too many syllables and not enough dramatic oomph. The whole sad, screechy episode was probably best captured by Trade Martin's "We've Got To Stop The Mosque At Ground Zero," a nasty little bit of treacle that sounds as inspired by themes from syndication-distributed sitcoms as it does by venom-filled blog rants.

Martin is an arranger and session musician who trumpets the fact that he's worked with B.B. King, although his résumé can't hide the fact that the musical crimes committed by "We've Got To Stop" are legion. The song is dragged along by dinky synthesizers that are so cheaply recorded, you could be excused for thinking that you were actually listening to a field recording from an anthropologist stationed outside an amusement-park karaoke booth. And then there are the lyrics, which reach heights of lousiness that transcend politics. I don't want to spoil them for you, because they really need to be "enjoyed" in context. So instead, two notes: One, the lyric "it's a slap in the face" is punctuated by an actual slap; two, these words form the song's rhyme scheme:

Understand / Stand
Zero / Hero
Attack / Fact
Minds / Time
Zero / Hero
Attack / Fact
Trust / Much
Zero / Hero
Attack / Fact
Killed / Build
See / Mockery
Zero / Hero
Attack / Doubt about it

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7 comments
Cooper409
Cooper409

Beautifully written!  Makes me long to read more about the political side of pop music...no matter how wonky  people's attempts to make music political might be.

FastPanda
FastPanda

"...anyone who's ever paid for an apartment the size of a closet knows that New York is the place where dreams go to eventually puke up their guts, curl up in the sewer and die in gangrenous agony"

Too true. Thank you.

A3456001
A3456001

"recorded more than Jandek"FTW

Barry Bailey
Barry Bailey

it's great to see f2k alum Trade Martin on this list. "CAN'T LET'EM BUUUIIIILD IT!"

I don't know which is worse, the dcTalk desperate move to stay relevant by exploiting an event, the Alan Jackson ignorance (though kudos for not calling people to arms), or Trade's "slap in the face" slap sound effect that I just heard, despite listening to it probably a couple dozen times and reading at least 2 articles about it.

CheetahDeals Blog
CheetahDeals Blog

I still like Empire State of Mind. It's certainly a transitional point, but I don't think it's as bad as you might...

Paul
Paul

"the dcTalk desperate move to stay relevant by exploiting an event"To be fair, dcTalk had actually a few years before this. They came back together to record the song, sure, but i don't think a band that no longer exists can be too concerned about "stay[ing] relevant." That's not to say this song isn't garbage though, because...man. Sometimes it's best to STAY broken up.

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