In the eight years he’s been in charge of the nation, George W. Bush’s approval ratings have hit all-time lows. That sentiment has, of course, been manifest into song, as well. To help us prepare to say goodbye to eight of the most disheartening years in the country’s history, here are 10 of the biggest anti-Bush songs of the era.
Beastie Boys: “In a World Gone Mad”
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“But you build more bombs as you get more bold/ As your mid-life-crisis war unfolds/ All you want to do is take control/ Now put that ‘axis of evil’ bullshit on hold.”
Released in 2003 via sites including MTV, MoveOn.org and Win Without War, Beastie Boys’ “In a World Gone Mad” takes aim at the Bush administration’s resolve to send American troops to Iraq. It may include one of the most ridiculous Beastie Boys lyrics of all time (“George Bush, you’re looking like Zoolander/ Trying to play tough for the camera”), but it also has one of the most poignant: “Now how many people must get killed/ For oil families pockets to get filled/ How many oil families get killed/ Not a damn one, so what’s the deal?”
LL Cool J &Wyclef Jean: “Mr. President”
Exit 13 [Def Jam, 2008]
“Mr. President, truth or dare/ Terrorist is hiding. Do you know where?”
Released on LL Cool J’s 13th and final Def Jam album, “Mr. President” finds the MC taking a nonpartisan look at the reality of the past eight years, ultimately asking for the truth on where the country stands. For the most part he uses nonaccusatory statements, something that is a rarity on this list, but ultimately “Mr. President” paints a similarly bleak picture: “I’m not Republican or Democratic/ I’m independent; I want the facts/ When are the soldiers come back?/ Are we prepared for a terrorist attack?”
Pearl Jam: “Bu$hleaguer”
Riot Act [Epic, 2002]
“He’s not a leader, he’s a Texas leaguer/ Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike/ Drilling for fear, makes the job simple/ Born on third, thinks he got a triple.”
Roughly two years into the Bush administration, Pearl Jam released “Bu$hleaguer,” a wordy chop at the faltering president. Comparing his competency as leader of the nation to the ability of a minor league baseball player, Eddie Vedder criticizes Bush’s credentials and path to the presidency before fading off into a wasteland of poetic commentary. It’s a little easier to make the squad when your dad runs the team.
James McMurtry: “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore”
Childish Things [Compadre, 2005]
“Will work for food/ Will die for oil/ Will kill for power and to us the spoils/ The billionaires get to pay less tax/ The working poor get to fall through the cracks.”
A commentary on the state of the nation, James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore” is exponentially true four years after he first wrote the song. Throughout the story McMurtry delivers examples of things that break his heart — eventually pointing the finger at the source of the trickle down, “if the president wants to admit it or not.” In 2005 the economy was relatively solid compared to today’s, but now more people are hurting and more fingers are being pointed. A lot of people are looking at the administration and saying, “We can’t make it here anymore.”
Bright Eyes: “When the President Talks to God”
“When the president talks to God/Are the conversations brief or long? Does he ask to rape our women’s rights/And send poor farm kids off to die? Does God suggest an oil hike/When the president talks to God?”
Conor Oberst’s poetic protest, “When the President Talks to God” caustically chastised Bush for the conflicts between his outspoken Christian beliefs and his administration’s policies. Oberst performed the acoustic song on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in May of 2005, pausing momentarily before stepping into one of the song’s most infamous lines, “When the president talks to God/Does he ever think that maybe he’s not? That that voice is just inside his head/When he kneels next to the presidential bed/Does he ever smell his own bullshit/When the president talks to God?” While Oberst faded the song out of his live rotation by mid-2006, the track would still go on to win Song of the Year at the 2006 PLUG Awards.
Zack de la Rocha and DJ Shadow: “March of Death”
“Here it comes the sound of terror from above/ He flex his Texas twisted tongue/ The poor lined up to kill in desert slums/ For oil that boil beneath the desert sun.”
For the many looking for a glimpse of some (even then) long-overdue Zach de la Rocha solo material, “March of Death” was a gift. Distributed for free via MarchofDeath.com, the song focused de la Rocha’s anger and frustration into roughly four minutes of pounding beats. Co-opting a one of the last solid tracks DJ Shadow produced before his dreadful The Outsider album, “March of Death” is as much a banger as it is a fierce commentary.
The openly outspoken de la Rocha accompanied the song’s release with this message: “Lies, sanctions, and cruise missiles have never created a free and just society. Only everyday people can do that. Which is why I’m joining the millions worldwide who have stood up to oppose the Bush administration’s attempt to expand the U.S. empire at the expense of human rights at home and abroad. In this spirit I’m releasing this song for anyone who is willing to listen. I hope it not only makes us think but also inspires us to act and raise our voices.”
NOFX: “Idiot Son of an Asshole”
Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2 [Fat Wreck Chords, 2003]
“Cocaine and a little drunk driving/ Doesn’t matter, when you’re the commander in chief.”
A B-side from 2003’s War on Errorism that was also released on the Rock Against Bush compilation, “Idiot Son of An Asshole” doesn’t hold back in explaining how Fat Mike and NOFX feel about George W. Bush. It isn’t poetic, it isn’t overly thoughtful and it’s a little too dense for its own good. But then again, all of those characteristics apply to Bush, as well.
Green Day: “American Idiot”
American Idiot [Reprise, 2004]
“Well, maybe I’m the faggot America/ I’m not part of a redneck agenda/ Now everybody do the propaganda/ And sing along to the age of paranoia.”
“American Idiot” was released as the lead single for Green Day’s 2004 politically focused “rock opera” of the same name. The hugely successful single propelled Green Day back into the spotlight, raising the profile of the band not just because of its energetic hooks but also because of the political leanings of the songs. Criticizing the administration’s stance on gay rights is nothing new, but to call a conservative minority out on its own sickening rhetoric was a step in the right direction.
Neil Young: “Let’s Impeach the President”
Living With War [Reprise, 2006]
“Let’s impeach the president/ For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected/ Dividing our country into colors/ And still leaving black people neglected.”
The Grammy-nominated song was released on Neil Young’s Living With War album, primarily taking focus on the Patriot Act, Al Qaeda, New Orleans and the seemingly innumerable contradictions made by George W. Bush during his presidency. Blatantly calling for his impeachment, Neil Young closes the song by chanting “Thank God,” poking at the skepticism behind the President habitually putting his “born again” values ahead of the law, the nation and the world.
Encore [Shady/Interscope Records, 2004]
“Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell we gonna let ’em know/Stomp, push, shove, mush, Fuck Bush, until they bring our troops home.”
The single from Eminem’s 2004 album, Encore, proved controversial for both its lyrics and the accompanying Ian Inaba-directed video. Opening to a sequence depicting Eminem surrounded by newspaper articles condemning Bush’s administration, the video depicts a nation lost and angry and on the verge of an uprising. “And assemble our own army/ To disarm this Weapon of Mass Destruction/ That we call our president, for the present/ And mosh for the future of our next generation.” The closing scene of the video, which accompanies those words, depicts citizens standing in a voting line, all bitterly wearing masks of dissent. Here, four years later, the only thing that has changed is that the line is a lot longer.