Monday, May 08, 2006

Music: Sounding Off on Bush

Music: Sounding Off on Bush

May 15, 2006 issue - Mr. President, how do you sleep at night while the rest of us cry?" asks Pink on her new album, "I'm Not Dead." George W. Bush has yet to answer the pop star's question, but he may as well brace himself: Pink's acoustic number is part of an anti-establishment avalanche in music, and this time it's personal. The protest songs of the Vietnam era railed against the war and The Man, but the new wave of dissent is aimed directly at Bush. On his new album Living With War, Neil Young sings, "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." Songs on upcoming CDs by Merle Haggard, Dashboard Confessional and Paul Simon (Surprise) deal more blows against the war and Bush. Even The Boss's new CD We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, featuring Springsteen's own renditions of protest songs by Pete Seeger, is clearly more than an ode to the folk hero; it's an arrow aimed directly at the White House. "This whole idea that we have to temper our moral outrage over what's going on here and in Iraq is ridiculous," says Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. On the band's single "Worldwide Suicide," off its new CD, he sings, "Medals on a wooden mantel, next to a handsome face/That the president took for granted, writing checks that others pay." "I am a citizen who cares about what happens to this country," says Vedder, "and right now things are really bad."

When the Dixie Chicks spoke out against Bush onstage three years ago, they were all but dropped from country-music radio. But with the president's approval ratings at a record low, criticizing Bush or op-posing the war in song isn't quite as risky. "There's a greater political intensity now than there's been in years," says Danny Goldberg, a music-industry veteran who's now vice chairman of Air America Radio. "These artists are expressing what a lot of the country is feeling—a growing disenchantment with the way this government is doing things."

Musical ire against the White House has been growing since the invasion of Iraq. Eminem blasted Bush on the eve of the last election in the song "Mosh" ("Strap him with an AK-47, let him go fight his own war") on the CD Encore (Deluxe Edition); the punk trio Green Day's 2005 multiplatinum CD "American Idiot" told stories of people ruined by the current administration's social policies, and even Madonna recently got in on the act. During a dance set in the DJ tent of the Coachella music festival, the diva changed the lyrics in her song "I Love New York": "Just go to Texas," she sang, "and suck George Bush's d---." Not all protest songs are eloquent.

—Lorraine Ali