I like to make a best albums list, but there’s so many folks who deserve mentions as well, so I give out a few lesser awards, too. Today, I’m beginning a month-long block party celebrating the best of 2007 with a list of . . .
The Top Ten Political Songs of 2007
A happy byproduct of an unhappy war is a return to musical activism. Nothing like life during wartime to inspire rabble rousing and griping . . . The list from 10 to 1.
10. Gunships-Bedouin Soundclash (link). Ostensibly about Vietnam, the song weaves that war with the current conflict, and mixes in an analogy to a broken relationship with a torn nation.
9. Black Republican-NaS and Jay-Z. Uniting after their long-running feud, the first thing these guys agree on: The Republican party is awash with money, doing everything for their own version of bling. Brilliant. I don’t know if Lil’ Weezy’s effort to take the song back to a basic bling tune is brilliant, but I do know it’s funny. And Game’s “Black Democrats” shows why I think he’s one of the top 10 emcees around.
Black Republicans-Lil’ Wayne and Juelz Santana
8. Talking Old Soldiers-Bettye LaVette (link).
“Do you know what’s like to have a graveyard as a friend? “Cause that’s where they all are boy. All of them.” Yes, it’s a cover. But the pain in her voice and the pain of our brothers and sisters dying makes it powerful and contemporary.
7. Read a Book-Bomani “D’Mite” Armah. Yeah, the chorus is a joke (“Read a book! Read a book! Read a mutha-f***in’ book!”), but the fact that folks protested the song is hysterical. The best anti-illiteracy song in the history of the world.
6. Dumb It Down-Lupe Fiasco. Produced by Soundtrack, this isn’t a conventional protest song. It’s about how the record industry is doing its best to destroy hip hop, all in the name of money. In light of the many developments in the music world this year, this sounds to me like a protest song. So I’m including it.
5. Why Do Men Fight?-Carbon/Silicon (link). A letter to a man who thinks God talks to him, and yet still feels the need to wage war. “Are we all going crazy? Why do men fight?” Somewhat reminiscent of XTC’s classic, “Dear God” (lyrically, but not musically).
4. Illegal Attacks-Ian Brown with Sinead O’Connor.
Bringing the hippie back, this single rails against the war by calling the warlords the very things the warlords call “the enemy.” It’s nice to see the return of the incendiary bald Irishwoman, even if songs like this don’t seem to get nearly as much press as they did in the glory days of the pop star. These days, you’re better off flashing your cooch to paparrazi in order to get attention. That’s sad. But Ian Brown hasn’t forgotten that music can have a message that matters. See also: “Little Children,” another song off of Ian’s fine 2007 release, The World Is Yours.
3. Louisiana Purchase-Akir with Immortal Technique, Mojo, and Poison Pen. “Most of them shots you heard about were pointed in the air/Because the bullets were flares . . .” It’s too bad that this song took so long to be released, because protest songs about the New Orleans evacuation are just a little untimely in 2007. Nevertheless, each verse is bursting with venom (and even the occasional insight), so perhaps it’s good that this song is coming out now: We should never forget “these poor people being displaced in our own nation.” Especially given the great response to the California fires.
2. Black Lips-Katrina (link). The second flood song on the list. Weird. What’s even weirder is that it’s to a 50s beat—a retro sound from when the only thing rock and roll protested was fashion and sex, used to create what appears to be a simple song but underneath it, we know what they’re singing about.
1. Arcade Fire-Windowstill. “I don’t want to fight in a holy war / I don’t want the salesmen knocking at my door / I don’t want to live in America no more.” The best anti-war song is by a band from Canada. And sadly, soon, many young people may be fleeing to live there. As a side note, I can’t understand why “Keep The Car Running” is the song everyone resonated with off this album. Windowstill is fanfabfuckingtasticker.