Usually I don’t like to get political because I lose friends when I do, but I think by now if I said that the early 2000’s Bush administration nearly destroyed the US (among other countries), most people would nod in agreement and my friendships would stay intact.
Bush did a lot of horrible and unspeakable things, but there is a silver lining — he really helped the music industry. I don’t mean that he put more money into the industry; I mean he inspired countless musicians to write probably some of their best material. Mostly because if there was one thing that sane people all over the world could agree on during his two term presidency, it was that George Bush Jr was (is) a tool bag who could barely string together coherent sentences and was running the country into the ground.
Musicians were passionate about their hate for Bush and wanted to make a change. “Fat” Mike Burkett, lead singer of punk band NOFX, started a website called punkvoter.com to “expose the Bush’s administrations incredibly bad policies.” Coupled with that, he put together compilations called Rock Against Bush, which featured tunes from Green Day, Foo Fighters and Bad Religion. It wasn’t about apathy anymore, musicians still raised their fists against the government, but this time they actually educated the listeners to take a stand and vote so that Bush wouldn’t get into a second term. Even though he did, Punk Voter registered thousands of voters and saw the largest young voter increase since 1972.
That means 20 million young people voted in 2004. So they accomplished something pretty huge and it goes to show you; the power of music comes in a myriad of ways. So instead of throwing more stats at you, here’s a list of the good music that happened because of George Bush. There’s going to be a lot of quotations used to get the whole point across, so get ready.
Green Day – “American Idiot” Arguably the band’s best album. It’s a concept album designed as a rock opera, and was deeply inspired by Bush’s actions. The album was so good that it won seven Grammys. They also say the “F” word a bunch in it, so that appealed to me.
NOFX – “Franco Un-American” Probably one of the most politically vocal bands out there, when NOFX sang about George Bush, people listened. Their entire album, The War On Errorism was so politically charged, my 16-year-old self wanted to learn about the US government just so I could understand all the references in it. Which makes the album a success. Of course, they throw some humour into “Franco Un-American” and it’s a tune that you can listen to on repeat without it getting old.
Neil Young – “Let’s Impeach The President” If there’s one man that can sum up the idiocy of a president in a song, it’s Neil Young. With the not-at-all-subtle song title, you’re not going to argue with the point that Mr. Young was trying to get across.
Pennywise – “God Save the USA” One of the “Godfathers of Punk,” Pennywise has always been striking at the heart of politics. This song is one of the best on the “Rock Against Bush” compilation, even though it’s a pretty bleak one lyrically: “The irony of liberty, is no one here is truly free.”
Propagandhi – “A Speculative Fiction” Winnipeg’s (and Canada’s) greatest punk band know their political stuff. On this one, they take a different approach and sing about how the politics of America ultimately effects Canada (usually for the worse). When singer Chris Hannah yells “the battle of 1812 rings in our hearts…” it makes you think just how bad things were even in Canada when Bush was in power.
Against Me! – “From Her Lips To God’s Ears” Remember Condoleeza Rice? She was an evil, evil lady. In this one Against Me! try to sarcastically reason with her by asking, “Condoleeza? What are we gonna do now?”
Bright Eyes – “When The President Talks To God” Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst has always been a great lyricist but it really became evident in this song. I remember listening to the following lines for the first time and getting goosebumps: “While they pick which countries to invade/Which Muslim souls still can be saved?/ I guess God just calls a spade a spade/When the president talks to God.”
Rise Against – “Give It All” This song would often ignite discussions with my Dad about politics. He’d often win, but I thought I knew everything at 16 (as we often do) and would retreat to my room and blast this one. When the opening guitar hits, it STILL want to argue with my Dad. That means it’s a good punk song.
Since Obama has been elected, bands have kind of tamed down their musical defiance. They can’t continue to sing about Bush, because they’ll sound dated, and probably a bit cranky. It’s comforting to know that if something happens in the future of politics, there will always be songs written, and lyrics screamed that can help people understand what’s going on in the political world.