Justin Bieber's easier to handle when he's not singing about world peace.
One day you're just a kid with dreams, the next you've hit it big, played sold-out stadium tours, and your catchy if not-terribly-memorable songs run on loop in grocery stores throughout the land. And now, you wonder, what's next? You can find Jesus or star in a wacky comedy film, sure — or you can show the world your serious side and use your lyrical stylings to solve a real problem, like war or hunger or, you know like, really sad sadness. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work as well as you'd hoped. Here are ten pop songs that tried to save the world, but just ended up biting off more than they could chew.
1. Justin Bieber, "Pray"
Justin Bieber cares about things besides keeping his voice from changing and balancing sex appeal with a squeaky clean image. All the poor, dying people keep him up at night — and he's got the children's hospital ward video footage to prove it. In his most popular song, "Baby," he promises his girl "I'll buy you anything, I'll buy you any ring." But what does he have for the less fortunate? Prayers.
But I know there's sunshine beyond that rain
I know there's good times beyond that pain, hey
Can you tell me how I can make a change?
I close my eyes and I can see a better day I close my eyes and pray
Really, Justin? Those orphans and homeless veterans don't wanna play Connect Four and listen to your girl troubles. They need a portion of your haircut budget.
2. The Black Eyed Peas, "Where Is the Love"
The Black Eyed Peas introduced new member Fergie with this deep song about society's ills. It may read like a P.C. jump-rope rhyme some fourth-graders improvised, but I bet the school guidance counselor would be all over it.
To discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that's exactly how anger works and operates…
Then they went back to business as usual, poaching hooks and beats from other artists to create hits like "Let's Get Retarded," "Don't Phunk With My Heart," and "Boom Boom Pow."
3. Insane Clown Posse, "Miracles"
Who knew that under all that makeup and horrorcore talk of cannibalism and necrophilia, the rappers of Insane Clown Posse were big softies? In "Miracles," the duo waxes poetically about all the wonders up in this bitch — childbirth, hot lava, and a pelican that tried to eat Violent J's cellphone.
Niagara falls and the pyramids
Everything you believed in as kids
Fucking rainbows after it rains
There's enough miracles here to blow your brains…
I see miracles all around me
Stop and look around, it's all astounding
Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
Insane Clown Posse still seems a little menacing. I wouldn't want to be the science teacher explaining magnetic polarity to the guys who rapped, "I stab old people, ladies, little kids, I don't give a fuck! / I stabbed a fat guy in the butt (hehe), what?"
4. Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful"
Christina Aguilera needed a skanky transformation to distance herself from The Mickey Mouse Club. Her fourth album, Stripped, included highly sexualized videos, revealing artwork, and the single "Dirrty." But the newly branded Xtina wasn't just baring her body.
Every day is so wonderful
Then suddenly, it's hard to breathe…
I am beautiful no matter what they say Words can't bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way Yes, words can't bring me down
So don't you bring me down today
Fans sang along. Albums sold. Some thought, "Maybe you wouldn't feel so down about yourself, if you didn't wear leather lace-up chaps with a bikini top."
5. Katy Perry, "Firework"
Katy Perry has covered up her tits, dropped the innuendos, and would now like to talk to you about your self-worth. Especially if you're overweight, terminally ill, gay, or some sort of magician.
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?
Maybe that's how someone felt when Perry dissed him in the song, "Ur So Gay," with ego-boosting lines like, "I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf / While jacking off listening to Mozart."
6. Everlast, "What It's Like"
Everlast wasn't known for didactic music when he was part of House of Pain. But, six years later, he went solo and strummed a simple guitar in a call for empathy.
Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love
He said don't worry about a thing baby doll I'm the man you've been dreamin' of
And then she heads for the clinic and she gets some static walkin' through the doors
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner, and they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to have to choose
"What It's Like" isn't a bad song. But Everlast didn't exactly walk the walk when he went back to rapping and started a beef with Eminem, dropping rhymes like, "You can't keep your woman from goin' astray / better run and check your kid for your DNA / I take care of my moms / you get sued by yours with your corny metaphors about drugs and crack whores."
7. Kanye West, "Jesus Walks"
Before Kanye West, there was Jesus. And before hits like "Gold Digger," "The Good Life," and that one where Kanye "put the pussy in a sarcophagus," there was "Jesus Walks" on his debut album. Yeezy cast himself in the video as the preacher. Of course.
I ain't here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers I'm just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that's the way I need Jesus
So here go my single, dog, radio needs this
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes
But if I talk about God my record won't get played?
Oh, but it did get played. And I'ma let you finish, but hearing the secular stuff in the club is way less awkward.
8. Lily Allen, "Him"
On her second album, the British pop star wanted to get deep Well, after a bunch of songs about breakups, new love, and the misfortune of a great guy attached to a small penis. If you actually bought the album — you don't have to admit it — her musings about God are on that track you always skip.
Do you think He's any good
At remembering people's names
Do you think He's ever taken
smack or cocaine
Ever since he can remember people
Have died in His good name
Long before that September
Long before hijacking planes
He's lost the will He can't decide
He doesn't know who's right or wrong
But there's one thing that He's sure
Of this has been going on too long
Lily Allen, messenger of God, knows how He feels about war. But she sure doesn't know much about His personal life.
9. John Mayer, "Waiting on the World to Change"
Forget that John Mayer described his dick as "sort of like a white supremacist." He's a good guy invested in a better tomorrow. His whole generation is. And they'll start making a difference, once the world changes.
Me and all my friends
We're all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There's no way we ever could
Now we see everything that's going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don't have the means
To rise above and beat it
So come on, world. Change on your own. In the meantime, John Mayer's going to be tweeting, watching porn, or wearing a banana hammock.
10. Jessica Simpson, "Remember That"
Like most songs in the Jessica Simpson oeuvre, this one navigates the nasal but breathy world of relationships. But instead of singing about sweet kisses ("Sweet Kisses") and love saving her life (every other Jessica Simpson song), Simpson belts platitudes about abusive relationships.
Remember how he told you you were stupid
How he couldn't even look at you anymore
Remember how he told you you were crazy
How he got out of the car and slammed the door
He said you can't do anything right
The generic public service announcement ends with, "Take it from me. I've stood there in your shoes." Which might be sweet and empathetic. Or she might mean that literally, she owns the same pair of shoes as you do.