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. 
 

Commentarium (18 Comments)

Jan 31 11 - 2:03pm
PulpFriction

Insane Clown Posse....why do you exist? Better yet, why do you STILL exist? Arrested Development got dropped, but ICP still gets to make music? unfair.

Jan 31 11 - 2:07pm
mudpie

agreed - pop stars should stick to pop music

Jan 31 11 - 2:20pm
kindaawk

the katy perry situation is so real

Jan 31 11 - 2:28pm
carrie

I'll admit to sometimes liking Katy Perry songs (they're catchy, it's not my fault), but I really don't get the popularity of "Firework." It just shows how much she CAN'T sing.

Jan 31 11 - 3:14pm
anty

You forgot the monumental lyricism on display with the Black Eyed Peas "Imma Be."

Truly save the world pop.

Jan 31 11 - 4:31pm
tonjiboy

whenever musicians make songs like these i just assume they're actively making fun of their audiences. like "these idiots will buy anything! swallow this!" type of disrespect. these people are laughing all the way to the bank.

Feb 01 11 - 3:18am
Me

The Black Eyed Peas started off being a pseudo-activist hip hop group, but then they picked up Fergie and made millions of dollars.

Feb 08 11 - 11:51pm
Vi

Word.

Feb 01 11 - 11:02pm
Pinkie919

You should NOT have included "What It's Like", that is a great fucking song.

Feb 01 11 - 11:11pm
MRI

Jesus I detest that John Mayer song more than I can express.

Feb 01 11 - 11:56pm
brian

Pinkie, "What It's Like" is good, but it is completely different from the rest of Everlast's stuff. You have to wonder if he did it to change his rep after achieving moderate success rapping.

Feb 03 11 - 7:19pm
jennifer

All of them, yes, no question. Katy Perry's plastic bag allusion can't help but remind me of "American Beauty.," but the more niggling issue is the song's title. Does anyone use "firework" singular? It drives me crazy.

Feb 06 11 - 10:14am
James

'Jesus Walks' seems a bit too complicated to put on this list. First, as a pop song that 'overreaches', it doesn't really fit. When Justin Bieber or Katy Perry try to save the world with a song someone else wrote, that's a huge shift from the rest of their catalogue. The result is awkward, saccharine, and overambitious. But as this track off his debut shows, Kanye has never made any claim to limit his work to a set range of topics. It's an essential part of what makes him Kanye, and all the good and bad that entails. It might be obnoxious (and indeed uncomfortable when it comes on in the club), but overreaching seems the wrong way to characterize it. Given his ambition and ego, would it even be possible for Kanye to 'overreach'?

Finally on a purely artistic level, the track (and especially its video) is engaging with a well-established tradition of R&B/hip-hop's roots in Gospel. Little Richard did it. Ray Charles did it. They're just selections from a long list, but the best example probably comes from the Godfather of Soul himself. Given Kanye's incessant self-identification with 'Chi-town', how can anyone see this video and not think James Brown's 'Old Landmark' as performed in THE Chicago movie, The Blues Brothers. Is Kanye's track obnoxious, egomaniacal, and hypocritical? Possibly. Even if it Is all of those things, isn't it still definitively Kanye? Absolutely. And there remains the possibility that the song shows a complex longing on Kanye's part, coupled to an awareness of his humanity- the humanity that would one day lead him to 'put that pussy in the sarcophagus.'

There are a lot of things that can be said about the track, both good and bad. But overreaching isn't one of them. And more overreaching than John Mayer and Jessica Simpson? That's just noxious.

Feb 08 11 - 11:55pm
Vi

Preach. Kanye's internal conflict makes him legit.

Feb 10 11 - 11:02pm
JL

That was more insightful than anything in the article.

Feb 12 11 - 6:03pm
AA

Completely agreed.

Feb 07 11 - 1:17am
Hestcm01

So is Michael Franti an underreacher?

Feb 07 11 - 2:37am
eclaire

THE worst is pink's song to the former president. the lyrics say something about how do you sleep when theres homeless on the streets. In her very next release, the lyrics included the choice phrase "i can fit your whole house in my swimming pool".

bitch.