One of the not-so-fun things in the world is to get insulted or, in the words of Kelso from That 70's Show, get "burned." Now, let's imagine what it would be like to be insulted by some musician on one of their albums -- that "burn" I can only imagine was magnified by a million.
Nevertheless, some of the greatest insults come from music. I personally wonder if those who inspired these songs feel sorry for what they did -- depending on who they are, that is. We will probably never know the answer to that one.
12. Carly Simon, "You're So Vain": Nobody is totally sure who the song is about. However, Simon has revealed that it's about three different men she knew -- one of them possibly being actor Warren Beatty, whom Simon has said the song is partially about. However, nobody is totally sure because the singer will never reveal the full identity of the person. Some have speculated that it was about record executive and founder of Geffen Records David Geffen, Kris Kristofferson and even Cat Stevens.
Identities aside, the person described in "You're So Vain" sounds like a real jerk. Simon sings, "You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive/ Well you said that we made such a pretty pair and that you would never leave/ But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me/ I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee."
11. Eminem, "Kim": Throughout his life, Eminem has often had a very tumultuous relationship with his on-again-off-again wife, Kim Mathers. In the song, he depicts her violent death. Shortly after the song's release, the real-life Kim attempted suicide by slitting her wrists but was thankfully unsuccessful. After the song was released, Kim slapped a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Eminem.
9 & 10. Fleetwood Mac, "Second Hand News"; "Go Your Own Way": When Fleetwood Mac was recording their 1977 multiplatinum album, Rumours, the band was plagued with the breakups of their personal relationships: Keyboard player Christine and bassist John McVie's marriage was ending, as was drummer Mick Fleetwood's marriage to Jenny Boyd. Also, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks's relationship was in shambles.
On "Go Your Own Way," Buckingham includes a rather nasty lyric attacking Nicks that says, "Packing up/ shacking up is all you wanna do." This infuriated Nicks, and she asked him to take that particular line out. Buckingham refused to do so.
"Second Hand News" was another attack on Nicks. According to Making Rumours, co-producer and sound engineer Ken Calliat's new book, during the recording of the album Buckingham kept the lyrics a secret from everyone else because he knew that those lyrics would be like a lightning rod and would spark yet another argument with Nicks.
As on "Go Your Own Way," the lyrics are pretty biting, when Buckingham croons, "One thing I think you should know/ I ain't gonna miss you when you go/ Been down so long/ I've been tossed around enough/ Couldn't you just let me go down and do my stuff." Even more ironic is that Nicks actually sings backup on key parts of the verses and the chorus.
8. John Lennon, "How Do You Sleep": There were many contributing factors that led to the Beatles' 1970 breakup. Among them were the fact that George Harrison's songs were frequently getting snubbed for albums in favor of songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. There was also John's wife, Yoko Ono, who is still a very divisive person in Beatles history.
Needless to say, all of the Beatles went on to their own solo careers: John and Yoko with the Plastic Ono Band and his own solo career, Paul and his wife Linda with Wings and later his solo career, as well as George and Ringo with their solo careers.
Lennon, feeling attacked by Paul's release of Ram (newly reissued), released "How Do You Sleep," a rather naked attack on Paul McCartney. The song itself references the "Paul is dead" hoax ("Those freaks was right when they said you was dead") and even Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
However, the song takes a personal approach when Lennon sings "A pretty face may last a year or two/ But pretty soon they'll see what you can do/ The sound you make is Muzak to my ears/ you must have learned something in all those years/ Ah, how do you sleep? Ah, how do you sleep at night?"
7 & 6: Michael Jackson, "Leave Me Alone"; "Scream": Throughout his career, the late Michael Jackson was constantly hounded by the press -- more specifically, the tabloids. There were rumors abounding about him buying the bones of the Elephant Man, him sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, his appearance, you name it. This was just in the '80s alone, before all the child-molestation accusations.
In both the video and song for "Leave Me Alone," Jackson tells the press to "stop doggin' me around." Sadly, the press never did, even when he died in June 2009. At his televised funeral, his brother Marlon said, "Maybe now they'll leave you alone" with tears in his eyes.
As for "Scream," the lyrics further address Jackson's relationship with the media. However, this time the relationship had become much more sour due to the coverage of his 1993 child sexual-abuse accusation. This time, they are more corrosive when he sings "Tired of injustice/ Tired of the schemes/ The lies are disgusting/ So what does it mean/ Kicking me down/ I got to get up/ As jacked as it sounds/ The whole system sucks."
5. The Dixie Chicks, "Not Ready to Make Nice": In 2003, the Iraq War was looming. As a result, when some Americans went abroad, they weren't exactly well-liked. While performing in London, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines said, "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."
When Maines said this, it sparked an outcry akin to when John Lennon said the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus," complete with boycotts, country radio stations sponsoring bins to throw away any band paraphernalia, and even death threats. One radio DJ in South Florida was fired for playing the Chicks' music shortly after their comments.
According to CNN, Maines released a statement shortly thereafter saying that "as a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect," she said.
"We are currently in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war," continued Maines. "While war may remain a viable option, as a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers' lives are lost. I love my country. I am a proud American."
Maines's statement did nothing to quell the controversy. In 2006 the band released Taking the Long Way and included this song that directly addressed their comments. It was clear they had no regrets about what they said, and the album won several awards including Album of the Year at the 2007 Grammys -- a bittersweet victory, because although they never officially broke up, the Dixie Chicks have effectively been on hiatus ever since.
4. Heart, "Barracuda": According to VH1 Classic's Behind the Music Remastered, when Heart released the band's 1976 debut, Dreamboat Annie, their record company, Mushroom Records, decided to take out a tabloid-style full-page ad with the caption "It was only our first time" along with a picture of the Wilson sisters naked from the shoulders up.
The ad implied that the Wilson sisters were lesbian sister/lovers. The band was unaware that the record company did this until they opened an issue of Rolling Stone. When they saw it, they were pissed.
This publicity stunt led to the band attempting to leave Mushroom Records. The record label rush-released their unfinished album, 1977's Magazine, and even threatened legal action. However, the ad once again got Ann really mad one night when a record exec came up to Ann and asked her how "her lover" was doing, referring to Nancy.
Ann was dating manager Mike Fisher at the time, and after she realized what exactly he was referring to, she got extremely angry and went back to her hotel. That night, Ann wrote what would become the biggest hit of Heart's career thus far, "Barracuda," about the incident.
3. Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me a River": Once upon a time, back in the late '90s, singer-turned-actor Justin Timberlake dated pop star Britney Spears, but the relationship ended in 2001. This song, which appeared on Timberlake's 2002 solo debut Justified, has been speculated to be about Spears, but nobody knows for sure.
2. Talking Heads, "Making Flippy Floppy": On Talking Heads' landmark 1983 album Speaking in Tongues, lead singer David Byrne takes a swipe at then-president Ronald Reagan's economic policies, better known as "Reaganomics." Byrne tells listeners, "I can't believe it/ And people are strange/ Our president's crazy/ Did you hear what he said?/ Business and pleasure/ Lie right to your face/ Divide it in sections/ And then give it away."
1. Alanis Morissette, "You Oughta Know": Remember Uncle Joey Gladstone (played by Dave Coulier) on Full House? Well, apparently Coulier and Morissette actually dated sometime in the mid-'90s shortly before she recorded her massively popular Jagged Little Pill album. "You Oughta Know" has been rumored to be about Coulier and Morissette's relationship.
Morissette has remained tight-lipped about who is the target of her rage in the song. However, Coulier remains convinced the song is about him. After all, she lets her alleged target have it when she says, "and I'm here, to remind you/ of the mess you left when you went away/ It's not fair, to deny me/ Of the cross I bear that you gave to me/ You, you, you oughta know."
Honorable Mention: Kanye West & Jay-Z, "H-A-M"; Green Day, "Holiday"; Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Sweet Home Alabama"
Please feel free to tell me which ones I may have missed.
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