Subtle Songs of Protest Hit a High Note

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The Dixie Chicks nearly lost their careers after bad-mouthing President Bush on the eve of the war in Iraq, but today there is a surge in protest songs by popular artists. They’re not just penned by the people you’d expect to be topical, such as Neil Young or Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

Songs with anti-war sentiments are popping up from some unlikely places in the pop music marketplace:

• With a casual listen, you might think Mat Kearney’s “Girl America” is just another acoustic hip-hop song about a girl gone bad. But the “girl” is a metaphor for the United States, and she’s “dying while she’s trying just to stop this fight.”

• Pink once primed listeners to “Get the Party Started,” but she blasts Bush on her latest album with “Dear Mr. President,” singing, “How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?”

• John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World To Change” laments his generation’s political powerlessness and inaction - a topical change of pace from the voice behind “Your Body Is a Wonderland.”

• “Coming Home” by John Legend is an R&B slow jam about a homesick soldier. This from a singer who specializes in songs about breaking up and making out.

The difference between the protest songs of the 1960s - think “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire or Edwin Starr’s “War” - and today’s is that these newer messages tend to come in more subtle musical packages. And they can be so hummable that people may mouth the words and never know they’re dissing the president....

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