Most likely many readers are already familiar with the famed “feud” between Sun Kil Moon frontman Mark Kozelek and the indie-rock band War On Drugs because the exchange between the two groups has no shortage of music websites and blogs commenting on this issue. Some people do not find any kind of humor in Kozelek’s attack and see him as an immature jerk, and others believe that he is simply tired of how media loves to sensationalize things out of context for the sake of a story. As demonstrated from the lyricism in Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, Kozelek has no problem in painting surprisingly honest, introspective, and strikingly moving images, so the uncharacteristically juvenile lyrics in his songs about the War On Drugs leads me to believe that Kozelek’s original intentions in this “conflict” were not to bring about the demise of War On Drugs, but to poke fun at the entire situation. To contrast, we will look at 10 songs, in no order, with disses that pack a bigger punch.
Before we start this list, it is important to note one distinction. Even if we decide to join the camp that believes Mark Kozelek’s attack against the War On Drugs is just his dry sense of humor and lack of tact, it does not mean Mark Kozelek is off the hook in thinking twice about what he says. Even in an ideal scenario, where Kozelek makes his jokes and the War On Drugs or any fans do not see it as anything particularly harmful, Meredith Graves of lo-fi punk band Perfect Pussy, had her own critique of Mark Kozelek’s lyrics. Here she goes beyond simply whether Kozelek’s lyrics or jokes should be interpreted as mean-spirited or not, and comments on how the lyricism of Kozelek’s song imply certain homophobic stereotypes and celebrate male aggression. She points out how the music industry itself seems to ignore this fact, which reveals in turn something about how ingrained these concepts have become in our society.
1. “Go Your Own Way”- Fleetwood Mac
The epitome of sexual tension, this 1977 international hit was inspired by the messy break-ups of the Fleetwood Mac members. The marriage of bassist John McVie and keyboardist Christine McVie was at its end, and so was the relationship of vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks. Being that the song was written by Buckingham, we can assume the message was directed towards Nicks.
Notable Lyrics: “Packing up / Shacking up’s all you wanna do”
2. “Hit ‘Em Up”- 2Pac
Perhaps there is no musical feud as famous as the East Coast vs. West Coast, Bad Boy Records vs. Death Row Records, Biggie vs. Tupac saga of the 90s. Tragically, the feud only dissipated with the shootings of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.IG. in the mid-90s. Both cases have remained unsolved, so naturally there is no shortage of theories surrounding the events that transpired that led to the deaths of the two hip-hop icons. Some even believe that the lyrics of “Hit ‘Em Up” was one of the igniting factors that help to escalade the feud, with it inflammatory lyrics that call out Biggie, Puff Daddy (Diddy), Lil’ Kim, and the East Coast in general.
Notable Lyrics: “You claim to be a player / but I f***ed your wife” (Biggie’s wife was known to have gone to Tupac after the couple became estranged)
3. “I’ll Stick Around”- Foo Fighters
Following Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, the relationship between remaining Nirvana members and widow Courtney Love turned very strained. When David Grohl formed the Foo Fighters, he channeled some of those feelings into this song, although he denied it was about Love for many years.
Notable Lyrics: “How could it be/ I’m the only one who sees/ your rehearsed insanity”
4. “Cry Me A River”- Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake reveals the injustice he had to face dating and breaking up with Brittany Spears.
Notable Lyrics: “Now there’s just no chance, for you and me, there’ll never be/ And don’t it make you sad about it?”
5. “Ether” – Nas
The Nas vs. Jay-Z feud did have root in certain less-than-friendly personal encounters, but the void Biggie Smalls left in being the face of East Coast Rap did nothing to calm the two up-and-coming rappers down.
Notable Lyrics: “How much of Biggie’s rhymes is gonna come out of your fat lips”
6. “Death On Two Legs(Dedicated to…)” – Queen
Freddie Mercury and the rest of Queen were not pleased how they had been previously managed as a band by Norman Sheffield, and let it show with this song off of A Night at the Opera.
Notable Lyrics: “You suck my blood like a leech / You break the law and you breach”
7. “How Do You Sleep?” – John Lennon
The Beatles were still on top of the world at the time of their break-up in 1970, so tensions between band members had to have been pretty bad to warrant the split of one of the music industry’s most influential bands. We get a little taste of that tension in this 1971 attack on Paul McCartney.
Notable Lyrics: “The only thing you done was yesterday” (Reference to the song “Yesterday” that was written by McCartney for the Beatles)
8. “No Vaseline” – Ice Cube
Ice Cube left gangsta-rap group N.W.A to pursue his own career, but wasted no time in showing the world why he was better off alone.
Notable Lyrics: “Looking like straight Bozos/ I saw it coming, that’s why I went solo”
9. “Margaret On the Guillotine” – Morrissey
Morrissey makes clear he was not a supporter of Margaret Thatcher.
Notable Lyrics: “When will you die?/ When will you die?/ When will you die?/ When will you die?/ When will you die?”
10. “New York” – Sex Pistols
Legendary punk rock bashing their contemporaries, the New York Dolls .
Notable Lyrics: “You put on a bad show, oh, don’t it show”