Each of the songs on Taylor Swift’s upcoming album Speak Now (which will be in stores next Monday, October 25) follows a concept, as the individual tracks are all about a single person or encounter in Swift’s life. The latest track to sneak out into the Internet ether is “Mean,” a scathing country track that sees Swift fighting back at her critics.
On the track, she puts a critic in his or her place with cutting words. “Drunken rumbling on about how I can’t sing / But all you are is mean/ And a liar/ And pathetic/ And alone in life/ And mean,” she sings, likely referencing the negative attention she received after her problematic performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards. The rest of the lyrics are just as biting, and though the song itself is a pleasant country shuffle (complete with banjos), the content of the lyrics represents the most bile Swift has ever dished out.
Of course, Swift is hardly the first musician to give it back to her critics in song form. The history of rock and roll is littered with angry artists attacking critics (sometimes even specific critics) when they feel they have been slighted or unfairly criticized. Here are the best anti-critic songs in rock history.
Guns N’ Roses, “Get in the Ring”
This deep cut from Use Your Illusion II finds Gunners frontman Axl Rose using some colorful language to take down a whole series of writers and publishers he finds abhorrent. He is particularly peeved at the rock magazine industry, specifically going after people from Hit Parader, Kerrang and Spin. The latter gets an extra special message from Mr. Rose: “Bob Guccione at Spin — what, you pissed off because your dad gets more p—y than you? F— you! Suck my f—ing d—!” It’s fascinatingly filthy, and it’s Rose at his best.
M.I.A., “I’m a Singer (Haters)”
Earlier this year, international underground pop terrorist M.I.A. got involved in a pretty tepid feud with journalist Lynn Hirschberg, who wrote a feature about M.I.A. for The New York Times Magazine that the singer perceived as being negative. In retaliation, M.I.A. tweeted Hirschberg’s phone number, encouraged people to bother her and then recorded a quick diss track as a public takedown. It came across less as an artist standing up for her work and more as a petulant child whining about not getting her way.
Jay-Z, “99 Problems”
Jigga clearly has a lot of problems, so he can’t devote the entire song to his dislike of music scribes. But his one cutting rhyme was enough to bury journalists six feed deep: “F— critics/ You can kiss my whole a–hole.” Later, he raps, “Rap mags try and use my black ass/ So advertisers can give ’em more cash for ads/ F—ers.” Like everything Jay-Z does, it’s sharp, tight and deadly.
The Kinks, “Mr. Reporter”
The Davies brothers were famously malcontent, so it’s no surprise that the Kinks delivered “Mr. Reporter,” which was deemed too savage for release on the band’s 1966 album Face to Face. But it finally surfaced later, and it’s pretty cutting. “Hey, Mr. Reporter/ Don’t you twist my words around/ I’ll kill you, I won’t let you distort my simple sound,” Dave Davies sings, and it only gets tougher from there, as he accuses critics of having bad relationships with their fathers and the great line “The reason I am stupid/ Is because I read you every day.”
Oingo Boingo, “Imposter
Danny Elfman’s nutty New Wave band Oingo Boingo has been reconsidered in recent years, but they were critically derided at their peak. Hence “Imposter,” which opens with the lines “You never lived in the streets, though you wish you had/ Not enough talent to play a guitar/ You failed as an artist ’cause you lacked in the confidence/ Now you’re a critic and you’re at the top/ The top of what?”
Frank Zappa, “Packard Goose”
Zappa famously disliked the very concept of rock criticism (he famously compared the concept of writing about music to dancing about architecture). “Packard Goose” (from 1979’s Joe’s Garage, arguably Zappa’s most accessible album) spends 11 minutes cutting down everybody who has ever written about a song: “All them rock and roll writers is the worst kind of sleaze/ Selling punk like some new kind of English disease/ Is that the wave of the future?/ Aw, spare me please!”
What’s your favorite anti-critic song? Let us know in the comments!