Notes on a Protest Song.

The other day, I was directed to a ridiculous song protesting the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. The song is so over-the-top, I wondered if it was a parody written by the creators of South Park and "Team America." No, it was written by musician, songwriter and producer, Trade Martin, who has lots of real credits to his name, including a Grammy for producing albums for BB King. You can watch it here, then read my open letter to Mr. Martin.



An Open Letter to Trade Martin,

Dear Mr. Martin:

I watched a video of your song, WE'VE GOT TO STOP THE MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO. It made me laugh, but I don’t think that was your goal. It also reminded that there are bigots like you in the world. But let’s set aside your jingoistic politics for a moment and talk about songwriting.

You open with these lines:

We’ve got freedom of religion, I understand,
But Ground Zero is one location where a mosque shouldn’t stand.

(1) The phrase “I understand” is both weak and misleading. Right away we know that a “but” is coming. What you’re saying is, “I accept that some of you care about freedom of religion, but too bad.” I don’t think you really understand anything about it at all. Be bold, Trade. Say what you mean. Like this:

Your freedom of religion is getting’ in my way.
A Mosque at Ground Zero will totally ruin my day.

(2) In my book, rhyming “understand” with “stand” is cheating. If you’re locked into “I understand,” perhaps the second line can read, “A mosque at Ground Zero is something that should be banned.” (Better yet: “shit canned”).

(3) The phrase “but Ground Zero is one location” is awkward. You’ve twisted the sentence around just to get the right number of beats and a rhyme at the end. Keep it simple: “A mosque shouldn’t stand at Ground Zero.” I suggest "hero" as the rhyme for "zero."

Enough of that couplet. Let’s look at some more lines from your song:

Thousands of Americans died in the attack.
It’s a sacred place and that’s a cold hard fact.

(1) Did you forget that non-Americans died in the attack too? That may not be important to you.

(2) You do realize that “attack” and “fact” don’t rhyme, right? I’m sensing a pattern here. I suggest you try a little harder.

(3) “Cold hard fact” is a cliché. I suspect that you have a weakness for clichés.

We can fix both of those problems with a few changes. May I suggest the following?

Thousands of innocents were viciously attacked.
Now it’s time for all of us to fight the bastards back.

Did you like the addition of “viciously” and “bastards.” I thought you would. By the way, if you ever decide to protest street vendors selling hot dogs near Ground Zero, you could use this:

Thousands of Americans died in the attack.
It’s a sacred location, not a place to get a snack.

Moving on, let’s look at another set of lines:

It’s a painful memory in our minds.
Our hearts keep breaking when we envision that tragic time.

(1) Is it necessary to give our painful memories a location? Where else would our memories be, if not in our minds? Oh. Muscle memory. Never mind.

(2) I hate to be a broken record, but rhyming “minds” with “time” is a stretch. Forget it. I give up. I’m not going to win on this point.

(3) Kudos for having the listener “envision” that terrible time. So much classier than just remembering it or thinking about it.

Moving on:

God help us retain the honor and trust,
For all the families that have suffered so damn much.

(1) I said I’d stop complaining about the weak rhymes, but “trust” and “much”? You can do better, Trade.

(2) Your church-going listeners might be troubled by “damn much” showing up so close to families, especially suffering families. Watch the salty language.

(3) A few alternatives to consider:

God help us retain the honor and trust
As we go out and find some heads to bust.

God help us retain the trust and honor
Of all of those Americans who are now goners.

God help us, the trust and honor to retain
For all the families who’ve got suffering in their brains.

(That last one might need some tweaking).

Final section, then I’ll let you get back to your songwriting:

If we let them build it, can’t you see,
They’ll turn 9/11 into a mockery.

(1) Moving the “can’t you see” to the end of the line is an old songwriting trick to get to the easy rhyme, but it sounds unnatural. It’s like saying, “I love you so much, don’t you know?” Or “You are my sweetheart, I do declare.”

(2) Bravo on rhyming “can’t you see” with “mockery.” You might get the hang of this yet.

(3) I might have gone with something like this:

Can’t you see, we can’t let them build it.
'Cause there’s hole at Ground Zero and we haven’t yet filled it.

One last thing: After the song ends and the credits show, we hear a recording of George W. Bush shouting in the megaphone with his infamous taunt, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.”

The video editor repeats the final “hears you” over and over until it starts to sound like Bush is saying “air Jew, air Jew, air Jew.” Is there a hidden message there?

5 comments:

work in clay said...

I didn't even have to watch this dreadful video to get a big screaming laugh--actually many--from your very thoughtful letter/critique.

Miss Laura said...

It's been more than two months, and we need a new post, yes we do.

Miss Laura said...

It's been more than two months, and we need a new post, yes we do.

Miss Laura said...

It's been more than two months, and we need a new post, yes we do.

MightyToyCannon said...

Thanks for the comments and for nagging me about the blog. I've neglected the blog so long that I forgot that I'd turned on the comment moderation feature, requiring me to approve comments. (I was getting tired of deleting the spam). I'll take the new post idea up with the head office and see if we can do anything about it.