Evan Serpick and Rob Brunner
April 11, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

As the war heats up, a slew of artists have penned protest songs and posted them online for free downloading, circumventing potentially skittish radio stations and getting the music to market at lightning speed. But do they rock? EW rates them from one to four peace signs. — Rob Brunner and Evan Serpick


Sample Lyric: ”Say ooh ah what’s the White House doin’?/Oh no! Say, what in tarnation have they got brewin’?… George Bush you’re looking like Zoolander/Trying to play tough for the camera.” The lightweight lyrics — the above snippet is but one of many ”zingers” — match the irritating synth-pop beat to a tee. Rather than encouraging antiwar activists, this garbled garbage just gives them something else to be angry about. [1 piece sign]


Sample Lyric: ”What is a flag but a shroud out loud/And outside my window is a faceless crowd/’Cause a cowering child just took her last breath/One snare in the march of death.” De la Rocha, formerly of Rage Against the Machine, is the only lyricist here whose eloquence echoes protest songs of old, and DJ Shadow’s beat is appropriately bombastic. The Beatles reference — ”I read the news today, oh boy” — is a nice touch. [4 piece signs]


Sample Lyric: ”We want peace, we want it, yes, we want peace, we want it, yes, we want peace and we want it fast/Doo doot n’ doo-doo doo-doo…” Dumb words and a repetitive chorus derail this peace train. And what’s with his declaration that ”it’s time for the revolution”? Only a muddled mind could concoct an ode to peace that begins with a call to arms. At least Iraqi pop star al Sahir adds some nice texture. Where can we download his music? [2 piece signs]


Sample Lyric: ”For this fear will not destroy me/And the tears that have been shed/It’s knowing now where I am weakest/And the voice in my head. In my head.” No, we’re not sure what he’s on about either. But at least it sounds like Michael Stipe actually put some thought into his evocative (though typically vague) lyrics. And the song is a throwback to classic folk, an appropriately solemn meditation on fear and forgiveness. [3 piece signs]

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