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Ten Best September 11 Songs by Artists You Actually Like

On the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it's appropriate to reflect and pay tribute to all the brave souls who lost their lives on that heartbreaking day. Over the years, many musicians have attempted to capture the spirit of grief, frustration, and remembrance that followed for the nearly 3,000 innocent victims that needlessly passed away on that tragic day.

Many of the worst examples have become staggeringly popular. We assure you there are tributes beyond Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" or Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" or the star-studded benefit single "What More Can I Give," with cameos from Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, 'NSync, and Destiny's Child. Here is our sibling Village Voice's list of even more 9/11 songs to avoid.

Never fear; New Times has compiled a list of songs that pay homage to the events that occurred on 9/11 without having to sacrifice your musical inclinations.

10. Ryan Adams - "New York, New York"

This song actually was recorded before the 9/11 attacks, and the video was filmed just four days prior to the tragedy. Still, Ryan Adams' infectious love letter to the city couldn't have come at a better time. What could've been an awkward use of the Manhattan skyline for a good portion of Adams' performance looks more like a proud reference to an indelible landmark in every New Yorker's line of sight.

9. Leonard Cohen - "On That Day"

From reflective Canadian singer/songwriter's underheard 2004 album, Dear Heather, came this tender, mournful number. Cohen lays it out as only he could in his smoky, contemplative, baritone way: He is simply "holding the fort" for the "wounded New York." No pointing fingers, no aggression, just a little soothing, healing number to get you started on your day on reflection.

8. Sage Francis - "Makeshift Patriot"
 

We switch now from reflective introspection to flat-out ebullient rage. This track from Providence, Rhode Island, rapper Sage Francis' was his knee-jerk reaction to a Ground Zero visit made just a mere five days after the tragedy occurred. You can hear his anguish, anger, and frustration in each verse. Francis "hangs himself at half-mast" in this track, mournful about the events and particularly scournful of the media hype surrounding it.

7. James - "Hey Ma"

"Now the towers have fallen, so much dust in the air," croons James lead singer Tim Booth in his signature falsetto on this title track from the Brit-pop group's comeback tenth studio album. The song examines the price paid for revenge. Many of us were left with a sense of avenging the wrong that was done on that fateful day, perhaps making  "choices worse than the fall." Booth breaks it down with this verse: "All the body bags coming home, are the really worth it?" In the end, some might view this track as a dowdy protest song, but it can be argued to be poignant -- albeit polarizing -- because of its dissection of the price that we paid for retribution.


6. Juliana Hatfield - "Hole in the Sky"

 

A mournful song that bluntly deals with the literal hole in downtown Manhattan's skyline that was left behind with the Twin Towers loss. Endearing indie chanteuse Juliana Hatfield admitted that she was terrified about going to New York City after the 9/11 tragedy and experienced irrational fears of flying. Hatfield literally sounds like she is on the verge of tears with each subtle guitar strum and delicate vocal quiver heard here. We say this one is on the depression stage in the "five stages of grief" scale. 

 

5. Ministry - "Lies,Lies, Lies"

A track for the conspiracy theorists among us. Industrial godfather Al Jourgensen's menacing industrial pounce provides the perfect backdrop for those who believed that more than jet fuel  caused the towers to go down. Jourgensen diffuses the paranoia and conspiracy theories that ran rampant weeks and months after the 9/11 tragedy on this track off Ministry's 2006 record, Rio Grande Blood -- the second of three anti-Bush records his industrial thrash unit put out.

4. John Vanderslice "Exodus Damage"
 

This splendidly orchestral number off Vanderslice's 2005 Pixel Revolt is bit more complex than the effervescent arrangements make it out to be. Specifically the song's protagonist seems to be a right-wing anti-government militant whose feelings on his cause start to seriously wane when the errant planes begin slamming into American architecture. Lyrically, one of the more colorful and "out from left field" songs concerning 9/11 we could find.

3. Wu-Tang Clan - "Rules"
 

This heavy-hitting number is hip-hop supergroup Wu-Tang Clan's response to the 9/11 massacres. It's a harsh and hostile track that pulls no punches and features the Wu's trademark East Coast bravado. We think the crew, in their own gruff manner -- and in a roundabout way -- are attesting to the resilience found in Americans' hearts after enduring such an ordeal.

2. The Cranberries - "New New York"
 

Released on Irish quartet the Cranberries' 2002 compilation album Stars: The Best of 1992-2002  distortion pedal ready "New New York," deals with the roller coaster of emotions most of us felt after the towers came down. From the speechless awe, "There is nothing to say, I only can pray," to the rallying coming together afterwards, "They won't tear us apart," Dolores O'Riordan truly nails all the cathartic tidal waves of passions with her bombastic bellowing voice. A song that's perfect for the healing stage of grief.

1. David Bowie - "New Killer Star"

 

"New Killer Star," one for the artier set to end our playlist. This first single from glam-rock icon David Bowie's 2003 album Reality is of convoluted sort. Not the easiest to discern what exactly Bowie is hinting at in his myriad of astral metaphors, but that's the idea. With lines like "A flare glides over/but I won't look at that scar," we believe Bowie is coming to grips with life in a post-9/11 world. It's a spiritual solace for a man who has been scarred but is taking comfort in a new "star" he has discovered.


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