Part 2: Music
One thing that was, at times drastically altered in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks was music. This, however, was due in part not only because of the actual attacks but also in part by the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
At the onslaught of the September 11th attacks, all forms of media were forced to re-edit and re-evaluate their releases. The music industry was no exception. The US Constitution says:
“Congress shall make no law representing an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
While, yes, the USA does not have a real form of censorship in the government sector, the country does in the private sector. Take for example Bill Maher, whose comments on US foreign policy and the War on Terror on his show Politically Incorrect quickly ended the show. Sponsors of the show pulled their ads.
Music genres changed drastically in the aftermath of 9/11. Especially country music. In the aftermath of the tragedy, country radio and popular country acts such as Toby Keith and Alan Jackson released more patriotic songs such as Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American) and Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) respectively.
In addition to the patriotic-ness of country radio, other artists such as LeAnn Rimes, Whitney Houston, Faith Hill, and Lee Greenwood also saw some of their more patriotic songs chart.
Country radio was not without its own controversial songs and people during this time. In March 2003, near the impending invasion, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, said to a London audience that “they were ashamed that the President was from Texas.” This comment, though Maines would later retract what she said and then take back her apology in the form of the 2006 release Not Ready To Make Nice, caused country stations nation-wide to ban the Dixie Chicks as well as even bulldoze their music.
Rock music, on the other hand, was more affected with censorship. Bands such as The Cranberries, The Dave Matthews Band, The Strokes, and Sheryl Crow had to alter songs or music videos. The Dave Matthews Band planned to release their new single “When The World Ends,” but scrapped that idea shortly after the attacks. The song in question for Sheryl Crow was the upcoming single Steve McQueen, which talks about the lack of heroes in the world, had her worried after the attacks that the song would not fit in with the public taste.
Mtv also turned into a solemn state. On the day of the attacks, Mtv and VH1 halted all programming on their networks and ran footage of CBS news. On September 14, 2001, Mtv’s Total Request Live with host Carson Daily returned, but the mood of the show was devoid of the usual shout-outs and applause. Instead the mood was best summed up by the shell-shocked look on the faces of the audience, which was mostly teenagers.
“Somebody said it was like MTV Nice,” recounted Judy McGrath to Blender magazine, president of the MTV Group. “We quickly added a lot of videos, like Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and the U2 catalog, that seemed soulful and personal.”
One of the major events that happened in music was the alleged ban on 156 records done by Clear Channel stations nationwide. Some of the songs such as Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 and any Rage Against the Machine songs were more questionable in their lyrical content; while others such as Love is a Battlefield by Pat Benatar and New York New York by Frank Sinatra were banned due to metaphorical language in their lyrics. However, Clear Channel denied that it was a ban but rather a call to radio programmers to be careful in their playlists. The BBC also did likewise, although more overtly with their banning of such songs as Fly Away From Here by Aerosmith and Pilots by Goldfrapp on their BBC2 station. BBC also kept clear of playing upbeat songs in light of the attacks as well as tried to stay in touch with what the listeners were feeling.
In a style reminiscent of both Live Aid, the music world pulled together with 3 major benefit concerts: America: a Tribute to Heroes, United We Stand – What More Can I Give, and the Concert for New York City. The major artists that were included in these concerts were Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, ‘NSYNC, Michael Jackson- who debuted his new We Are the World -style anthem entitled What More Can I Give, Usher, Pink, Backstreet Boys, P. Diddy, Destiny’s Child, Goo Goo Dolls, Mariah Carey, and numerous others. The Concert for New York City raised, initially, over $30 million to help victims affected by the attacks. Touring for many artists, on the other hand, became quite mute: some artists like Destiny’s Child and Aerosmith, postponed or cancelled concerts. Other artists, such as the Beastie Boys and Madonna, went ahead with their tour stops – albeit with a more focus on the tragedy that happened. Madonna went as scheduled with her Thursday performance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as well as the Beastie Boys performance in Toronto.
Overall, the attacks for a brief moment in history, rallied music into either “give” mode or “critical” mode.