By Anam Baig
Anyone who tells you they had a perfectly happy childhood is lying. The truth is, we are who we are because of the piano lessons, the groundings, the rebukes, and the countless “finish your vegetables” we had when we were kids.
Many musicians have written songs to cope with the tragedies of their youth. Case in point, Kelly Clarkson belted about how much divorce hurts, Eddie Vedder cried about his not-father (yet again) and Green Day encouraged a little destructive behavior.
When it comes to parent-bashing, these artists are of the highest caliber. But can you really blame Eminem for calling out his dear ol’ mom for purposely injuring him to get medical attention or Lady Gaga getting upset with her father who was almost too stubborn to have a lifesaving surgery? We think not.
Below, check out nine songs that have artists writing about the screwed up situations of their early years. As you can see, moving on — like breaking up — is rather hard to do.
1. Green Day “Jesus of Suburbia”
“I’m the son of rage and love,” Billie Joe Armstrong sings to open this track off Green Day’s 2005 album, American Idiot, which is a very eloquent way of saying he was raised by bipolar parents. Armstrong, like many restless teenagers, is sick of it all: his mom, his stepfather, his hometown and his friends. He epitomizes the struggle of suburban kids, who are railing against boredom and alienation. The track solidified Green Day’s career as the band that makes you want to run away and defile your local mall’s bathroom in protest against the government or anything else that’s bumming you out. Grab those sharpies, kids.
2. Disturbed “Down With the Sickness”
In a song about parental abuse—specifically by the hands of his own father—frontman David Draiman manages to call out not only his dad, but his mom for being a “stupid, sadistic, abusive, f–king whore.” Looks like someone’s mommy dearest skipped psych class the day they went over William Sears’ attachment parenting theory, which claims the relationship you build with your kids will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Can you guess what kind of relationship a man who fronts a band called Disturbed had with his family? Draiman goes so far as to say that fighting back against ones folks is inevitable and not necessarily a bad thing. While we don’t condone hitting your parents, we do believe screaming straight from the gut is a good way of getting over your mom’s questionable parenting choices. So warm up those vocal chords, it’s time to get over the sickness.
3. Kelly Clarkson “Because of You”
This track has Kelly taking a walk down memory lane to when she was just a 16-year-old girl coping with her parents’ divorce and the subsequent anxiety and depression that came with it. At times, you half-expect her to sing, “Because of you, I had to take Xanax.” The ballad is not really meant to mend feelings but to give any kid going through the same ordeal a soundtrack for their uncontrollable sobbing. We find the bathroom has the perfect acoustics to suit both yours and Kelly’s cries.
4. Sublime “Wrong Way”
“The only family that she ever had was her seven horny brothers and a drunk-ass dad.” This is how Bradley Nowell begins his cautionary tale of a girl named Annie whose father pimps her out for beer and drugs. Prostituting your daughter out so you can pay the bills is pretty much the epitome of a dirtbag dad so this song should be a reminder that no matter how bad you’ve got it, it could be much worse. At least we hope. To end this on a more positive note we should point out that Annie goes on to run away from her family, proving not everyone ends up the wrong way.
5. Pearl Jam “Better Man”
In this autobiographical piece, Eddie Vedder croons about his mother’s questionable (in his opinion) taste in men and remembers how she went from being “bold and strong and waiting for the world to come along” to someone scared of the man she’s supposed to love. Vedder’s anger is one any better son or daughter can relate to when they don’t feel like their parents are living up to their potential. A sad, but touching reminder that parents don’t always know best.
6. Eminem “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”
On this track, Marshall Mathers gives us another peek behind the curtain at The Eminem Show, which is filled with drugs, absent fathers and Münchausen syndrome by proxy, a state of mental illness where a caregiver—in this case Em’s mom—either fabricates or induces symptoms of illness in their child in order to get medical attention. Em was able to prevail and wrote GRAMMY-winning albums about how much he thinks his mom sucks. Years later, when Eminem himself became a parent of a teenager he apologized to his mom on the track “Headlights” for spewing so much hate her way, teaching us that you only get one family and sometimes it’s best to forgive and forget instead of harping on the past.
7. Rufus Wainwright “Dinner At Eight”
Thanks to Rufus’ songwriting family — mom is Kate McGarrigle, dad is Loudon Wainwright III and singer Martha Wainwright is his sister — we’ve all gotten a taste of what a strange life he’s had. But this track from his 2003 album Want One gives us a great big bite of that strangeness. It’s a tale of unrequited fatherly love, the kind that would only happen to a family of musicians. The song was written after an argument between Rufus and his father that went something like this: “My song is better!” “No, my song is better!” “Yeah, well your chord progressions suck!” “Yeah, well I made you!” “Well, I bought you back!” Besides proving that no matter how flushed with cash you are you can never buy your parents’ love, this song also shows that sometimes our parents do things that make it hard to love them, but we still have to try.
8. Lady Gaga “Speechless”
Lady Gaga has never been shy about professing her love for her dear ol’ mom and dad, but with this track off her 2009 album The Fame Monster she proves that even the perfect family has its problems. The song is written as a plea to her father, who was refusing to get a life-saving heart operation. Applause to Gaga’s persuasive skills, because lo and behold, her father went under the knife shortly after the song’s release and is now in better shape than ever. So any time your mom or dad nags you about anything from cleaning your room to eating your vegetables, remember that you may need to return the favor later down the line.
9. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince “Parents Just Don’t Understand”
A list about hating parents will never be complete without Will Smith’s song that describes the shopping trip from hell that includes a scoffing mom and truly horrific clothes from the disco-era. This track also serve as a cautionary tale to all those who wish to hijack their mom or dad’s fancy sports car and pick up cute girls. The lesson being, you will get pulled over, the girl will be an underage runaway and you will get arrested and scolded by your parents who don’t understand how you could do such a thing. Now that Smith is a father himself, one must wonder if his own kids have uttered this song’s refrain. But we know a few things for sure, this Fresh Prince taught a generation of teens how not to get even with their parents and urged that same generation to think twice before trying to pick out clothes for their own kids.