Lower Manhattan on September 10, 2021
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images
10 Songs That Captured America’s Feelings After 9/11
Since cave paintings and prehistoric sculptures, art has served as a medium to capture emotions and convey feelings.
After the 9/11 attacks, with emotions overflowing and feelings scattered, musicians had the large task of making sure the nation’s wide-ranging attitudes towards the tragedy would live on forever.
At the time, major media companies like Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) urged its 1,100+ radio stations not to play over 150 songs due to potentially offensive material.
But despite occasional media censorship, these 10 artists managed to capture the country’s diverse feelings around the events of September 11th.
According to the book Coldplay: Look at the Stars, "Politik" was heavily inspired by the September 11 attacks.
"I wrote the song on 9/11 and we recorded it on 9/13. We were all a little confused and frightened," said lead singer Chris Martin. "I want to write songs and do things, 'cause you never know what might happen. You got to live in the moment."
"Politik" served as the intro track for the band’s GRAMMY-winning A Rush Of Blood To The Head'' album. The song’s transcendent production paired with its inquisitive lyrics reflect the nation’s harsh realization of mortality after 9/11.
Despite the song mainly focusing on their respective rivals, both 50 Cent and Eminem incorporated memorable lines about the September 11 attacks on the 2003 track "Patiently Waiting".
"I'm innocent in my head, like a baby born dead, destination heaven, sit and politic with passengers from 9/11," 50 Cent raps on his opening verse.
While the line may catch some off guard on first listen, 50 Cent is essentially stating the innocence of the 9/11 attack victims who lost their lives.
Eminem conveys the shared feeling of how close to home the attacks hit with his line, "Shady Records was eighty seconds away from the towers."
Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys, "Empire State Of Mind"
Following 9/11, American patriotism reached new heights. At the center of the country’s newfound patriotism was the site of the initial attacks, New York City.
Jay-Z’s and Alicia Keys’ "Empire State Of Mind" perfectly captured the love and pride the nation shared with New York. "Long live the World Trade," raps the 23-time GRAMMY winner on his second verse.
The New York-centric track went on to earn two GRAMMYs at the 53rd GRAMMYs for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song.
Heems, "Flag Shopping"
While 9/11 turned many Americans to patriotism, it also pushed many to harmful lanes of pride like nationalism and racism.
Heems, an American rapper of Punjabi-Indian descent, touches on how he and his family unfairly faced backlash after the September 11 attacks.
"I know why they mad, but why call us A-rabs?" he raps on "Flag Shopping." "We sad like they sad, but now we buy they flags."
Sheryl Crow, "Out of Our Heads"
Released in 2008, "Out of Our Heads" is an anti-conflict song aimed at the Iraq war.
Many of the lyrics were targeted at U.S. leaders, accusing them of manipulating the nation’s anger following the 9/11 attacks.
"Someone's feeding on your anger. Someone's been whispering in your ear. You've seen his face before. You've been played before. These aren't the words you need to hear," sings Crow.
"Out of Our Heads" was released as part of Crow’s 2008 album Detours, which earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 51st GRAMMY Awards.
John Vanderslice, "Exodus Damage"
For every Sheryl Crow urging peace, there was also a John Vanderslice looking for a way to let out feelings.
"Saw the second plane hit at 9:02," sings Vanderslice at the top of the second verse. "An hour went by without a fighter in the sky/ You said there’s a reason why/ Tell me now, I must confess/ I’m not sick enough to guess."
Throughout the song, Vanderslice recounts a conversation with a conspiracy theorist friend on the day of the attacks and questions why the nation’s leaders didn’t immediately respond with force.
If the song’s title didn’t give it away, Jadakiss questions a lot of agreed-upon narratives in "Why".
Of the 100 or so inquiries in the song, one was a famous conspiracy theory centered around then-president George W. Bush’s supposed role in the 9/11 attacks.
"Why did Bush knock down the towers?" he demands on the popular track. The track was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 47th GRAMMY Awards.
Dream Theater, "Sacrificed Sons"
"Sacrificed Sons" opens with a combination of news station soundbites from September 11th before Dream Theater delivers an emotional remembrance to all the lost lives.
"Burning City, smoke and fire, planes, we're certain, faith-inspired," questions the two-time GRAMMY-nominated band. "No clues, a complete surprise. Who'll be coming home tonight?"
Lyrics by James LaBrie, "Sacrificed Sons" captures the nation’s confusion, surprise and grief across 10 minutes.
Bruce Springsteen, "Into The Fire"
"Into the Fire" recounts the tragic events of 9/11 from the point of view of a firefighter’s spouse.
With lyrics like "love and duty called you some place higher, somewhere up the stairs, into the fire" and "may your strength give us strength", the five-minute track serves as a touching tribute to first responders and their families.
18 years after the song’s 2002 release, Springsteen’s son Sam Springsteen joined the Jersey City Fire Department.
The tribute was a part of Springsteen’s The Rising album, which won Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album at the 45th GRAMMY Awards.
Imagine Dragons, "America"
With lyrics like "from farmers in the fields, to the tallest of the towers that fall and rise, 1-7-7-6, the names upon the list, for all the ones that gave until they died," Imagine Dragons’ "America" captured the resilient nature of the country following the 9/11 attacks.
"America, don’t you cry," the band sings in the chorus. "Lift me up. Give me strength to press on."