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Anthems For The Angry And Underpaid


Just because the rotten economy has created an increasingly labor-unfriendly environment, that doesn't mean you can't whip up a heap of righteous, entitled indignation. Maybe you have to work swing shift at the broom factory, dipping bundles of straw in a vat of boiling tar until it's time to stagger home and collapse in exhaustion. Or maybe some sticklers on the campaign trail are making a federal case out of your $100 million executive bonus. Either way, you deserve more than The Man is doling out, right? So ask for more, dammit!

What? You need more than a 90-word pep talk to ask for a raise while the stock market is tanking, unemployment is spiking, the housing market is in a state of collapse, your access to healthcare is precarious, and a weekly paycheck is the only thing standing between you and meals of Top Ramen and generic cat food? What are you, chicken? Bock bock bock! Bock bock bock bock bock bock!

Fine. If you need more motivation to demand a raise, here are five songs to get those palms pointed upward and outward.

For more entries in NPR Music's Listen While You Work series, click here.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

5 Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O.

The next time a politician accuses another politician of "class warfare" because of some tax policy or other, listen to The Coup's "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO" and remember what class warfare is really about: the systematic and literal annihilation of those above or below you on the social ladder. With that in mind, does asking for an extra 40 cents an hour seem that out of line? Do it! March right up to the manager and say, "I've been working at this Arby's for four years, and it's time my hourly wage reflected that!"

There Is Power in a Union

Lots of singers address the struggles of everyday people, but Billy Bragg is one of the few to move beyond empathy and map out policy solutions. There's nothing abstract or metaphorical about "There Is Power in a Union," a rabble-rousing reminder that you wouldn't be begging and scraping for a raise if a union were bargaining on your behalf. But if you're stuck going it alone, Bragg's performance is stirring and committed enough to render you a union of one.

Gimme Some Money

After fantasizing about revenge on greedy CEOs and engaging in grandiose talk of workers' rights, it never hurts to take a step back and ponder what you're really after: some more damn money for yourself. As always, Spinal Tap blurs the oft-discussed line between stupid and clever while coming down squarely on the side of the latter, celebrating money-lust in the most bluntly straightforward way possible.

Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More

It takes about half a second for The Wonder Stuff to get to the heart of its intentions in "Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More" -- or about the amount of time it takes for that cash register to chime. On its surface, the track is a paean to greed circa 1988 (not to mention a nice companion piece to "It's Yer Money I'm After, Baby" from the same album), but Miles Hunt's celebration of wealth is about wanting and hoping, not having: "I hope I make more money than this in the next world," he sings, adding, "I hope there's a lot more in it there for me."

Money (That's What I Want)

If Spinal Tap or The Wonder Stuff aren't straightforward enough for you, you can always immerse yourself in The Flying Lizards' wonderfully Teutonic new-wave cover of Barrett Strong's classic "Money (That's What I Want)." Most famously performed by The Beatles, the song is simple and versatile enough to have been recast in countless ways by countless artists in the decades since. The Flying Lizards' 1979 version strips it down to its heartlessly demanding essence, draining it of any human emotion that might otherwise get in the way. Now, if only you could do the same, maybe you'd finally start making enough money to afford peanut butter and jelly in your sandwiches.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)