Nothing grabs listeners’ attention like a good diss track. After all, it’s pretty much human nature to tap into any source of drama one can find.
Eminem‘s been on a roll with the tactic. The rapper made headlines after taking a jab at Machine Gun Kelly on his 2018 album, Kamikaze. Now, on his latest record, he’s throwing some shade at Billie Eilish (although it’s softened by his wishing her a happy birthday).
Such antagonism is hardly limited to rap and pop stars, though. In fact, it’s quite prevalent (albeit usually more subtle) in alternative music. Read on for 10 of our favorite diss tracks to come out of the scene.
“Dead Horse” – Hayley Williams
Lyric: “Oh, I stayed with you too long/Skipping like a record, but I sang along/A shitty, never-ending song”
Hayley Williams reportedly wrote this track on her debut solo album, Petals For Armor, from the standpoint of self-reflection. However, that didn’t stop her from taking some digs at her ex-husband, Chad Gilbert (New Found Glory), in the process. In case the target of the song isn’t made abundantly clear by the context, her reference to the affair that started the relationship certainly seals the deal.
“Whoa On The Whoas” – NOFX
Lyric: “Between AFI and the Offspring/I don’t think we need anyone else to sing/Any more whoas”
It’s not like NOFX to hold back, as we’ve all come to learn. The punk-rock outfit have been turning heads since at least the ’90s, when they took aim at Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill) for her feminist stances (“Kill Rock Stars”). “Whoa On The Whoas” is a lighthearted track by comparison, calling on bands to stop incorporating “whoa”s and “na na na”s into their lyrics. Of course, AFI and the Offspring were ripe to make examples out of in this regard.
“Warped Summer Extravaganza (Major Excellent)” – The Lawrence Arms
Lyric: “This Kevin or that one, it all seems the same/Exploit the avenues, fix all the games”
Sure, Warped Tour remains a popular point of nostalgia for the alternative scene, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s crazy about it. The Lawrence Arms made this abundantly clear in their aptly named track “Warped Summer Extravaganza (Major Excellent).” Calling out the festival founder Kevin Lyman wasn’t enough, though. The band went on to subtly reference bands, including AFI, Hawthorne Heights and Yellowcard, throughout the song.
“Starfuckers, Inc.” – Nine Inch Nails
Lyric: “Starfuckers/Now I belong, I’m one of the beautiful ones”
Nine Inch Nails‘ famed ’90s track “Starfuckers, Inc.” could easily stand as a generalized diss toward the music industry. However, Marilyn Manson confirmed that Trent Reznor wrote the song about him. In an appropriately representative display of their historically tumultuous relationship, Manson actually went on to co-direct and appear in the music video.
“Something Personal” – Bright And Early
Lyric: “Never looked good in high tops or camo/Never had a fake fur-hooded coat/I won’t strike a pose like All Time Low”
All right, this may be one of the lesser-known diss tracks out there, but it’s definitely worth a mention. While the attempted shots at scene favorites such as All Time Low and Green Day have us rolling our eyes, the digs are kind of hilarious. One thing we can get on board with is the apparent support for Cobra Starship. “Isn’t it time that Gabe filled his pockets?” Why yes, Bright And Early, yes it is.
“My Girlfriend” – Guttermouth
Lyric: “God please help me/Bad Religion in her brand/Brett is back in the band”
Guttermouth take a pretty unconventional approach to dissing bands in their track “My Girlfriend.” Rather than addressing any one band directly, they just pick apart this poor (hopefully fictional) girl’s music taste. Between Bad Religion, the Offspring and Pennywise, nobody seems safe. Side note, ladies: Don’t let anyone give you hell for moshing.
“Blacklist” – Bring Me The Horizon
Lyric: “We built an empire and you took the throne/But you built it from bayonets and sat there alone”
This heavy, rage-filled Bring Me The Horizon track was written in response to Curtis Ward leaving the band. The guitarist reportedly hated performing and hadn’t contributed much to the band’s sophomore album, Suicide Season. As a result, animosity was high around the time of his departure. Ultimately, they were able to put differences aside, and Ward even joined the band for their 2014 performance at Wembley Arena.
“Sometimes It Ends” – Asking Alexandria
Lyric: “I’ve spent too many years in this house of pain/If you can’t find the words, read between the lines”
When it came to his anger toward former Asking Alexandria vocalist Danny Worsnop, guitarist Ben Bruce knew he had to get it out and move on. And thus, one of the scene’s most legendary diss tracks was born. However, rather than leaving fans to speculate on who the lyrics were aimed at, Bruce spells it out during the spoken-word intro.
“You Bet We’ve Got Something Against You!” – Black Flag
Lyric: “We know/You stole our song/You were there/Every touch in wrong”
There’s no way you could write this one off as being generic punk angst. Black Flag weren’t going to take the subtle approach when they called out former vocalist Keith Morris for ripping a song. At the time, Morris had re-recorded the group’s song “I Don’t Care” under his new outfit, Circle Jerks. Unsurprisingly, his previous bandmates weren’t thrilled.
“I’ll Stick Around” – Foo Fighters
Lyric: “I’ve been around all the pawns you’ve gagged and bound/They’ll come back and knock you down/And I’ll be free”
Of course, no list of alternative music disses is complete without mention of Foo Fighters‘ notorious jab at Courtney Love in 1995. The feud between Dave Grohl and Love was well known. They were quite vocal about their contempt for one another following Kurt Cobain‘s death in 1994. However, Grohl only publicly admitted that he’d written the song about Love in his 2011 biography. Even with that dig out in the open, the pair reportedly reconciled in 2014.
What are your favorite alternative diss tracks? Let us know in the comments below!