The first 100 days of being president are kind of like the first 100 days of parenthood: Just try not to kill it. Donald Trump reached that milestone on Saturday and the news media covered it with the usual fanfare, but the bottom line is, we’re all still here. That’s the good news. The bad news… scratch that. Some bad news that pales in comparison with the really bad news is that the Our First 100 Days song project is over.
The series, co-conceived by the Secretly Group and 30 Days, 30 Songs, delivered a rare, unreleased or exclusive song every day for Trump’s first 100 days by a wide range of artists including Angel Olsen, Toro y Moi, Phosphoresecent and about 97 more. For a minimum $30 donation, fans can buy the complete set of songs, with proceeds divvied among a group of nonprofits specializing in climate change, reproduction rights, immigration, LGBTQ rights and other issues.
You’d think, with a series specifically created to foster resistance to the Trumpization of America, that the songs would all basically be entries in a burn contest. But many of the final 100 were written years ago and never released, or were B-sides to recent singles. Others are ambiguous about their target, like Drinks’ “I Am a Miserable Pig,” wherein Cate Le Bon sings, “I am a miserable pig in your road / and this is no country town.” Jackie Winters’s “I Pay My Taxes” is otherwise indecipherable, apart from the refrain ”...a statue of a statue of a statue of a statue of a man.” And somehow, Strand of Oaks’ “I Know YOU Know You’re Evil” is a six-minute instrumental song.
Still, there were plenty of clever pokes and jabs to be found in this series. Here’s a look at the five best.
5. Surfer Blood: Bacon Frying
What you see should bring you joy / but you’ve become a lazy boy
Suddenly you’re shutting down / Either way, you’ve already had your fill
But take it off the planet still / I won’t hold my breath and wait for better days
builds an aggressive guitar line and stomping beat around a main character who can’t recapture his youthful glory, no matter how hard he fights or how far he chases it. This guy “had a lot of dates” back in school, but now he’s “shutting down,” and singer John Paul Pitts can’t quite square all the bluster with the flabby reality. Few people can.
4. PWR BTTM: Vacation
It is fine in the morning ‘til the mid-afternoon
Then it is five and I’m thinking of you
So I get hammered with my family and friends
Sober by midnight, think of you again
PWR BTTM begin this one with uncharacteristic gloom, wallowing in the despair of obsessing over a certain someone they’d rather not be thinking about. It’s not a crush or a former flame, though—it’s you-know-who. Singer Ben Hopkins sounds worn out from all the thinking, and after about three minutes “Vacation” erupts into a crashing, screaming ragefest as he wails, “Can I, can I, can I get a break?!” No, you can’t.
3. Jen Cloher: Kinda Biblical
I’m not here to take bait
I just want to get my own way
News is cheap real estate
If you’ve got nothing to say
Australian songstress Jen Cloher borrows the refrain “I don’t wanna, I don’t think so” from the Sonic Youth track “Kool Thing,” with Kim Gordon’s snarling question: “Are you gonna liberate us girls from male white corporate oppression?” That’s probably a rhetorical question, given the subject. Cloher trains her eye on the collision between church and state, asking Trump, “Where will you spend eternity?” and skewering him for pioneering the fake-news era.
2. Tim Heidecker: Trump Talkin’ Nukes
But you can’t put the genie back
In fact it’s a miracle it hasn’t happened yet
Crazy how it only takes a maniac
Crazy how it only takes a maniac
Over a pleasantly swaying piano track, Heidecker muses about the ultimate disaster (i.e. global thermonuclear war) and how its indefinite threat to the world has rarely seemed more palpable. His parents, who “had to hide under a desk,” had it pretty rough, too. But they were lucky that the leaders of the day weren’t so nuts as to irradiate half the world. Heidecker, who doesn’t call out any maniac-in-chief by name in the song, isn’t feeling fantastic about our chances.
1. Entrance: Not Gonna Say Your Name (A Capella Mix)
And though it’s hard to accept you’re really here to stay
Our culture is obsessed with fame
I might have to see your face 100 times a day
but I’m not I’m not I’m not I’m not gonna say your name
Entrance’s Guy Blakeslee isn’t mincing words or stabbing at metaphors in his bluntly titled entry. The first line here goes, “There are people who say we ought to give you a chance / but there’s not a chance in hell / that we’ll sit back and watch you try to turn back the clock / and just sigh and say, ‘oh, well.’” “Not Gonna Say Your Name” is the most overt act of protest in this series, with a work-song cadence that harks back to Woodie Guthrie, rendered all the more explicit and poignant by the absence of any instrumentation. Blakeslee rakes Trump for letting “your name be a symbol of hate,” and laments that the name is constantly on everybody’s lips. His solution, at least to the problem of being hounded by that five-letter word, is pretty simple. In a statement with the release, Blakeslee said “The idea of not saying his name seems to be helpful and is catching on. I’ve heard stories of households where if you say it you are fined and have to put money in a jar.”