The 10 Best Diss Songs in History

If we've learned anything from musicals, it's that emotions are better expressed through song. Happiness, despair, and everything in between can be put to a melody, but insults are the real crowd-pleaser. Insult a celebrity on top of a catchy beat and you've got an instant hit. Rap artists are the most famous for releasing tracks that attack other musicians, but there have been diss songs in every genre. From the recent tune insulting the president to songs attacking lovers and other bands, here are the 10 best diss songs in history.

  1. "Keep the Change" by Hank Williams Jr.

    After being fired from Monday Night Football for a remark he made recently on Fox and Friends about President Barack Obama, Hank Williams Jr. was a little bit angry. He'd been kicked off a program that had been using his song for 20 years, and he felt like he'd been set up to say something stupid about the president. The only reasonable response was to put his thoughts into a song blasting the administration and news networks. The result was "Keep the Change," a country ballad blaming Obama for the poor state of the country and proposing the name of the nation be changed to United Socialist States of America. Williams didn't dance around his point at all here. Within the first day of being released, though, the song was downloaded 150,000 times. No one can resist a good diss.

  2. "Back Down" by 50 Cent

    The rap world is full of rivalries, feuds, and diss songs. In fact, the only way to really prove yourself is to come up with some ridiculous rhymes about how dumb or ugly another rapper is. You can find a million creative diss tracks among rappers, but one of the best is 50 Cent's "Back Down," aimed at rap legend Ja Rule. 50 Cent certainly doesn't cloak his meaning, calling Ja Rule names and saying he didn't earn his success and that he's not a real gangster (compared to 50 who'd been shot nine times). This song, and the beef with 50 Cent in general, basically ended Ja Rule's wildly successful career even though 50 was the rookie rapper. Maybe it was 50 Cent's comparison between Ja Rule and the Cookie Monster that defeated Ja Rule. Nobody tunes into Sesame Street for rap.

  3. "I'll Stick Around" by the Foo Fighters

    Nirvana had become a household name by the early '90s with the success of the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" but after front man Kurt Cobain died in 1994, the group dissolved. The drummer, Dave Grohl, went on to form the Foo Fighters, but he and the other surviving Nirvana members kept running into problems with Cobain's widow, Courtney Love. There were disputes over royalties and ownership, and Love personally attacked Grohl online for things he had done while Cobain was alive. To have his voice heard in the argument, Grohl released "I'll Stick Around," a song that referred to Love's manipulative ways, rehearsed insanity, and the fact that Grohl doesn't owe her anything. While it was initially just speculation that the song was insulting Love, Grohl later admitted it in an interview.

  4. "So What" by Pink

    After Pink and her husband, Carey Hart, split, the pop star put her feelings into one of her most successful hits, "So What." After they reunited the next year, Pink said that only a few parts of the song were autobiographical, and the whole thing was not meant to be a diss against Hart. But no one's buying that. She discusses losing her husband and how she's not going to pay his rent. She repeatedly calls him a tool and says that he'll probably start a fight if the tune gets played on the radio, which it did, over and over again. "So What" made it to No. 1 on U.S. charts and in 25 other countries, proving that Pink is indeed still a rock star without her husband (and then with him again).

  5. "How Do You Sleep?" by John Lennon

    Most of us like to think of the Beatles in their golden years when they were happy and getting along like one of the greatest bands of all time should. Though there were some shining moments in the solo careers of Beatles members, this attack by John Lennon on Paul McCartney is a dark hour for the famous Brits. The two had been in a bit of a feud since the break-up of the band, with McCartney taking a jab at Lennon and Yoko Ono in a song, so Lennon responded with the biting "How Do You Sleep?" The digs include saying that McCartney (or maybe just his music career) actually is dead, referring to the theory that he died in a car crash in 1967 and was replaced by a look-alike, and implying that the song "Yesterday" is the only contribution McCartney made to the group.

  6. "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon

    This classic diss song is all the more popular because Carly Simon won't admit who she wrote it about. Rumors have been flying for years about who the unlucky man could be, and some of the more popular nominations have been Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, David Bowie, and Cat Stevens. Simon has told the media that it wasn't about Jagger, and Beatty has tried to take the publicity and claim he was the inspiration. This might be a secret that Simon takes to her grave, but she can be bought. Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports, won an auction for $50,000. The prize was that Simon would reveal the subject's name to the winner but that person could never tell anyone else. The only clue Ebersol was allowed to give afterward was that the name of the man who liked to watch himself gavotte contained the letter E.

  7. "New York" by the Sex Pistols

    If you listen to "New York" by the Sex Pistols, it's probably hard to tell that it's an attack on another band because punk rock bands normally sound this angry and because the lyrics are pretty hard to understand. But the song was a direct affront to the New York Dolls, a group that some were claiming really brought punk rock into being, an honor that the Pistols felt they deserved. The song mocks the Dolls' popularity in Japan since they couldn't seem to gain any traction in their native U.S.; claims that their music hasn't evolved; and resorts to general name-calling. Considering that the Sex Pistols are known as one of the most influential bands in music history and are part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they probably didn't need to resort to a diss song to make their point.

  8. "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette

    There is no better revenge than to remind your ex-boyfriend (and let his new girlfriend know) of all the dirty things you used to do to him. "You Oughta Know" could've just disappeared into the music vaults as another faceless break-up song that helps angry girls get over their exes, but when it came out that the tune was actually about Full House actor Dave Coulier, it earned a place in diss song history. Morissette doesn't want to confirm whether Coulier is Mr. Duplicity from her song, but he acknowledged that it's him and has since apologized to her for leaving such a mess when he went away. Most people agree that Coulier is the bad boyfriend who got lucky in a movie theater, and we're inclined to believe him when he admits it's him since he's the one who oughta know.

  9. "Cry Me A River" by Justin Timberlake

    Admit it. There was a time when you thought that Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears were soul mates. But when Spears allegedly cheated on Timberlake with a choreographer, our nation's hopes and dreams were shattered. Apparently, Timberlake's were, too. He wrote the song "Cry Me A River" in which he calls out Spears' infidelity and cruelty, and leaves no doubt that a reconciliation wasn't in the couple's future. The music video shows Timberlake breaking into Spears' house and recording himself making out with another girl, leaving no doubt that the song was about their messy break-up. But don't feel sorry for the guy. This hit made him a breakout solo artist and he escaped the sinking Spears ship.

  10. "My Favorite Mistake" by Sheryl Crow

    As far as diss songs go, this one's not too mean. After all, the guy may be a mistake, but at least he's her favorite one. The lyrics talk about a boyfriend who cheated on Sheryl Crow, and though the mystery is nowhere near as big as the topic of "You're So Vain," Crow refuses to confirm listeners' suspicions. The general consensus is that the guilty man is guitarist Eric Clapton, who is rumored to have dated Crow in the late '90s. Another possibility is Jakob Dylan, son of Bob Dylan, but the public seems to like the Clapton theory better. It seems there's a lesson to be learned here: Sheryl Crow's just a nice woman, even when you break her heart.

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