There is something about a good screw you song that really gets the fire burning. It’s empowering to hear musicians really laying into someone or some group of people who have done them wrong. This article isn’t about the scorned lover turning their pain and anger at the person who has wronged them into a hit single. This article is about often specific but very intense rage of a different sort. From songs about anger toward those who doubt your abilities to anger toward those who put you down, this list is composed of ten of the best screw you songs ever written. Needless to say, explicit lyrics and whatnot in some of these songs so if the f-word offends you, it’s probably best to skip pressing play on a few of these.
10: F**K You – Lily Allen
Album: It’s Not Me, It’s You
It’s songs like this one that make me seriously sad every time Lily Allen talks about quitting the music industry. Sure she’s a pop star but her songs are so blunt and forceful in their honesty, you can’t help but appreciate them. This song is all about bigots, homophones and war mongers. I could think of precious few people more deserving of such a sugary sweet sounding blast of truth. Starting off with, “look inside, look inside your tiny mind then look a bit harder” this song is all about demanding the morons of the world wake up and start thinking. Some of the lyrics miss their mark but it hardly matters when the overall message is so clear.
09: F**k Ya – MacLean & MacLean
Album: Multiple albums and multiple versions
Year: Multiple years
Known for their often crude but always awesome songs, MacLean & MacLean created the ultimate screw you song with F**k Ya. It’s simple, to the point, catchy and fun. Perhaps it doesn’t express rage the way some of the other songs on this list do but it does feature the basic sentiment I was going for with this list. It’s a song about not much caring for someone and telling them exactly how you feel about them. This legendary Canadian duo often closed their shows with this one following the exchange of a little mutual heckling with their audience. These boys are sadly missed in the Canadian music industry.
08: Lunchbox – Marilyn Manson
Album: Portrait of an American Family
A lot of people have misinterpreted this song, especially in the wake of several school shootings but contrary to popular belief, this song is not about brining guns to school in a lunchbox. The “got my lunchbox and I’m armed real well” line actually refers to a rather troubling piece of legislation that banned schoolchildren from carrying metal lunchboxes to school as said lunchboxes could be used as weapons. Regardless, that’s not really the point of the song. This song isn’t about violence. It’s about the desire to grow up, make something of yourself and then look back at all the bullies that put you down with a smug smirk. It’s about seeking fame and fortune so you never have to worry about being put down again.
07: Screw You – Elton John
Album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (single)
Released as a b-side for his legendary hit Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Screw You is a sort of twist on the typical screw you song. It’s a song about getting beaten down and having your very spirit crushed by all of the people in your life that try to hold you back. It’s about all of those people who love nothing more than putting people down. It’s about calling out the people that mistreat you and it’s about recognizing that sometimes (okay, often times), life just isn’t fair. Screw you, indeed.
06: F**k You, I’m Famous – Shooter Jennings
Album: Black Ribbons
Not only is this song one of my absolute favorite screw you songs of all time, it’s also on one of my all time favorite albums. If you’re not familiar with the album, I’d highly, highly recommend checking it out. It’s an absolutely brilliant concept and features dialogue and voiceover work from the Master of Horror himself, Stephen King. F**k You I’m Famous is a smirking, gloating screw you to anyone and everyone who has ever put the vocalist down or tried to hold him back from realizing his full potential. It’s to all of the people who underestimated him. It also happens to be catchy as hell and an all around fun song that fits perfectly with the story told on the album.
05: The Way I Am – Eminem
Album: The Marshall Mathers L.P.
It was really, really hard to choose just one song from Eminem for this list. He’s an angry man and he isn’t shy about expressing that. That’s really what’s so appealing about him. Does he cross the line? Sure, but that’s part of being provocative and that’s definitely a word that suits Mr. Mathers. This song is all about Eminem. It’s all about who he is as a person. It’s absolutely brutal in its honesty and that’s what makes it such a fine screw you song. The “who” could be any number of different people – music critics, mainstream radio, overzealous fans and anyone who tried to blame Em for stuff that just isn’t his fault. This song is a scathing indictment on anyone who dares to try to make Marshall be anything other than who he is.
04: Hooker with a Penis – Tool
For the record I’d like to mention Tool is one of the best bands in the world – in the entire world – but they’re about as far from a ‘sell out’ band as you can get. They refuse to allow their music to be used on soundtracks. They rarely appear in their own videos. I imagine that’s why it came as such a shock to the band when a fan accused them of selling out after their first EP. This is the song that resulted from that encounter. Angry, intense but delivered with sly wit, the song concludes with vocalist, Maynard James Keenan, howling “f**k you, buddy” over and over with such pure and unadulterated hatred, you have to wonder if the kid the song was directed at was ever the same again.
03: Forgot About Dre – Dr. Dre
Album: The Chronic: 2001
Dr. Dre penned a heck of a screw you song directed squarely at anyone who doubted his ability as a rapper and producer. Without Dre’s influence, many legendary hip hop artists may not have broken out as big as they did. You can thank Dr. Dre for Eminem and therefore, 50 Cent (although somewhat indirectly). He’s produced beats for some of the biggest names in the business and as the song points out, “and when your album sales wasn’t doin’ too good, who’s the Doctor they told you to go see?” This is a very straightforward song reminding people not to underestimate him and a very blunt screw you to anyone who dared doubt him.
02: Survivor – Destiny’s Child
Written by Beyoncé Knowles, a truly gutsy women is ever there was one, Survivor is all about getting through the dark times to emerge stronger for the struggle. It’s also a brilliantly written f-you to certain people in her past that told her she’d be nothing without them. Her revenge? Becoming part of one of the biggest, if not the biggest, girl groups on the planet and then transitioning flawlessly to mega-successful solo artist. It’s often said the best revenge is living well but I have to imagine that rubbing your success in the faces of those who doubted you by way of smash-hit single has to be pretty close to topping that. Somehow this song manages to avoid coming off as smug or self-congratulatory – no small feat when you really listen to the meaning.
01: 99 Problems – Jay-Z
Album: The Black Album
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what to write about this one because it’s pretty self explanatory. Filled with anger towards racist cops, critics and someone getting a little too aggressive with Mr. Z, this song is all about not only anger but being better than the person you’re angry at. It’s about letting things roll off your back and only reacting when it’s necessary. There are so many lyrical gems in this one I don’t even know where to start but if I had to choose just one, it’d have to be “you know they type, loud as a motorbike but wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.” Yes, we all know the type and I’d have to say that line pretty much nails them to the wall.