08/24/2010 11:16 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011


Da Bomp bomp ba bomp da bomp bomp, Da Bomp bomp ba bomp bomp ba bomp bomp. This is the rhythm of work today. Whether getting your grind on behind a hot stove slinging French toast or click-clacking to get that powerpoint done, there is always a soundtrack to our work that reflect its pace, its stress, or the values that come from doing it. Here's a look at the best music for or about working folk in the last year. After all, Labor Day comes before the MTV Video Music Awards.

For decades now, there have been songs that speak to the average working person in some way and thankfully, its not just Pete Seeger tunes. When you think about something like the disco classic "She Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summer. the trucker 8 track "Take This Job And Shove It" by Johnny Paycheck, "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton and on the hip-hop tip "C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)" by Wu-Tang Clan. As a medium, music amplifies workers voices more than its counterparts in film and television but still not nearly enough.

For this examination, we take a look at two types of music - that for Listening and that for Rallying. One to reflect workers' voices, the other to raise them with a fist.

For Listening, there's Little Brother's "Two Step Blues", Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown", British soulstress Rahel's "Hope" and Q-Tip's "Even If its So". The latter gets a noteworthy head-nod and brings us back to Da bomp bomp ba bomp. This is the refrain in Q-Tip's track from his Kamaal the Abstract album. With his patented fast but nasally style, the first verse pretty much tells the story of today's worker in the service economy:

"She work at Mickey D's from 10-5, Wal-Mart from 6-12, saving up enough for school, her little girl is doing well"

What makes this song more interesting is that, unlike a Green Day or others, Q-Tip is not trying to be politik in any particular way. "Even" is more like a love song actually as he reflects that in spite of all of these travails this woman faces, he still wants to be in her life. And its that accidental amplification that makes it even better.

But then, there is the purposeful. The "get-your-ass-up-and-do-something" songs that also amplify workers' voices. You can go back to James Brown's "Get Up Get Involved Get Into It" or "Big Boss Man" by Elvis, "Aint No Stopping Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead or come current with Chemical Brothers' "Galvanize".

And so for Rallying this year, there are only two cuts to add to this legacy: "Fight Smash Win" by Street Sweeper Social Club and "Drop It (Like a Hot Muppet)" by Magic Drum Orchestra, for two completely different reasons. With "Fight Smash Win" - a project of Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello and The Coup's Boots Riley - we get raw, in-your-face, stick it to the man lyrics and energy. Perfect for firing up the troops. For Magic Drum Orchestra's "Drop It", it's the fact that it has no words but a steady, trance-like backbeat where you can fill-in with the chant of your choice, that makes it work so well in a rally or march atmosphere.

Good for waving your picket sign with. And sometimes that's all you need. Though, it might not hurt for somebody to plunk down some cash for a worker values songwriting contest for next year. Brother, can you spare a dime?