It’s been a while since I did one of my patented drive-by pieces on art everybody loves except me. So I figured I’m due.
This piece originated in the secret lair of the Breitbart Empire, when resident DJ Larry O’Connor, editor of Breitbart.tv, began blaring Journey songs via his Mac. This nearly led to a group beating, but he persisted nonetheless (for those who don’t know, Larry is also a fan of both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim, which is theater heresy). What did we learn from this gruesome experience? That some songs need to be taken out of circulation. Forever.
That’s what this list is about. In the past, I’ve defined “overrated” in the typical way: a piece of art may be good, but it’s not as great as everybody seems to think it is. In this list, we’ll go with the more colloquial definition: everybody thinks these songs are great, and I think they absolutely suck, and should be force-fed into the great maw of historical obscurity. With that said, let’s begin.
10. Anything By Lady Gaga. She is the worst. The absolute worst. There is no excuse for her. Her songs are awful. Her dress-up nonsense is awful. Her persona is awful. She’s a bad knockoff of Madonna (who sucked to begin with) and has no vocal quality. When your most famous lyric (from “Poker Face”) is “mah-mah-mah-Poker Face mah-mah-Poker Face,” you’ve got a huge problem. But now she’s our problem. Our unsexy, autotuned, annoying, androgynous, self-righteous problem. I hate you, music industry.
9. One, U2. U2 is second only to The Beatles in the pantheon of overrated bands. Pretentious, whiny, boring. This is the kind of stuff you expect to hear Phoebe playing on her off-days at Central Perk in Friends. It’s rock for people who want rock to sound like white noise. Bono always sounds like he’s slightly drunk and/or has a cold, but he’s just so profound, because he has an earring.
The lyrics are over-the-top non sequiturs, just broad enough to sound meaningful, but just vague enough to make no sense. “Have you come here for forgiveness / Have you come to raise the dead / Have you come here to play Jesus / To the lepers in your head.” Wait a second – if you’re here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head, isn’t Jesus also in your head? Are you schizophrenic? And what about the Holy Ghost? Where does he come in? What do dead people have to do with anything? Why am I trying to understand a song designed mostly to get Bono chicks?
8. My Generation, The Who. Aside from being the perfect set-up for “Who’s on First,” which is eminently more entertaining than most of the Who’s music, the Who have provided us with very little of value. Tommy is the least of their sins (and that’s a pretty damn big sin). Try on “My Generation” for size.
They’re talking about their generation. But you don’t know what they’re saying, which makes it difficult to understand their generation. Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. And the lyrics are dumb, dumb, dumb, when you can actually decipher them: “People try to put us d-down / Just because we get around.” Interjection: enough of the near-rhymes! Rockers are so damn lazy. “Things they do look awful c-c-cold / I hope I die before I get old.” If only.
7. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen. Yes, everybody loves the Boss. I don’t mind some of his stuff. But this song is not good. It’s perfectly mediocre. Take away the yelling, and it’s elevator music.
Man, that’s some ‘80s stuff. Nice hair, dudes. Nothing actually happens during this song. It is repetitive and unexciting. It takes Springsteen sweating profusely to generate any sort of mild excitement for the crowd. There is no development section, as per the usual rock arrangement. Now that he loves Sweden, I feel less bad about ripping “Born to Run.”
6. Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin. Overblown beyond belief, this magnum opus of the soporific has annoyed millions all over the globe. It is endless. The opening solo has become de rigeur for losers trying to win girls by playing the guitar.
“But,” you say, “it has woodwinds! Woodwinds!” Yeah. Great.
It starts out in promising fashion, actually, but quickly goes off the rails – or rather, slowly goes off the rails, Titanic-style. The same four bar sequence essentially repeats for the vast majority of eight minutes. This was not a musical idea that required eight minutes of development. LSD may make things more interesting, but it can’t make them that much more interesting, can it?
5. Satisfaction, by The Rolling Stones. It’s got a memorable bass line. That repeats 100,000 times, in Led Zeppelin fashion. The big question here is whether the Rolling Stones can or cannot get satisfaction. If they can’t get no satisfaction, that means they can get satisfaction. It is maddening that so many rockers think that simply because they have no musical training, they need not apply basic English.
While the Stones later suggested that the lyrics were supposed to rip on the commercialism of rock (and they do), the main thrust of the song (pun intended) is clearly frustrated horniness. Most teenagers would have the good grace to get a Playboy and work this out for themselves. The Stones decided to inflict “Satisfaction” on us instead.
The song itself goes nowhere – which is a problem with most rock songs, admittedly. But Rolling Stone named this the second-greatest rock song of all time. Which speaks to the shallowness of rock.
4. London Calling, by The Clash. Two notes. The entire song is essentially two notes. A more annoying song has never been penned. If London calls, don’t answer.
3. Smells Like Teen Spirit, by Nirvana. No wonder Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Sadly, his music lives on. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – what exactly is teen spirit? – is both musically jarring and lyrically painful. The kooky two-note leitmotif (can you call it that when it’s in an alleged song like this?) is less Bernard Herrman than the three-year-old who discovered your guitar in a closet, then also found your shotgun and became a Brady Campaign statistic (which, come to think of it, is sort of similar to Cobain’s life story). And Cobain’s raspy whine is enough to put anyone on heroin.
Then there are the lyrics. If you’re going to bother writing lyrics at all, don’t do it right after spending a drug-fueled night with Courtney Love. “Load up on guns and bring your friends / It’s fun to lose and to pretend.” At least he’s attempting to rhyme. Unfortunately, he forgot the part where lyrics are supposed to make some modicum of sense (or, for Meghan McCain, emoticon of sense).
When you’re living in Seattle making millions off your nihilism and absolute lack of talent, you don’t get to complain about your ills. At the end of this song, if you don’t feel “stupid and contagious,” feel lucky. This song is aural herpes. And, by the way, Andrew Breitbart hated Nirvana with the fiery passion of a thousand flaming suns.
2. Like a Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan. The fame and fortune of Bob Dylan make you question the presence of a benevolent God in the universe. He sings like a cat being run over by a nail-studded steamroller. His lyrics are lazy and stupid – he doesn’t bother for rhyme scheme (“home” and “unknown” do not rhyme), or even that the words scan with the music. The song itself makes no sense. What is a “mystery tramp”? Why should you “turn around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns”? Are they sad clowns? What does a “Siamese cat” have to do with anything? And then he articulates these nonsensical lyrics as though he has no front teeth.
I’m sorry, but screaming “How does it feel?” with an organ in the background is not great music. That’s Jeremiah Wright on an off-day. And then there’s the harmonica. My God, the harmonica.
It’s not just “Like a Rolling Stone” that sucks so much that Paris Hilton is jealous. “Blowin’ in the Wind” is awful; “Times’ They are a-Changin’” is hipster crapola; “Hurricane” is a falsification of history, and awful. His songs are endless. This song runs over six minutes long; “Hurricane” runs over eight minutes. Eight minutes. The first movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony runs less time, and has more than four chords.
Bob Dylan makes life meaningless, and makes man curse nature for the gift of eardrums. Listen, Baby Boomers – I know you were all high when you listened to Dylan. But please, for the love of God, stop inflicting him on future generations.
1. Imagine, by John Lennon. There are no words for how truly evil and terrible this song is; Kurt Schlichter has done a masterful job of epically fisking this small shard of utter and complete rubbish. First, the aesthetics. It begins with some pretentious piano chords to set the mood: this will be a deep song. Lennon sings it in cloyingly whiny fashion, like a schoolgirl who has discovered that there are starving people in Africa for the first time. It’s vomit-inducing bad. And the music itself is not just unspectacular, it’s blasé. It commits the worst musical sin: it is completely boring.
But that’s not what makes this song so horrible. For that, we have to examine the lyrics, which are not just ignorant, but Soviet-style ignorant. It’s a communist, atheist song, pure and simple. This could be the Barack Obama campaign song – but it would express too clearly what the redistributionist left wants for the world: no borders, no God, no meaning, no values, and no wealth. And it’s being penned and sung by one of the richest people on the planet. Despicable as art; despicable as politics. Imagine the world without it. Aren’t you smiling yet?