Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Terrible Songs by Good Bands

Even really good bands can sometimes come out with a song that sucks. There are different reasons for this - sometimes it's just a product of the band's overall decline as they go from good to not so good to totally lame. Other times it's because the artist wants to branch out and try something he/she/they haven't before and the result is they really, really shouldn't have tried.
And sometimes, it's just completely out of nowhere, nestled among actually decent songs on an actually decent album.

Here's a look at some normally good bands creating some awful music. You'll notice all these songs came out around the same time - I guess it was the power of the millennium...or something.

5. Live - "OK?"

From the 2001 album, V, this maybe shouldn't be all that surprising as it really was an album of hits and misses. I remember upon first listening to it reflecting that it didn't really feel like a cohesive album at all - just a collection of unrelated songs stuck together - and wondering if that impression would fade after multiple listens. Well, it never did. In many ways, V was an album of experimentation for Live and luckily, since they were still a pretty good band at that point (not so much these days), most of the tracks ranged from alright to pretty good. But not this one.

The track in question features talented vocalist Ed Kowalczyk trying his hand at rapping. Perhaps he felt encouraged after having rapper Tricky dropping some rhymes (or whatever the hell the expression is) on opening track, "Simple Creed". Perhaps not. Either way, Tricky is a rapper and Kowalczyk most definitely is not. Not only is it painful to listen to in its pathetic attempt to sound edgy, it's also downright embarrassing if you're actually a fan of the band because you know this just isn't their thing.

Even the lyrics are cringeworthy and just reading them won't let you experience just how awful it is - you really have to hear Ed trying his damnedest rapping them out. No, Ed. It's not ok.

4. The Tragically Hip - "Tiger the Lion"
Another byproduct of a pretty iffy album. 2000's My Music @ Work marked The Hip's first serious foray into the realm of prog. rock. It also marked their first album that wasn't up to snuff after a string of very good albums.

I couldn't find much to like on this album and what I found to truly hate was this song, "Tiger The Lion". I have a hard time describing this song to people without just shrugging my shoulders and saying "it's weird". Well, it is. There's not really a discernable melody to follow (which I guess was sort of the point) and Gord Downie really seems to be trying his best to sound annoying.

The first time I ever heard this song was watching The Hip do an Intimate and Interactive (remember those?) at MuchMusic. Playing to a crowd of diehard fans, they'd managed to make even the newer songs from the then featured album sound passable until they got to this one. I remember screwing up my face in a grimace of confusion as the song washed over me and I tried to figure out where the hook was and what the hell The Hip was trying to do. No answer came. But then they played an old song and everything was alright again.

3. Metallica - "I Disappear"
This one happened right before the wheels fell off for Metallica. So bad, it was on the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack. And no where else because they sure as hell couldn't cobble together an album at this point - not with James getting smashed all the time again. And Jason about to bail. All I can figure about this song is that the band was falling apart and they threw this mess together in one hell of a hurry without putting in any effort.

It sounds like the whole song is based on a riff rejected for use many times in the past but that just kept coming back to haunt them. Finally, to rid themselves of its demon spirit, and at the same time, contribute something to the impending soundtrack (and get PAID), James Hetfield growled out some "lyrics" over said riff, making the "chorus" quieter before finally getting LOUD and then they solved the whole bridge problem by not really having one - only taking the verses and changing them very slightly, playing it more "urgently". Toss in the compulsory Kirk Hamett screwing around with the main riff to form a solo and bingo, a Metallica song for the ages.

2. U2 - "Elevation"

Lord, how I loathe this song. What makes it hurt especially is just how popular U2 were again at the time of the song's album, All That You Can't Leave Behind's release. It was the second single following the album-opening track "Beautiful Day" (an ok song) - so it was played EVERYWHERE. And it was played CONSTANTLY. I'm pretty sure it was on the Tomb Raider movie's soundtrack as well. I do know it featured a retarded video that was on TV as much as the song was on the radio.

Where to start with this one? It must've taken all of two minutes to write. The vocals on the verses feature an extremely simple rhythm following this pattern: Da...da da da da DA! Da da da da DA! over and over again with Bono making many people hate his voice for the first time. And the chorus was even worse. I know you remember it - sing it with me now! El-A-VAY-SHON!!!! then Bono wheezing out those excruciating "woos" that eventually mutated into "woooohoooHOOO". Argh.

1. No Doubt - "Hella Good"
In 2001, before Gwen Stefani lost her mind, went solo and became a "hollaback girl" bouncing around and singing about bananas, her band, No Doubt, released the confusing Rock Steady. Little did No Doubt fans suspect at this point that it was but a prelude to the madness yet to come.

It was hard to pick just this song and leave the also terrible "Hey Baby" off this list but I told myself I could only pick one. "Hella Good" wins (or loses, depending on how you look at it) due to the fact that its very title features a stupid made-up word. I'm all for artistic license regarding language in songs but there's nothing artistic going on here. So I'll just go with this song. But don't worry, there's plenty else to hate here. Like the truly obnoxious riff that powers the verses. Or how about Gwen's PANTING over said riff at later points in the song? Panting in a song was something I'd previously believed only Britney Spears would stoop to.

When this song came out, I, a fan of No Doubt, was baffled. And I wasn't alone. Suddenly, the punk/rock/ska kids with their brightly dyed hair and multiple piercings who used to jump and mosh to No Doubt's sound were all standing around, looking confused while the asshole poser club people started grooving to the beat. Sadly, we all know what happened next. Hard to believe this was the same band that gave us "New" and "Spiderwebs". Now Gwen's a lot richer, I guess, and the world is a lot poorer.


Very McToaster said...

Altho I do agree that "Metallica - I Disappear" is a terrible song, I would not even consider it for this list cause well... I thought you were listing "GOOD" bands with terrible songs. And "I Disappear" was probly their best song, just shy of the first... 3 minutes of "Puppet Master".

Cole D'Arc said...

That would be "Master of Puppets". My list, my rules, my definition of "good". Sure, they suck now but I still recognize Metallica as a good band in their day.

RyHo said...

Metallica were one of the biggest metal bands in the world, and one of the largest stadium shows ever, to boot. I'm not a crazy big fan, but I can agree they have their merit. That being said, they've given lots of options for this list, especially with their album "St. Anger".

"Hella Good" couldn't be more perfect, however. It's almost like you crafted the list just to put that at #1, haha.