5 Entertainers Who Sucked For Years (But Don't Anymore)
You know what's inspiring? To see someone recover from the depths of entertainment-related shittiness and create something great. Like how the Beach Boys sang bullshit songs about surfing for years, and then just up and decided to make Pet Sounds one day. Or how "Creep" is a bullshit song that's only enjoyed by garbage people, but Radiohead ended up being a fantastic band anyway. We talk about a few more examples on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
The key to pulling off an article like this is to swing for the fences right away. So with that in mind, let's talk about Justin Bieber. Don't worry, I'm not here to tell you that you should like him as a person. I don't know the guy. He could very well be every bit the asshole the media makes him out to be. What I am here to tell you is that his music isn't as terrible as people claim -- which I accept is a message you probably find to be infinitely worse.
I don't give a fuck. That's a good song. What song? The one in the video I just posted, dummy. But if I'm being completely honest, his music in general has never really been the problem. It's just pop music which, for a variety of reasons, has proven to be more popular than a lot of relatively similar stuff over the years. What's always been problematic for me is that I can't think of a single instance where, as an adult, I've ever wanted to see or hear a kid do anything for entertainment reasons, and Justin Bieber has been exactly that for most of the years he's been making music.
He's always been plenty talented. He at least plays instruments and shit, sometimes really well. But when a kid becomes a huge pop star, their relationship with the adult world is going to be a tense one. That's probably why so many child stars self-destruct, which is something Bieber seemed well on his way to doing at one point. Maybe he still is -- how am I supposed to know? The media just tells us what they want to tell us, man. All I know is that I heard this song like 15 times and thought it was alright ...
All during the same four-hour car ride. Thanks, FM radio!
... before I ever realized it was a Justin Bieber song. That's a good sign; at least, for him, and mostly just as it relates to my instinctive distaste for the sound of kids trying to be talented. Still, with that out of the way, it's just pop music. There are only a few people making that these days, no matter who's singing. Be it The Weeknd or Justin Bieber, someone is eventually ...
... singing an Ed Sheeran song.
Or take that first video I embedded. Skrillex produced that song. You like Skrillex, don't you, you hipster piece of shit?
Look, my point isn't really to try to sell you on the idea of being a full-fledged Bieber fan. Again, don't give a fuck. I'm just saying that hearing the name "Justin Bieber" as it relates to music doesn't necessarily warrant the extra layer of disdain that it did in the past, by sheer virtue of his age. It's like how Justin Timberlake used to make terrible music with N'Sync and now he's the James Bond of Saturday Night Live and does cool things like this at the Country Music Awards:
There's something to be said for that. It's not a transition everyone who gets famous as a kid is able to make, and it speaks to the fact that, as far as music goes, Justin Bieber has never really been that bad.
I bet he's still kind of a douchebag to be around, though.
Keri Russell has never been your demon. If anyone is still harboring resentment for her, it's because they haven't found anything better to do with their 30s than reminisce about TRL-era television. In that case, all of the bitterness centers around the fact that she ruined Felicity, the show that made her famous, by cutting her hair during the second season.
How dare you????
Stupid, I know. But if you think it's a thing that hasn't followed Keri Russell around ever since, I have a link to a Hello Giggles article from 2014 which begs to differ. It was a huge goddamn deal, and the worst part of it for her was that it was mostly a myth. Ratings for the second season were already on the decline by the time she cut her hair, and her decision to do it was one the producers supported, as adorably confirmed by a before-you-gave-a-fuck-era J.J. Abrams in this ancient Internet article. Also, the show survived two more seasons after that fiasco.
Nevertheless, the controversy still seemed to take a toll on Russell's career. She worked after that, but only sporadically, appearing in a few movies in the middle part of the 2000s, but staying away from regular television work until 2010, when she co-starred with Will Arnett in a show you didn't watch called Running Wilde, which was cancelled before completing one full season.
All along the way, that infamous haircut followed her career, becoming such a common pop culture reference that there are entire lists dedicated to which shows used it the best.
Yes, of course Family Guy is there.
It's a dumb thing to have linked to your name forever, and it's something I'm only bringing up in this column because it acts as a good excuse to remind (or inform) you that, since 2013, Russell has starred in one of the best and most criminally underappreciated shows on the air today. That would be the FX Cold War espionage drama The Americans ...
Just try to listen to this without hating Reagan.
... and if you aren't watching it, you're committing treason against quality television programming.
Where else on network TV will you see a kid get disciplined for respecting Jesus too much?
That show, and Keri Russell's performance in it, should be more than enough to compel people to stop talking about that stupid haircut forever, but it's also served as another reminder that some of us aren't ready to let go just yet. That Hello Giggles article I linked to earlier was all about how the writer finally found it in her heart to forgive "Felicity" for cutting her hair because The Americans is so damn great. New York Mag used the show as a reason to run two separate articles all about the trials and tribulations of Russell's locks over the years.
How crazy is that? More than 15 years later, even with Keri Russell proving herself to be one of the most consistently great actors on television today, all anyone wants to talk about is that time she cut her hair. And we wonder why other countries hate us so much.
Easy! Take it easy! I'm not saying that Prince isn't great. I'm just saying that, even if you're the biggest Prince fan on the planet, you have to admit that for a stretch there, he was contributing a whole lot of awful to the world on the musical side of things. Of course, I can't prove this in an Internet article any more than someone else could prove me wrong in the same medium. One of the most impressive aspects of Prince's career is that, aside from the illegal-est of file sharing websites, evidence of the true extent of his greatness -- or in this case, his brief dalliances with shittiness -- is hard to come by.
That's no accident. He was an early adopter when it came to sending anti-piracy police after those who post things online without permission, and he's been remarkably successful at keeping his work off the Internet.
We'll always have that guitar solo at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony.
So when I say that way too much of his '90s output was absurd rap bullshit that made MC Hammer seem like the voice of his generation by comparison, all I have to give you in the way of proof is my promise that I would never, ever lie to you, baby.
And no, I'm sorry, you can't just go listen to it on Spotify. He stopped allowing his music on streaming services back in July. As of right now, he has precisely one song available on Spotify.
The fuck is this shit?
While it's true that the amount of control he's been able to maintain over how and when his content is shared online is impressive, I suspect that if you asked random groups of people to name five Prince songs released since the year 2000, most couldn't even come close.
That's a shame, because starting around the time of 2004's Musicology, Prince experienced kind of a return to form musically, and produced some really great songs. But all of it's been overshadowed by the sometimes-desperate measures he's taken to promote and profit from his work without relying on the Internet like the rest of the world.
With the aforementioned Musicology, it was to include a copy of the album with every ticket sold for the massive comeback tour that coincided with its release. But a search for the fairly great title track from that album just brings up stuff like this creepy "lyrics" video which features absolutely no sound at all.
Trust me, it's even better with music.
For 2007's Planet Earth, he gave the album away in copies of a UK newspaper.
He released two albums, Lotusflow3r and MPLSOUND, on the same day in 2009, but only at Target.
In almost every case, his alternative approach to releasing music earned him more money than if he'd gone through more traditional channels. But it's led to Prince becoming a sort of anti-legend who, instead of rightfully being celebrated for still making consistently solid music at this stage of his career, will mostly be remembered for making that music so difficult to listen to. For some people, it might as well not even exist at all. If you were curious enough that you wanted to check out Lotusflow3r, for example, you'd have to buy the CD online and wait for it to arrive at your door -- that is, if you even still have a CD player to listen to it with. That's way too much investment and effort for a lot of people these days. So when I tell you that Prince eventually overcame his awkward rap phase and released a string of albums which you should listen to sometime, you're just going to have to trust me, unless you're rolling in expendable cash or have no fear of the Web Sheriff.
Even more unfortunate is the stuff that does somehow manage to survive online, like this bizarre interview with Tavis Smiley ...
... in which Prince goes on at length about his belief that the government uses chemtrails as a form of mind control. Even better, he recommends that people find more information about it ... online.
Mark Wahlberg has always been a pretty decent actor. I'm not surprising anyone by saying that, and it's something you probably don't even need me to elaborate on much. Just in case, though, I'll do just that by telling you to go watch Pain And Gain if you haven't already, and try to tell me with any semblance of honesty in your heart that Mark Wahlberg isn't entertaining as fuck onscreen.
My goal with this entry isn't to inform you that Mark Wahlberg is an alright actor; it's to remind you just how goddamn terribly he sucked in the role that first introduced him to the world. I'm speaking, of course, about his years as a rapper.
Pictured: The opposite of the Wu-Tang Clan
Hey, before we go on, I just want to pause to make sure that everyone gets the joke in the caption for the above photo. It's because Mark Wahlberg hate-crimed a dude for being Asian once, and the Wu-Tang Clan thinks that every race except black people were created in a lab, but that Asians are still acceptable. It was a thinker, that's for sure.
Anyway, maybe it's his history of being a violent racist who had the gall to ask for a pardon because he's now a famous actor and needed a liquor license that makes me so comfortable saying it, but this was a terrible fucking song:
That's "Good Vibrations," of course, and I don't care how nostalgic you are for the '90s -- that and everything else the Funky Bunch helped Marky Mark create was complete and total garbage. If you rolled your eyes at the thought of someone defending Justin Bieber, but now find yourself thinking up an angry comment to defend this crime against rap, then take whatever device you use to listen to music and throw it out the nearest window. You clearly can't be trusted to make responsible decisions with it.
If there was anything remotely likable about the music of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, it was that all of their songs that you remember sound a lot like way better songs.
He knew how to steal a song. That's it. Beyond that, everything he did during his time as a "musician" was a disaster. All that said, that he did such a terrible job of pretending to be a rapper makes the fact that he turned into a fairly respectable actor all the more impressive.
Alright, alright, alright. Of course we're gonna talk about Matthew McConaughey. No discussion about people who used to suck but don't anymore would be complete without mentioning The McConaissance. In the annals of comebacks from years spent creating awful entertainment, his is far and away one of the most sudden and impressive.
I suppose it shouldn't have been all that surprising, Matthew McConaughey's career started out promisingly enough. His role in movies like Dazed And Confused and A Time to Kill were objectively great, and responsible for making him a star.
However, after that, he spent a lot of years making a bunch of bullshit romantic comedies and things of the like. While almost certainly going a long way toward making sure he never has to do work of any sort ever again if he doesn't want to, this did nothing to bolster his reputation as a quality actor. After the shit sandwich that was Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, he seemed to take the money and run when he disappeared from movies altogether for a few years.
You'd be afraid to come around too if you put people through something like this.
Everyone points to his return in The Lincoln Lawyer, a movie so good you barely even notice that Ja Rule is in it, as the moment Matthew McConaughey started to show that maybe he was capable of being something more than a romcom sensation, and chronologically, that makes perfect sense. It came out a full two years after that Christmas movie debacle that seemed to send him into hiding. But it was something he did immediately before briefly disappearing that made me want more McConaughey in my life, and that was his role as Rick "Pecker" Peck, the financially conflicted agent who represents Tugg Speedman, the action hero played by Ben Stiller in the goddamn fantastic Tropic Thunder.
There were a lot great performances in that movie, and his kind of got lost in the shuffle as a result, but he was as great as anyone else in that cast.
Speaking of ensemble casts with top-notch acting, how about his role in Magic Mike? By the time that movie pelvic thrusted into theaters just a year after The Lincoln Lawyer, the world was already so in love with his new form that some people wanted to give him an Oscar. For Magic Mike!
It didn't take long for him to get that Oscar, which we seemed to decide overnight that he had to have. He won in 2013 for Dallas Buyers Club, and as everyone hoped, he repaid our faith in his acting abilities with the time-travel-based acceptance speech we'd all been hoping for.
Spoiler: His hero is him in the future, which is also sort of the plot of Interstellar.
Since then, we've been counting on him to keep us entertained, even if it's just by driving around the country aimlessly spouting nonsense at a bull from behind the wheel of a sweet-ass Lincoln ...
... and he's delivered every time.
Adam is on Twitter, and you should be, too. Join him there @adamtodbrown.
If you still hate Justin Bieber with a homicidal rage, then maybe check out 4 Steps to Curing Bieber Fever Forever to see Bieber is just a King Joffrey archetype. And just so you know, Adam Tod Brown isn't fooling anyone. He's always been a Justin Bieber fan, as seen in 5 Days Undercover as a Justin Bieber Fan.
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