5 Great Songs by Otherwise Awful Musicians
Does the title and/or premise of this column seem familiar? If so, that's because I already wrote it once ... sort of. It was right around this same time last year. I wrote two of them, actually. People read the shit out of the first one, not so much the second.
What's the story with that drop off in pageviews, you almost certainly didn't ask? Well, fuck all y'all is at least half of it.
Beyond that, a lot of people who read the first one were bothered by the fact that I didn't approach the topic with 100 percent seriousness. The columns were more like a series of backhanded compliments that just reinforced the idea that, in fact, the bands in question didn't have any great songs.
That was a lapse in judgment on my part that you can chalk up to me having enough faith in humanity to assume no one is actually reading the shit I write here and then putting it into action in their daily lives. So, fine, I'll write it again, and this time, I think I mean most of it. In the name of doubling down on the stance I take on the songs listed here, I also defend them on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by Cracked editor Alex Schmidt and musician Danger Van Gorder. The first song I take a shot at defending, with the utmost reluctance, is also the first one I'll talk about here today.
Limp Bizkit: "No Sex"
Yeah, exactly. I honestly have no idea what you just said to yourself in reaction to seeing Limp Bizkit here, but whatever it was, I concur. I say that with complete confidence that none of you just blurted out, "I love Fred Durst" or some similar lunacy. If so, just know that you really don't. You're just young and confused and you feel like nobody understands you. Well, that's because you love Fred Durst. Stop doing that and things will turn around immediately. It's the exact same advice I'd give any Juggalo.
That's where I'd start, at least.
Anyway, because I take my job seriously, I made it a point to listen to every Limp Bizkit album I needed to back when making fun of them was a thing my industry expected on a regular basis.
I also willingly sat through a Limp Bizkit concert, but only because I was there to see the opening act, Method Man and Redman, and somehow found that, by the end of their set, I was in no shape to drive.
So, I ate nachos and sat through a Limp Bizkit concert to get my mind right. It was brutal. All of it, from listening to the albums to voluntarily stomaching that show, constitutes some of the darkest moments in my life, and I've fucking smoked crack before.
With all that said, I've always kind of secretly not hated this song ...
It's called "No Sex" and, as the title doesn't imply, it's all about Durst's frustration over a relationship that has devolved into sex and nothing more. Coming from an act that's probably provided the soundtrack to more frat-house date rapes than anyone this side of Dave Matthews Band, that sentiment alone makes it the most comforting number in the Limp Bizkit catalog, if nothing else.
An even better way to pitch it to the mistrusting masses would be to change the title to reflect the real selling point. In other words, call it "No Rapping." Durst doesn't do any of that here, and goddamn if that isn't a welcome change of pace. I mean, he's not a great singer or anything, but he's an awful fucking rapper. Just really awful.
So, if nothing else, give this song credit for featuring the least annoying version of Durst possible, barring the unlikely scenario that Limp Bizkit release an album of nothing but instrumentals someday.
The Killers: "Read My Mind"
Not to get too in-depth and music-snob-like with my arguments here, but man, fuck The Killers. Just, like, fuck 'em, you know? I don't know if that opinion is one I can adequately defend, but I'm also positive I won't need to. A person doesn't typically get a lot of argument when they say they aren't a fan of The Killers, because no one is a fan of The Killers. You either don't like them or you don't know them well enough to realize you shouldn't like them. We don't get a lot of middle ground with a band like The Killers.
Unfortunately, they're one of those completely unlikable bands that also happen to have a few above-average songs to their credit. Because I'd much rather just talk shit about them for most of my time here, I'll get the business half of things out of the way now by informing you that this ...
... in my humble (kidding) opinion, is The Killers' finest moment. It's called "Read My Mind," and damn if it isn't just the prettiest song ever. Also that "I pull up to the front of your driveway with magic soaking my spine" bit makes me think maybe Brandon Flowers is singing about being fucked-up on LSD and might freak out on some stranger's lawn until the police show up and subdue him with a taser. Who wouldn't love a tune with that kind of potential?
So what, exactly, is my problem with The Killers? I can sum it up with one screenshot.
"Ask us about our pre-Vevo YouTube analytics!"
What kind of band are The Killers? The kind of band that wants you to know exactly how many views this video had before they switched over to a Vevo account. You know who gives a fuck about that? The Killers.
Especially this one.
Everything about that band and the music they make and the things they do seems like a desperate attempt at achieving massive popularity. If this band had a dating site profile, that Vevo view count shit would be on it somewhere. The Killers need you to know how big they are, and that's precisely why they'll never be as big as they hope to be.
"Read My Mind" is still a good song, though.
Stone Temple Pilots: "Big Bang Baby"
At their best, Stone Temple Pilots are still a band very few people give a shit about. You might like them, you might not. Hell, a lot of you probably don't even know who they are. In the name of taking sides, I should make it clear that I don't actually think Stone Temple Pilots are a terrible band. Quite the opposite, really. I've always liked them just fine, at least in their original form, which is with a high-out-of-his-mind Scott Weiland on lead vocals.
Wearing the shit out of a scarf is the mark of a quality frontman.
On those frequent occasions when his life choices render him too incapacitated to hold down a job, the band has made a few attempts at inserting a different lead singer in his place, most recently that fucking guy from Linkin Park.
Does it really matter which one?
Pretty much anything Linkin Park affiliated can kiss my ass. I have problems of my own, I don't have time to help those mopey motherfuckers work through their shit. Also, I feel like I'm getting way off course here, sorry. My point is, provided Weiland and the various monkeys on his back were under center, Stone Temple Pilots were a fine band that was wrongly written off as some kind of Pearl Jam knockoff, simply because their first album was some total Pearl Jam knockoff bullshit.
They improved significantly by the time their second album rolled around ...
Unfortunately, the band's good standing with critics also seemed to increase in direct proportion to Weiland's drug habits.
Heroin: When you need things to be way better than they really are.
Their third album, Tiny Music ... Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop, has the distinction of being both their best (arguably) and their least known. At the time of its release, Weiland was strung-out to the point that a judge ordered him to spend four (wildly unsuccessful) months in rehab, forcing the band to cancel most of the tour they'd planned to promote the record. As a result of all that, a lot of people don't know or care that the album exists. As well they shouldn't, you know? There are enough things to worry about in this world without stressing over which irrelevant '90s bands still have stuff in their catalog you haven't listened to. Nevertheless, it is my favorite Stone Temple Pilots album, and this is my favorite song from that album, in case you're interested ...
It's called "Big Bang Baby," and it's just goddamn wonderful. Come for the music, stay for the lime green velvet pants Weiland is wearing in the video. They are the entirety of '90s rock, conveniently packaged in one absurd garment.
Miley Cyrus: "Party in the USA"
Oh, you don't like "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus? Neat, tell me what it's like to be the coolest motherfucker on Earth. Also, quit lying to yourself: you fucking love this song. Everyone does. That's precisely why 2009 was such a shitty year. We spent most of it worried about our conflicting feelings toward a goddamn Hannah Montana single and let all of our other responsibilities slide, and we fell into a global financial crisis as a result. Ask any economist, you'll get the same explanation. None of that is the fault of this song ...
It has no faults. It is perfect. Cyrus didn't write it, if that makes you feel any better, but the woman behind that obnoxious "Price Tag" song did ...
... so it probably shouldn't make you feel better, if I'm being completely honest. Also, it's worth noting that an interview Cyrus gave in the wake of this song's popularity is one of the many failings that landed her on a list I wrote a while back about famous people who are total hypocrites, so you're still fine to dislike her all you want, no matter how great this song may be.
To refresh your memory, one of the signature moments in "Party in the USA" comes right before the first chorus, when she says, "and a Jay-Z song was on, and a Jay-Z song was on, and a Jay-Z song was oooooooooonnnnnnn!" On account of that line, an interviewer asked the pop star to name her favorite Jay-Z song. Here's what she said:
"I've never heard a Jay-Z song. I don't listen to pop music."
Nope. Sorry. You don't get to be highfalutin like that and release a song like "Party in the USA" at the same time. Pick a lane, kid.
Nobody likes a straddler.
That unnecessary shot at Jay-Z and rap music in general is all the more sad when you take this into consideration ...
That's "Party in the USA" mashed up with "Party and Bullshit" by Notorious B.I.G., and it is music gold. Not to Cyrus, though. To her, listening to this "pop" song is just another thing she'll never ever do. Just ...
... like ...
Nickelback: "Leader of Men"
OK! See why I didn't want to be serious about this article the last time around? No discussion of the worst bands ever can exclude Nickelback, and that's exactly the discussion we're having here today, one-sided as it may be. So, here we are, floating the radical idea that, maybe, a decent Nickelback song exists somewhere. If that was ever going to be true, I still maintain it would be this one ...
It's called "Leader of Men" and, if I'm being completely honest, it's still pretty goddamn terrible. I'm sorry, this band has a formula and that formula calls for making shit music; there's just no getting around it.
Nevertheless, I do have a reason for picking "Leader of Men" as the closest we'll ever come to a decent Nickelback creation. Simply put, this song comes from a simpler time, before we knew how rapidly the Nickelback plague was going to spread. I used to hear it on the radio when it first came out and just assumed it was by Bush. I'd probably still think it was a Bush song if not for the Columbia House Music Club.
If you're significantly younger than me, as most people are, there's a good chance you have never even heard of Columbia House. For all intents and purposes, it was a scam that had the unusual feature of benefiting everyone involved. On the one hand, upon signing up, they'd send you eight CDs for a penny.
Or 12 cassettes!
Yes, there was shipping and handling to pay, but not much. Usually way less than what you'd pay for one album. It was a fairly sweet deal that came with a huge catch in that, every month after that, unless you told them not to, Columbia House would just fire off another CD to you in the mail. That one was full price. So, if you go a month without telling them you don't want to buy anything, you're buying some shit.
And that's the story of how I came to own a Nickelback album against my will.
It was disappointing, because I was broke as shit back then (some things never change) and didn't really have the spending cash to blow on an album I didn't trust. I had a brief moment of hope when I noticed that the Bush song I'd heard on the radio was actually a Nickelback song and was on this album, but that hope stayed lit exactly as long as it took me to listen to like three tracks, max. Given that I'd been listening to it on the 8-track-ready stereo in my mom's station wagon up to that point and was now hearing it in my usual listening environment, even "Leader of Men" revealed itself to be pretty fucking awful. It was all bad, and it always will be, and there's nothing I can do about that. Again, I'm sorry, but I just don't have the name of a "good" Nickelback song that I can share with you. For what it's worth, this is definitely the most listenable Nickelback-related thing I've ever heard ...
Barring that, the best I can do is to tell you to listen to "Leader of Men" while daydreaming about living in a world free from the constraints of knowing Nickelback is the best-selling rock band of our time. That's the world I used to live in, and it's a world I hope to live in again someday.
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