5 Tribute Albums that Don't Realize How Insulting They Are
"Tribute: An act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration."
What you just read is the official, Google-approved definition of the word "tribute." As you can see, a tribute is supposed to be respectful. You already knew that, but the people you'll read about on this list clearly did not. The topic of conversation is the most unintentionally disrespectful tribute albums of all time. We talk about a few on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Jeff May, Quincy Johnson, and Vanessa Gritton, and I'm going to talk about a few in this here column right now. Hello, coincidence!
The Rap and R&B Tribute to Phil Collins
On the surface this makes sense, right? It's not like Phil Collins has been churning out death metal since the '70s. Hell, one of his shittiest songs ever is a duet with one of the key elements from Earth, Wind and Fire.
A rap and R&B tribute to Phil Collins makes perfect sense. And by that, I mean the R&B half makes perfect sense. The rap half, on the other hand, is some total goddamn nonsense. I reckon the Ol' Dirty Bastard cover of "Sussudio" isn't the worst thing ever ...
... but you won't be at all surprised to know it has almost nothing in common with that song you hate so much. Which is fine, obviously -- "Sussudio" is fucking terrible anyway. Still, just having some nondescript R&B chick sing three lines from the bridge of the original song at regular intervals is pushing the limits of what you can call a tribute. That's like calling Puff Daddy's shitty song from the Godzilla soundtrack a tribute to Led Zeppelin.
Just joking, it totally is.
In the annals of tribute-song history, though, nothing will ever come close to matching the insanity of Lil' Kim's cover of "In the Air Tonight."
Is the original version of this song about Phil watching someone drown? Probably not. Is it about Lil' Kim and her Junior Mafia cohorts conspiring to steal a bunch of cars?
Has Snopes weighed in on this yet?
Are you smoking angel dust? Rhetorical question. I only ask because everyone involved in the making of this video clearly was. There are too many insane moments to cover in one entry, but the highlights that await anyone with the patience to sit through the entire thing include Lil' Kim rapping in front of the ghost of Phil Collins being happy with his career choices ...
... inexplicably Skyping with the dude she just stole a bunch of cars from ...
... and then rescuing her pal Lil' Cease using nothing but lead pipes and baseball bats ...
... as if the dirty cops and/or mafia members (I never could tell for sure) she robbed wouldn't have all of the guns.
Even better, the first minute of the song is just a dude doing shoutouts and, in case you're wondering, of course he screams "Phil Collins!" at some point. It happens right before he says, "This shit is crazy!" and, "You're not going to believe what's about to happen right now!"
Truer words have never been shouted. I still don't really believe what happened, and it's been 14 years.
A Tribute to the Guy Who Wrote the Shittiest KISS Songs
OK, right off the bat, a tribute to any single KISS member is a stretch. It's not like history is littered with any of them doing impressive things on their own, unless you count Paul Stanley's recently unearthed Folger's commercial ...
... which is far and away my favorite KISS-related thing of all time. Now that deserves a tribute album.
I'm less convinced that Vinnie Vincent, the subject of a weird-as-shit compilation called KISS My ANKH, has earned such an "honor." For one thing, he was never even an official member of the band. His first appearance was on 1982's Creatures of the Night album, and by that I mean he's not even on the cover.
As if you'd know the difference.
You can see him, sans makeup, unfortunately, on the cover of the band's legendary publicity stunt of an album, Lick It Up.
However, because of a contract dispute, he never became an "official" member of the band. If your knowledge of early-'80s KISS albums is limited, here's what the track list for a tribute to that fleeting moment in rock history looks like:
All the "hits"!
First of all, who are those motherfuckers listed on the right? Glad you asked! The answer is "a ragtag ensemble of burned-out hair metal singers displaying the exact decision-making that put them out of business so many years ago." I suppose "nobody" works as well.
Also, they're cheating by putting "Shout It Out Loud" on that album. That was on Destroyer, a record that came out in 1976 and had nothing to do with Vinnie Vincent. If you recognize anything beyond that, it's most likely "Lick It Up," and only because every second of the video makes a sane person's skin crawl.
Who records an entire album in celebration of such a thing? I was so much more comfortable watching that Folgers commercial.
Drake's Creepy Tribute to Aaliyah
There isn't a lot to say about Drake's tribute album to Aaliyah, mostly because it never happened. It was first announced back in August 2012 and, at the time, it was supposed to be a posthumous Aaliyah album. Drake was brought on board as producer to "... reintroduce her music to a new generation that doesn't really understand how much influence she has in the music that they're listening to today." So, tweens, then? Kids, maybe? She hasn't even been dead 15 years. It's not like her songs are aging poorly. If this came out today ...
... it would do as well as anything else on the radio. I'm assuming, anyway. Who listens to the radio anymore? Still, to imply that she needs Drake's help to go over with listeners today is borderline insulting.
That didn't stop some of it from happening, though! One song, kind of weirdly titled "Enough Said," did end up getting released.
If you give it a listen, you'll understand why this was the precise moment when everyone from Aaliyah's family to Timbaland and Missy Elliott came out against the project. If you don't have time to listen, let this screenshot from a "lyrics" version of the video tell the story for you.
It sounds every bit as lazy as those words imply. It's basically her mumbling her way through half-written gibberish while Drake chimes in from time to time to assure everyone he'll start rapping soon. No one needs an entire album full of that shit. Eventually, Drake and the producer who cooked up the idea shelved the project for good, citing the fact that everyone hated them for considering it as their motive. If that's a disappointment to you, may these insanely ...
... creepy ...
... Photoshops ...
... that surfaced around the same time be all the unfortunate collaboration you could ever need.
A "Witch House" Tribute to the Music of Lindsay Lohan
Why is this tribute album insulting? Because it exists, mostly. That's not a knock against the music. It's just that no one releases a tribute to the music of Lindsay Lohan, especially not on the eve of her going back to prison, with the intention of showing respect.
This is nothing more than a ploy to capitalize on the downfall of a former starlet for promotional purposes. So, I guess that worked!
In this case, the cause being championed by way of the music of the other LL is a weird subgenre called "Witch House" or "Drag" or "Haunted House" or, I imagine, any number of other spooky names, depending on which of the nine people who've heard of it you're asking. It's almost impossible to describe if you aren't high on cough syrup, but I think this quote from a Pitchfork feature about one of the bands involved in the scene kind of says it all:
"Making club music somber and surreal is one of Burial's talents."
What's that? Burial is a dubstep act? No one cares, you get the point. Basically, "Witch House" makes this Lindsay Lohan song ...
... sound like the sort of thing you'd hear when the lead detective in a crime movie set in a dystopian future walks into a nightclub looking for information. Everyone's dancing all slow and shit and you're like, "No way will music ever sound like this."
Then you check out the soundtrack and find out that song is like 10 years old and there's a Daft Punk remix that Usher sings on.
In other words, it's fucking great. It's better than listening to a Lindsay Lohan album for real, anyway.
The Pink Floyd Disco Tribute
Listen, there's a disco tribute to Pink Floyd that came out in 1977, and it's amazing. What's insulting about that? It's probably my favorite Pink Floyd album, if that does anything for you. I don't care how many drugs I've done, it's never been enough to really be into Pink Floyd. But a disco cover of "Have a Cigar" that turns it from a sarcastic rant against the music business into something that sounds like it could have been the B-side to "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang?
Sign me up! If you've never heard of the band responsible for this masterpiece, that's because "Rosebud" isn't an actual band. A bunch of obscure French disco musicians just decided to get together to jam out on some Floyd, finally, in a way that even people who ingest massive amounts of cocaine can enjoy. Their cover of "Money" is pretty wonderful as well.
They even take a stab at the Syd Barrett-era classic "Interstellar Overdrive" ...
... which I'm guessing does absolutely nothing to make die-hard fans feel better about any of this.
Fortunately, I've never been into them much, so I can hear these songs and appreciate them for what they are: the most fun I've ever had listening Pink Floyd.
Sadly, the album has long since fallen out of print, which you can attribute to the fact that nobody likes to party anymore. So, getting your hands on a copy will be a challenge, unless you snap up one of the few remaining copies on Amazon. Otherwise, you're probably safe to just download it illegally somewhere. What the fuck are a bunch of French disco musicians going to do about it?
For more from ATB, check out 4 Difficult Jobs Everyone Secretly Thinks They'd Be Good At and 4 Ways America Screws the World (Nobody Talks About).
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