The great thing about music is that- I'M GOING TO MURDER YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY, AND READING THIS INTRODUCTION IS THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN STOP ME!!!
Oh, sorry about that. It's just that this is the third, and I think final, installment in a series of articles I've done about popular songs that many people mistakenly believe are sung by other artists. Read the first and the second. As you can see, I've tried repeatedly to explain the rules of this game, but both articles were riddled with comments by people who completely misunderstood the premise.
So let me be clear: This article is NOT about popular songs that are actually covers of songs written by other artists. I'm glad you know Bob Dylan wrote "All Along the Watchtower," made famous by Jimi Hendrix, and I'm super impressed that you also know Dolly Parton wrote the Whitney Houston hit "I Will Always Love You," but that is not my premise.
This article is about songs that people think are sung by artists who have nothing to do with them. Although humans have been getting stuff wrong for centuries, in recent years the Internet has really facilitated these mistakes. Some putz uploads a song incorrectly to YouTube or Napsteresque sites and suddenly hordes of young newbs fill their minds with flawed data, perpetuating the error.
Without further ado, here are five songs that a surprising number of people think are by the wrong artist.
Like most of the entries in this week's installment, I took this suggestion straight from the comments. I had to, because it never would have occurred to me that anyone could ever think that Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy" is by Nirvana. Partly because Cobain died before it ever came out, but more because it sounds nothing like Nirvana.
John Wozniak of Marcy Playground wrote this song. It peaked at No. 8 on the charts in 1997. It was an exciting time. Clinton was president, I was dating a young woman who would later become my wife and Kurt Cobain was super fucking dead. How dead was Cobain in 1997? So dead that even Courtney Love's music career was on the wane. So yeah, in 1997 Cobain was more about decomposing than composing.
I'm so sorry about that.
How Did This Happen? It might be a controversial theory, but I blame stupid people. Or young people. Or young, stupid people. Only in the most superficial way is this song Nirvana-esque. It's moody and hooky. So are half the women on SuicideGirls. It doesn't mean they fronted a three-piece that helped kill hair metal in the early '90s.
No. The correct answer is "Kill yourself."
Here's a terrible song you probably don't think about often, but you've definitely heard. It's called "Escape," although it's better known by its parenthetical title, "(The Pina Colada Song)." Did you know it reached No. 1 at the end of 1979, then dipped down to No. 2 for the first week of 1980, and then hit No. 1 again, making it the only song to hit No. 1 in two different decades? Did you? I didn't either. That's all Wikipedia. But I did know it was written and recorded by Rupert Holmes, and that's apparently a lot, because a bunch of clowns seem to think it's by Jimmy Buffett.
The wall of wrong.
In any event, here's Rupert doing it up with an introduction by the Village People, no less:
How Did This Happen? I also have a theory about this one, and it goes a little something like this: Jimmy Buffett sings lots of terrible songs that suck. "Escape" is a terrible song that sucks. No one knows who Rupert Holmes is. Voila! People assume Jimmy Buffett sang "Escape." Also, it's got a silly drink in it, like Buffett's "Margaritaville." It's really not rocket science, and I have to say, I'm not too offended by people who make this mistake. It's like someone getting pissed off about a Cracked reader mixing up Ian Fortey and Adam Tod Brown. Both have been shown to cause mental retardation in laboratory rats, and both have then eaten those rats.
Now we come to possibly the most forgivable mistake of all the entries in these three articles. In 1984, Scandal, featuring Patty Smyth, had a fairly large hit with "The Warrior," and as I'll explain below, lots of people think it's a Pat Benatar song. You can find some of those people here, but I'm going to embed the real clip, mostly because this video made a prepubescent Gladstone try super hard to go through puberty early. Especially at 3:30.
How Did This Happen? How did it not? To my mind, people mixed these up because they were both sung by tiny, sassy, sexy, big-voiced brunettes in the early '80s. Then I thought about it some more and, yeah, "The Warrior" could fit in with Benatar's stuff stylistically. Then I thought about it some more, and I realized that Pat and Patty are like totally the same name. (That one took me a minute. I'm just smarter than morons online, but not like, y'know, actually smart.)
Then I really put my thinking cap on. "The Warrior" and Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield" were both really big hits in 1984, and they both have violent shoot 'em love symbolism. You can understand why someone would conflate the two and think the lyric "shooting at the walls of heartache" would be in a song called "Love Is a Battlefield." And then I did something I really hate -- a little research. Both songs were co-written by the same person -- Holly Knight -- who apparently is a super hard chick to date. Other Knight compositions include "Breaking My Lover's Bones," "Happy Cage Fight Anniversary" and, of course, "Loving You Is a Cock-Punch to the Heart."
As a creature of the '90s, this one is very hard for me to believe. When Pearl Jam broke, it was incredibly important to me. I'd grown up idolizing the Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd. Not only was Pearl Jam the first band I loved that was of my generation, but I could relate to them personally. I wasn't gonna put on Aladdin Sane makeup and go down to the mall or walk around with my own laser light show, but I already dressed just like the Pearl Jam guys. I was happy to be called a "grunger" because I didn't have to be a poseur to fit in. That was already me.
Me being grungy.
So when Stone Temple Pilots scored a huge hit with "Plush" in 1992, everyone I knew hated it. Everyone called STP a bunch of obvious Pearl Jam clones who were merely aping a proven formula for success. Here's Pearl Jam doing "Jeremy," and here's STP doing "Plush":
But for some terrible, terrible people, that parlor trick of musical impersonation is enough to cause confusion, I guess.
Some people have tried to make a point by saying, "Well, of course it came up wrong -- you searched 'Pearl Jam' and 'Plush.'" Good point. Do me a favor and Google "David Bowie" and "Stairway to Heaven." Whaddya get? Oh, nothing? Thanks.
How Did This Happen? Well, as I expressed above, it seems to have happened by design, and shame on anyone who fell for it. I do have to drop one important postscript, however, and note that despite their early lack of individuality and integrity, STP arguably grew into the better band. That started to become clear to me during MTV Unplugged. Pearl Jam simply played their hits on acoustic guitars and basses. STP, however, showed greater musical depth, debuting one of their best songs, "Big Empty," and completely reinventing "Sex Type Thing," delivering it with a muted swing. STP continued to experiment (also with way too many drugs, unfortunately), while Pearl Jam seems hell-bent on delivering increasingly less sonically interesting albums in some bizarre misconception of integrity.
When I was a tiny little boy learning about comedy and satire from old repeats of All in the Family, M*A*S*H and The Jeffersons, the go-to joke for racism was that whites thought all blacks looked alike. You don't really hear that too often anymore. Instead, it seems the closest we come to that is thinking that any reggae song whatsoever must have been sung by Bob Marley. In the first of these columns, I showed you the shocking number of people who apparently believed Bob Marley did Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy," but it doesn't end there.
Everyone who has ever seen the show Cops knows its theme song is "Bad Boys." You might not know that song is by Inner Circle, and that's OK. We all forgive you. But why would anyone automatically assume it's by Bob Marley?
How Did This Happen? Well, sometimes when one mental deficient figures out how to have sex with a tone-deaf person after countless failed trial and error attempts, they have a baby. A senseless baby with absolutely no ear for music. That's the only explanation I got. Or just people thinking that Bob Marley sang every single reggae song that ever existed. That's my other theory. Thinking that Bob Marley sang "Bad Boys" is like thinking that Elvis Presley sang "Life Is a Highway" because they're both rock. (Oh, BTW, that's also not a Tom Petty song, as some people seem to think. It's by Tom Cochrane, but that's not important because it's one of the worst songs ever written.) Not many of you probably realize this, but in 2009, as part of a bill to rebuild our nation's infrastructure, President Obama included a proviso, allowing any black citizen the right to bitch-slap (once) anyone who mistakenly states that Bob Marley sang "Bad Boys." Twice, if the person making the mistake is a white guy with dreads.
People of all hairstyles can watch the new season of HATE BY NUMBERS. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.
For more from Gladstone, check out 5 Gay Guys Who Got More Women Than Most Straight Men and 5 People Cheated Out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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