The 4 Worst Moments from Otherwise Great Artists

I think you're a better fanboy if you don't praise everything. You have to own up to your heroes' failures.
The 4 Worst Moments from Otherwise Great Artists

I've written a lot of columns and made a lot of videos about things I hate, but the truth is, I really like liking stuff. I'm a tremendous fanboy of so many artists. In fact, it's the knowledge that greatness in art is possible that makes me so impatient with mediocrity. But here's the thing: Sometimes even the great ones really screw up, and when that happens, I get really confused and uncomfortable. I stare at the screen or speakers in disbelief. (If it's a bad song, then I guess staring at the speakers is a little stupid, but I don't know how to stare with my ears.)

The 4 Worst Moments from Otherwise Great Artists
Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

This guy gets it.

In any event, even though it pains me, I think you're a better fanboy if you don't praise everything. You have to own up to your heroes' failures, and when you do, you can be that much happier for their second coming. Everyone on this list is a hero of mine. Everyone on this list has done great work before and after these four moments I'm about to share, but, hey, let's be honest: Here are four horrible moments from great artists.

Doctor Who: A 900-Year-Old Time Lord Makes an Awful Joke That Only Would Have Worked in 1984 (And Not Even Then)

If you've followed my columns over the years, then you know I have very strong feelings about Doctor Who. It is my favorite show on television, it often reduces me to tears, there are moments of great comedy, and, quite simply, the show redefined my notions about the existence of a higher power in the universe.

Now, as fans know, the show's protagonist, The Doctor, has the ability to regenerate and has been played by several actors during its 50-year run. Although numerous talented thespians have handled the role admirably, my favorite Doctor will always be David Tennant.

The 4 Worst Moments from Otherwise Great Artists
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty

I'd tell you all the reasons that Tennant is my favorite, but I'm busy taking an online quiz to verify my heterosexuality right now.

So now we have one of my favorite actors in my favorite show. But wait, there's more. My favorite Doctor Who writer of all time is Russell T. Davies, who wrote a very good episode titled "Army of Ghosts." So what could go wrong? A good episode of a great show written by the best Doctor Who writer and starring the best Doctor Who actor. Seriously, how bad could this moment be? I mean just because The Doctor is about to confront some ghosts, what could he possibly do that's so unforgivable?

Then This Awful Thing Happened:

A Ghostbusters joke? In the 21st century? An alien 900 years old decides to make a hammy reference to a movie 30 years earlier than the time he's visiting. This scene reminds me of old sitcoms from the '80s where dads would put on a baseball hat backward and do an impromptu rap. In writing this article, I watched the clip about 10 times, and it physically hurt each time. Is that Ghostbusters-esque music going on in the background? What in the name of all that is holy is going on?

David Bowie: Having Established His Pop Bankability and Heterosexuality, Destroys Both With One Song

It's no secret that David Bowie is my universe. I'm such a huge fan that, when Bowie released his first album in 12 years (and his best in 33 years) this year, my first thought was "Oh, my God, this is so good, what if I had died? What if I had died before this day? Then I'd never be able to hear this album. Thank God I'm alive." Yes, I'm aware that is in no way a sane thought, but there it is. Anyway, the point is, I'm a huge Bowie fan and have been since I was 10.


Here is me at 16 before a night of getting no sex at a Halloween party.

Bowie spent the '70s amassing a cult following, experimenting with new and exciting musical forms from glam rock, to soul, to early electronica -- all while challenging social mores about sexuality. But then came the '80s, and Bowie had his biggest success making big, bold pop music. Also, the new Bowie was pretty damn hetero. Even Rolling Stone said so.

Duran Duran: .George Balanchine. Reagan's Secret Keister Memos R Stone DAVID BOWIE STRAIGHT

It was the '80s. Straight guys had hair like that.

So anyway, the '70s were about making rock history by breaking artistic and social boundaries, and the '80s were seemingly all about proving that Bowie could also be a middle-of-the-road, honest-to-goodness pop star.

Then This Awful Thing Happened:

So many things wrong here. First of all, it's just a terrible cover. It's everything that's wrong with the '80s. It's just soulless and synthetic. Then there's another problem -- specifically the gayness. Now don't get me wrong. This is not homophobia. In the '70s, Bowie used to play his guitarist's guitar on his knees, simulating oral sex. That was great. It was bold and brave and risque.

The 4 Worst Moments from Otherwise Great Artists

The cool gay.

But unlike the Ziggy Stardust days, this video was gay in a distinctly uncool way. For the first time, Bowie and Jagger seemed like guys you wouldn't want to hang with -- not because they might start having sex while you're trying to watch the game, but because they'd probably bitch about what Leon said about Victor at the club. It's not the gayness; it's the boring, married, decidedly unhip gayness.

The 4 Worst Moments from Otherwise Great Artists

The uncool gay.

For Bowie, this was the start of a period of increasing lameness that lasted another two years, until Reeves Gabrels and Tin Machine saved his musical soul. Then Iman staked a claim that stuck on his heterosexuality.

Barry Levinson: The Director Who Masters Slice of Life Comedy/Drama Jumps into a Pool of Fantasy Awful

Barry Levinson is one of my favorite directors. Why? Well, he's made two of my favorite movies of all time: Diner and Avalon. Diner is a hilarious, heartfelt, perfectly executed coming-of-age story. It's also vital for any good game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon:


Police Academy 4? OK, um ... DINER! One Degree of Kevin Bacon!

Then Levinson made Avalon, which I've seen a few dozen times and which captures basically everything I feel about being a Jew and an American. Woody Allen, Philip Roth, and Neil Simon never spoke to me in the same way. These are some of the only Jews I've ever seen on screen that I recognized. The film has almost no narrative thread and is held together by major life events and Fourth of July and Thanksgiving celebrations, but it's still so perfectly executed and beautiful that I never tire of it. This trailer, containing mostly Randy Newman's amazing score, gives you a good idea:

Oh, Levinson also made Rain Man and Good Morning, Vietnam, so, y'know, he was good at making great movies that weren't autobiographical, too.

Then This Awful Thing Happened:

The 1992 disaster known as Toys. Picture Willy Wonka. Then make it a toy factory. Then kill Willy and give the factory to the guy who played the lesser Dumbledore, then have Robin Williams as son-of-Willy try to save the soul of the company. Or DON'T do that, because it's awful and looks like this:

Considering how much I love Levinson and most Levinson films, I tried really hard not to hate this. I failed. As hard as it is to believe, not even the comedic genius that is LL Cool J could save this movie! And while Robin Williams' nonstop mugging and riffing worked perfectly for films like Good Morning, Vietnam and Aladdin, here you're just kind of left to wonder if there shouldn't be some dialogue or something.

Chris Cornell: One of the Most Talented Hard Rockers of All Time Sells Out Harder Than Any Whore in History

Now, I understand that many of you don't even accept the premise that Chris Cornell is one of the most talented hard rockers of all time. You don't accept Soundgarden as a '90s Led Zeppelin where Cornell could sing as well or better than Robert Plant and write as well as Jimmy Page. That's OK. I do. And then there's the work he did outside of Soundgarden, too, building a formidable collection of classics, from steam-powered metal like "Jesus Christ Pose" to plodding Sabbath-esque rockers like "Slaves and Bulldozers" to folk rock classics like "Preaching the End of the World" to sexy blues numbers like "All Night Thing" to one of my all-time favorite songs, "The Day I Tried to Live":

(Oh, by the way, notice how I didn't mention "Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun"? Yeah, that's because those songs -- the only songs many detractors know -- are not very representative, but keep on singing "Black Hole Suuuuuuuun" as a clever response for why Soundgarden sucks. You'll also notice I didn't mention Audioslave, which I'll admit is pretty mediocre but for some shining moments, like "I Am the Highway.")

Anyway, there was a bunch of rock greatness ...

Then This Awful Thing Happened:

In 2009, Chris Cornell decided it would be a good idea to collaborate with Timbaland and release an awkward album of chilled overprogrammed pop bullshit. It's not just that it's poppy -- it's bad pop. This turd sounds like Cornell took "The Way" by Fastball, mixed it with "Smooth" by Rob Thomas and Santana, and then asked Timbaland to take a sequencer/canned drums dump all over it. The other amazing thing about this song and video is that it sometimes makes Rock Sex God Chris Cornell look like the least likely guy to get laid at a party.



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