Alex’s Top 20 Hate Songs #10-1

For someone who writes and talks so much about obnoxiously weird music it might come across as a bit precious that I am so keen to rag on what are really nothing more than innocent pop songs.  As many people will argue, not here of course, they are innocent little songs and rarely deserve any significant scorn and aren’t worth the amount of loathing I provide them.  Yes, this is all true.

#10 Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama

Released in 1974, Sweet Home Alabama is weirdly a lyrically complicated song. One could interpret it as a pro-Wallace racist anthem, ripe with good ‘ol boyism and fantasies of lynching, while others observe it as a more nuanced exploration of the state and its complicated issues.  I am willing to give Skynyrd the benefit of the doubt, considering their own commentary on the song, but their twangy concoction created a nightmare we as a collective society are still suffering through.  Not to mention their adoration of the confederate flag does not yield much support from yours truly.

Regardless of the true nature of the lyrics, Sweet Home Alabama has turned into an anthem for the deep south, and its historically dicey cultural beliefs.  Not all mind you, and this is not a condemnation of southern culture, but for that Confederate flag waving aspect of their history.  This song being played a wedding or social event turns everyone into Robert E. Lee for four minutes and shit gets weird fast.  You notice people start pulling out their stars and bars and morph into some kind of “rebel”.  Nothing makes the air feel more segregated than Sweet Home Alabama.

I don’t think the band intended it, but the song is sort of a racial anthem at this point.  The people I have met who like to play this song in a non-ironic way tend to have felt it was okay to tell me that “all blacks grow up to be the same” or “If they acted more like whites we wouldn’t have any problems”.  It enables a strange part of white people’s brains where suddenly they think its acceptable to barf out racist rhetoric and just act like genuinely terrible human beings.

It is a shame too as the song itself is not actually bad.  It is musically clever number, one of many by Skynyrd.  There is an array of fun solos, choral sing-a-longs, and shifts in vocal delivery.  On all levels it is well crafted.  It unfortunately got bogged down in adoration by people who want to touch the hair of black strangers.  It’s mired in a strange social muck and is incapable of escaping from it.  Perhaps it is the memory of a black out drunk southerner calling me a “pretentious poetry writing f***** n*****” who loved to jam out to Sweet Home Alabama.  Him and his roommate would get hammered on cheap cider and make fun of the socially awkward person who lived in the same common house.  That is Sweet Home Alabama’s audience in my mind.  How tragic a fate for a song.

#9 Lee Greenwood – God Bless The USA

Overly patriotic chest thumping is something I can never get behind.  Even as a lowly Boy Scout there was something about the group think of trying to make America #1 into an objective fact instead of an opinion that threw me off.  Perhaps its because I entered my pre-teen years determined to be a contrarian smart-ass, or perhaps it was because my parents came here to avoid that kind of political rhetoric on the other side of the iron curtain, but whatever the catalyst may have been I lived my life with a high dosage of suspicion and “Yea buts” in my verbal arsenal.  Perhaps it went a bit far in high-school when I declared myself a communist for the sake of being a total prick, but, well, you get the picture.

I distinctly recall the first time I heard Lee Greenwood’s God Bless The USA.  It goes back to that time in the Boy Scouts, where every so often we would be tasked with doing a flag burning ceremony for American Flags that have been seriously damaged and no longer are presentable.  There is a serious level of pomp and circumstance during these ceremonies, it is deathly serious and you dare not speak, not even a snicker during all the saluting, ten-hutting, intricate flag-folding, and high knee marching.  It’s all a bit much in my book.  I get the symbolism behind the flag, but to laud such a symbolic item without also considering the critiques that surround its meaning is an indicating of poor critical thinking skills.  The flag burning ceremony was just an extra dose of such.

Lee Greenwood seems to have a serious lack of these skills as well, as his song blasted on slightly blown out speakers during these flag burning ceremonies it became painfully clear.  Nothing makes a schmaltzy overly patriotic song worse than it being distorted beyond recognition, or I guess that makes it better if you are a masochist.  Even as a 11 year old with barely a single armpit hair I realized this song was full of shit.  I get it, an intricate 30 minute epic about the complexities surrounding American politics may be a bit much, but such blind-sided patriotic fellatio makes me want to hurl.  It is so over the top, so obnoxious, so unforgiving in its grandeur and bombast.  I’m pretty sure this is one of those songs they blast in Guantanamo Bay to harass suspected terrorists.

The song itself, content aside, is pretty forgettable.  It’s a chuggy, floppy, slog that would have been instantly forgotten if not for its patriotic masturbation.  Those lyrics though, oh my god those lyrics, are embarrassingly terrible.  Any argument to the contrary is flawed and being made by someone who probably considers Adam Sandler films high art.  It’s downright abysmal, aggressively on the nose, and completely void of anything thought inducing.  I can’t imagine the mood room Lee had created for himself when writing this song, no doubt face first in a pile of SOMA no doubt.  America is awesome, like super awesome, is the extent of the content.  The turgid citing of locations because “aw shucks America has lakes and shit” is enough to tempt making yourself go deaf.  Yes, Minnesota has lakes, yes Texas has Plains, yes we have at least four cities, but all of this is true of Germany, France, Russia, China, Iraq, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  It is like a 1st grader wrote this song.

Except a 1st grader would not have started this song with some creepily pro-authoritarian lyrics and ended with a grammar error.  Break the opening verse down “If tomorrow all the things were gone / I’d worked for all my life / And I had to start again / With just my children and my wife /I’d thank my lucky stars / To be living here today / Cause the flag still stands for freedom / And they can’t take that away” and you don’t get a pretty picture of prospering under the American dream, but of having everything stripped from you and being glad you have been robbed of your dignity under the American banner.  That’s pretty horrendous in my book.  Why would you want any of what is being said, because the flag still stands for freedom?  That’s great, the flag stands for freedom, but you’ve been robbed of your worldly possessions and livelihood.  This type of blind patriotism is wrong in itself.  Paired with a poorly written song and you have something equivalent to a North Korean propaganda piece.

Then you hit that stomach churning eye-rolling refrain “And I’m proud to be an American / Where at least I know I’m free”.  At least?  What the hell does ‘at least’ mean?  “Hey, the police just seized all of my property and shot my dog, but AT LEAST I know I’m free”?  How does that even make sense.  Please explain how this makes sense.  Lee, come on the show and defend this garbage.  Then also defend how you end the song with “Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land / God bless the USA”.  So do you have doubt?  Is this song a tongue-in-cheek parody that has secretly gone under the radar?  Or did you not think “Cause there are no doubts” was too un-American because it makes grammatical sense?  Lee, Lee, what is wrong with you Lee?  Why did you do this to us?  I’ll never forgive you.

#8 Three Days Grace – Riot

Three Days Grace falls under the larger umbrella of stupid mid 00’s radio friendly alt/pop/punk/metal that is neither soft enough for sincerity or harsh enough to be relegated to 20 person basement shows.  It is defanged metal designed for people who wear Tapout shirts and have at least one hoodie that is camouflaged.  It’s blue collar trash, except without any of the down to earth adoration.  It’s smug and pandering, a corporate suits idea of what appeals to the working class.  I’m sure Three Days Grace did not come together for the sheer purpose of exploitation, but they have done nothing to change that image either.  At least Lynyrd Skynyrd writes clever songs.  Three Days Grace has a stomach churning quality, with a truly terrible singer that can not properly growl nor actually push out powerful painful calls to the sky.  They write songs with names like Pain and I Hate Everything About You.

So in reality I don’t fully recall this song in full, I am reading the lyrics to the verses and have no genuine understanding of how the song goes during those times.  Shoot I barely know how the music sounds during the refrain.  I only recall hearing this song off in the distance on multiple occasions, perhaps once or twice on the radio.  It is not a song I am drastically familiar with, which may confuse you as to why it is so far up on this list.  That is because the little memory I have of this song leads me explode with ravenous frustration.  Frustration, is the key word here, not anger, not rage, but frustration, due to its knuckle dragging simplicity and its think-tank generated sound.  That refrain, that god-forsaken nightmare of a refrain is some of the worst music I have ever heard.  The vocalists idiotic screaming of “Let’s Start A Riot” is the most mouth-breathing response you can have to wanting to to stick it to the man.  Cement meets forehead is the only adequate response to this.

Let’s start a riot, let us break that down.  Those lyrics alone are silly.  To, in music form, make such a suggestion is the equivalent of asking, in song form of course, if you can rock all night and party every day. Great idea Three Days Grace, but why don’t you sing about how you are already rioting, how you already are taking on the system, or how you are already lit that dumpster on fire.  Limp Bizkit‘s Break Stuff makes more sense, and that is something I never could imagine I would say or write.  Everytime singer of Three Days Grace shrieks his terrible vocal chords, offering this suggestion of riot starting five more people join the secret police.  Although funny enough I mostly have heard this song be played by law enforcement.  Protest songs are not meant as polite suggestions presented in a slightly angry veneer, but as forceful interjections.

I can only figure that they were going for a faux-Rage Against The Machine style protest anthem, but what they failed to understand is that Rage either had poetic lyrics, music of fire-breathing intensity, or both, where this is some child screaming like an ignorant twat.  You may say “But Alex, you cynical, pompous, elitist snob, what about Killing In The Name Of?  That song has like….10 words”, and yes it does, and yes you would be right, except that you are wrong.  Rage, in its simplicity talks about how Klansmen take office, racially oppress, and manipulate the system.  Riot has lyrics that sound like the emo version of the intro to Cheers, but instead of getting a beer with your friends you start a Riot…A RIOT.  Both are simple, but one uses simplicity to its advantage, shedding any pretense and providing a driving point to the ears of its listeners while the other is just simple in a “bless their heart” kind of way.  It it also mostly listened to by people who make snide facebook posts about people who actually attend riots.

#7 Journey – Don’t Stop Believing

Although I had an entire hair-metal section I can’t help but feel a few special songs deserve their own place on this list, one being Journey‘s obnoxious sing-a-long Don’t Stop Believing.  Let the record show that I, without shame, love karaoke.  I love being on stage and singing along, rather poorly, to the songs that I adore and having a brief moment in the spotlight.  Stick with that “scene” long enough and you begin to notice some trends, what songs get a big pop, the types of people who go, and how to totally kill the vibe of a happening room.  For the most part, however, you are all in it together as each performer is supporting one another in their brave exposure of the vocal talents no matter how limited they may be.

One group of karaoke attendees consistently puts a massively sour feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I have learned to forgive people using Sweet Caroline as a cheap way to get audience participation, or I Want It That Way for the brief shriek of 90’s nostalgia you get from the audience, but one thing I cannot forgive is the consistently wretched and ear shattering performances you get of Don’t Stop Believing.  It is not just that this song is pretty obnoxious on its own, I recommend this brilliant explanation as to why, but rather that it is only performed, and I mean ONLY, performed by a gaggle of white women.  Even if when you enter a karaoke night and there are no white women ready to sing Don’t Stop Believing they will manifest out of goddamn air to sing Don’t Stop Believing.

Even worse is how consistently disastrous of a performance they put on for no one but themselves.  It always goes as such, 4 to an infinite number of white women, hammered on Bud-lite or something equally disgusting stumble on stage, grab the microphones and all crowd around while they shout the first verse and chorus in a painfully out of tune manner.  Maybe Melisa with one S has a decent voice, but she is outshadowed by Kalyn, and everyone else that spells their name with a Y or a GH for no damn reason who just shout like they are trapped in a well.  That is, unless they are giggling profusely at how “funny” and “random” they are being, completely disregarding their singing duties.  Then, naturally, they realize the song is not 45 seconds long and start to lose focus.  Maybe 2 or 3 of them will keep going while Ashleigh will check her Twitter or make a Snapchat or some shit and Kaylyn with two Ys will drunkenly wander away.  They may regroup for the last screaming of ‘Don’t Stop Belieeeeevin’ after that idiotically 80’s guitar solo, scream “WHOOO” and then be done with the whole thing.  They are pleased with themselves, but don’t give a fuck that we all had to endure that nightmare for their benefit.  Anytime I hear this song I immediately am taken back to every karaoke night that was briefly spoiled by these antics.  I guess Journey can’t be directly blamed for this, but they aren’t doing enough to stop it.

I also can’t forgive that ass-hole who ruined my annual New Years tradition of dancing to Fela Kuti‘s Zombie by turning on Don’t Stop Believin’ with a minute left in the song because he thought the room wanted to hear it. No one asked him to be on DJ duty, but he just “knew” that “people want to hear this song”.  That is the other thing with this song. People seem to assume everyone else wants to hear it and that is why we play it.  There is this strange belief that we are all secretly itching to hear Don’t Stop Believin’ when I genuinely believe this is not true.  I don’t think any of use want to listen to Don’t Stop Believin’, but we all assume someone in the room does so might as well get that shit over with.  Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you, we all don’t wanna listen to this stupid song.  We can skip it.  We are better than this.

#6 Adele – Someone Like You

I’ve mentioned a few times on the website that Adele, while a good singer, is a heinously poor songwriter and an equally bad lyricist.  To be fair, I am not certain what of her music is her own creating or some committee of *ahem* “songwriters” who try to write bangers and radio hits.  Regardless of Adele’s actual role in writing in this revolting schlock she is responsible for putting her name on it, and regardless of her responsibility in creating it she did nothing to stop it.  Adele has a lot of explaining to do, and is officially on notice….or wait….maybe she was on notice already?  Double notice!

Someone Like You is another example of sloppy song writing that appeals to a mass audience because of her vocal prowess rather than any clever music writing.  The lyrics come across as weird and creepy; “oh hey, I know you dumped me, but I’m just going to show up to your house like a the villain in a horror film”.  How is this endearing, how is this supposed to capture our attention, and why are we connecting with her?  How are we supposed to feel for Adele when she comes across as modestly irrational.  The story of a lost love is classic song writing 101, cliche’, but if done right can be a real treat.  Adele doesn’t do that, she instead lumbers along at something like 10 beats per minute about how she can’t leave her ex alone even though he has moved on.  I am unsure if we are meant to feel sorry for her, because I do not.  I feel as though she needs therapy to process her emotions.  A Zoloft prescription wouldn’t be all bad either.  Adele singing a ballad to her bottle of Zoloft would be great.  I would buy that single five times.

Then there is the delivery, although I’ve dolled out on Adele for her vocal chops earlier, I honestly find her singing here pretty rough and at times shrill.  As an introduction to Adele I was left wondering what the fuss was about.  She felts competent, but not captivating, and here she felt unpolished and not in an endearing way.  When she tries to hit the high note while singing “Don’t Forget Me/ I Beg” it sounds like a bad take was left in the mix. If it was meant to sound imperfect or pained it fails on all levels.  Adele never does imperfect or pained.  She does crystal clean bellowing with nary an imperfection.  To change the rules for one tiny moment of one song doesn’t work.  It feels weirdly misplaced and pulls me out of the song to any degree I was invested.

Adele has this tendency to create pretty and clean songs.  There is a reason she has sold more records than the ocean has fish.  Her music is inoffensive and appeals to the broadest possible audience due to its strategy of adhering to the lowest common denominator. People buy her albums and put them on in the background at the family Christmas party and you hear everyone go “I LOVE Adele”.  False, you love parts of Adele, you love maybe 5 songs from Adele, but no one loves Adele.  You do not mind that Adele is on in the background of every antique shop in America, but you do not love Adele.  That is because there is nothing about Adele to love.  I don’t mean Adele the person, I am sure she is a nice person, I am glad to said Beyonce’ should have won a Grammy, but Adele the musician; she is paper thin.  She has a nice voice, and can create songs that play well in super markets.  She almost feels like she was engineered in a lab to be appealing to a wide audience rather than to be sincere as an artist.  Adele has fallen in and out of love.  That is about all I know about Adele.  Her songs move at a glacial pace, talk about subjects you know, and are pretty.  It’s like dangling a shiny piece of string in front of a cat.

Someone Like You the song is pretty vulgar, a stalkers anthem that appeals to the young and old alike, but it really is a smaller piece of a more nefarious con job.  Adele, like other musicians before her, utilizes the most banal song writing, the most uninspired lyrics, and the laziest presentation to create something that appeals to a mass audience, but is really for no one.  No one notices the lyrics are creepy, because everyone just instinctively loves Adele like a secret program was activated in our brains.  It’s music for people who don’t like music.  This is why everyone likes Adele, but no one loves Adele.  This is how she can pack a stadium full of people of diverse age ranges. It’s like Applebees, the music.  Fuck that.

#5 Taylor Swift – Love Story

Let it be known that I am not anti-T. Swift/Swizzle/Swazzle/Swifter/Swiffer or any variation of the sort.  She is a credible pop-singer with a penchant for catchy hooks and beats.  There are fair arguments to be made about her musical credibility regarding who is writing her songs, and how she got to where she is, but for what its worth I don’t think she is malicious, just privileged, and potentially a bit oblivious to her privilege.  She, as a person, doesn’t make me mad.  If you were to get frustrated at every pop star who has had a questionable rise to fame you would be spending all day punching your radio and while I may have broken every radio in my vicinity you do not have to.  As far as pop stars go she is pretty low on the offensive list compared to others.

Depending on her next release I assume her ‘country’ roots will soon dissolve into the passage of time, a curious footnote that chronicled her beginning, but was abandoned as she realized Pro Tools is so much easier to use than playing actual instruments accurately.  What history might also forget is that she was relatively young when she was first seriously noticed by radio lovers.  What history might hopefully remember, however, is that she was an absolutely terrible song-writer early in her career.  Now I understand this is all predicated on the fact that she does indeed write her own material, but lets leave that part aside for another cynical article, so for the next assortment of sentences lets just assume she is the principal writer of her lyrics and music.  It would make sense too, because as a late-teen early-twenty something she made a really, and I mean really bad song-writer.  Speak Now was the album where she finally was able to demonstrate some capabilities as a song-writer and displayed a certain level of maturity, the last great hurrah of her country origin, but my anguish in her not venture further don that road is for another day.  Her earlier material, such as You Belong With Me, and Love Story sound like the works of a ten year old with an extremely naive look at what love is.  You Belong With Me, which is effectively a slut-shaming anthem because cheerleaders are dumb bitch sluts, apparently, is its own brand of stupid, but Love Story really takes the facepalm cake.

The lyrics are simple enough at first, immature, but simple enough.  Boy loves girls, girl loves boy, parents don’t want the kids to be together, they run into the woods so they can be together.  I get all this and I follow it with polite head nods and a “go on” look,as I often give my speakers, wondering what the epic finale to this tantalizing saga will be.  Two star-crossed lovers who dare to be together despite their parents desires?  How scandalous, how ripe for suspense and drama.  I await on baited breath the shocking conclusion.  Perhaps it will take a The Decemberists style turn and someone will be murdered, perhaps everyone will be murdered or perhaps she will learn that the best things in life don’t always last forever.  The store of lovers who cannot be together is one of the most classic of tales, and can teach us a lot about the power of love both good and bad.

Except none of this happens.  In fact, nothing really happens at all.  “Romeo” just goes “Hey I talked to your dad and he was cool with me marrying you go get yourself prettied up”.  What kind of garbage conclusion is that to this story?  Had Taylor Swift read the story of Romeo and Juliet prior to this? Was she aware that the two lovers kill themselves in the end? Was she aware that the story of two 14 year old kids committing suicide was meant to be tongue in cheek rather than romantic?  This song ends with no payoff, no drama, and no sense of excitement, just two brats who  love each other and can be together after two minutes of tension.  Oh cool, two teenagers that love each other can be together, what could possibly go wrong?

Compare it to a song like Don’t Hurt Yourself or Daddy Lessons from Beyonce‘s Lemonade where she discusses the nuanced complexities of love and relationships.  She even goes into how her dad wasn’t particularly into Beyonce‘s partner and how she chose to navigate those issues.  Taylor instead goes for the “giggle giggle, love it cute”.  No you fuckers, love is weirdly complex and frustrating and beyond someone’s Thought Catalog four paragraph essay that was written after a failed half hour on Tinder and a few cocktails later.  None of that happens here.  There is this modestly tension filled build up and then….nothing, absolutely nothing.

Taylor’s love songs always tend to be her worst, she reduces the subject into the most trivial and undeveloped of thoughts and ideas.  Love, to Taylor, is reductionist, primal, and basic, and her subject matter shows it.  Her lyrics in general aren’t ever rocket science, but they work and as she has gotten older she has moments of whit.  The problem is once she starts singing about relationships it spirals out of control and presents itself like she did her research on love  from a few episodes of Full House.  Love Story is the worst culprit and makes me want to preemptively put a restraining order on Taylor before she can write a simpleton’s take on our relationship.  No, Tay Tay, baby aint saying yes.

#4 Dashboard Confessional – Hell On The Throat

Jesus H. Christ, what were we doing in the early 2000s.  Mountains of angst-ridden pop-punk rock music plagued our airwaves as we wrote on Myspace about how much e hated George W. Bush.  Granted, most of it was innocent enough, not terrible, but modestly embarrassing in hindsight.  To the genre’s credit, one thing it never lacked was sincerity.  Songs wore their hearts on their sleeves, their subject matter as apparent as the color of the sky, and with the concept of metaphor completely lost on them.  You know the type of band, and you know the type of song; anthems like I’m Not Ok, Ocean Avenue, or Sugar We’re Going Down, while all relatively varied in their sound all had that same feel.  They all oozed of on the nose commentary, personal disclosure, and a refusal to be anything but genuine.  Yes e can make fun of them for the silly clothes, and cringe worthy lyrics, but these are fun songs, and even as much of a grumpy curmudgeon as I am I find them to be amusing enough.

All of this is fine enough, while a bit silly I never found the genre insulting, just rather bland with most albums having maybe 4 songs of really interesting music and then a bunch of filler to get the CD on the racks at Target.  We were still buying CDs at Target in those days.  Like the Nu-Metal eruption a few years earlier the propensity for samey bands all fighting for the same space led to greater efforts to stick out from the pack.  My Chemical Romance didn’t invent the “emo” look, but they marketed it like Silicon Valley level geniuses, Yellowcard had a violin because reasons, and Fall Out Boy had….a really bad book, and while none of these were particularly mind blowing ideas they all went back to that notion of sincerity and being true to themselves, no matter how embarrassing that may have been.

Problem is, that sincerity can be a double edged sword, we value one’s vulnerability, but once we find someone to be “overexposing” it becomes creepy and unpleasant.  You know what I mean, that person you just met who is telling you that their alcoholic father used to beat them, or that their last relationship was a monstrous train wreck, or that they can fit a whole fist inside them.  The person who divulges their entire life on social media.  You know, that person.  Sincerity can easily turn off people as quickly as it warms us to others.  While Hell On The Throat does not go into that realm, per say, in feeling it does.  It is suffocating in its effort to express its pain that it borderlines on masochistic to listen to.  That refrain “Years in the cold/ burn in my throat” is further insulting considering Chris Carrabba, a failed Adam Levine, is from Florida.  Dude, you don’t know cold, and when the ruggedly handsome man is trying to spin you a sap song its hard to not just smash your head into the nearest window while wondering “What does this goon got to worry about?”  Loaded, ruggedly handsome man in Florida is really struggling.  Poor guy.  Must be hard.  Pay my student loans, jerk.

This is song is not drivel, its drivel on steroids, a ravenous tugging at your heartstrings that overplays its hands and leads you backing out of the room because you are frankly embarrassed for listening.  This song may have beautiful as a teenager, and if you were a teenager in the early/mid 00’s you know you adored this song, because teenagers are terrible at emotional regulation.  We are all over the placed in our adolescence, incapable of keeping ourselves grounded.  Grandiose emotional displays make sense to adolescents.  All of which means that songs that bear all in such an obnoxious manner were all the more endearing as they spoke to our to worst selves.  As we get older our desire to listen to such outrageous displays of heartache mostly wains.  That is not to say that we do not love a sappy song, who does not love a sappy song?  Rather we seek a slightly more nuanced sappy song.  One that has a playful demeanor in its suffering or is not being sung by someone from a JC Penny catalog.  Suddenly it feels uncomfortable to listen to a man expose himself so viciously to its listener.

None of this is to say that singers should be stoic mid-westerners who are incapable of emoting, no, but when you look at the great “sufferers” in music, such as Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, Jason Pierce, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, or even Kurt Cobain you see that they knew how to balance pain and anguish with other musical elements such as playful folk or R&B melodies, mountains of psychedelic dystonia, confessions of substance abuse, or pure aggression.  Their music was rarely so lop-sided in its presentation .  If their music was a cake it would not just be sweet, but dynamic with hints of coffee, bitter chocolate, or even hazelnut.  Chris Carrabba’s song would be a Walmart sheet cake sugar overload.

#3 Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are

I have an unfair disdain for Bruno Mars, listeners of the podcast know that, but I need to make a clear distinction here.  I don’t hate Bruno the musician; he is an incredibly talented singer and multi-instrumentalist.  He may not be the second coming of Prince as I have heard him be described, but he has plenty of time in his career to continue to grow and elevate his talents and craft.  This all being said, I hate Bruno the songwriter, the artist, the smug ass-hole in a fedora.  His songs typically are bottom barrel pop trash that lack the edge, whit, or pure sexiness of Prince.  Bruno Mars writes song that you can play at the roller-skating rink or put on a Kidz Pop CD.  His singles are pristine polished jewels that lack any soul.  Either Bruno has a serious dopamine issue or he knows how to exploit listeners for max profits.

That on its own is enough to get on my shit list as I’m a self-loathing musical purist that loves a good story about a broke artist doing nothing for profit.  Not knowing his song writing process, however I can not take too many swings at his integrity.  I mean I could, but I do not think it would be exactly fair to Bruno.  Bruno and I can hash that out another day.  What tends to grab me about his work is how nice and optimistic his music is.  Considering my disdain for the previous song this may come across a bit contradictory, as if a song can only be too sad or too happy.  You would be wrong.  Your song can be happy or sad.  It can be anything,  presentation is key.  Happy songs are obviously less common, but there are plenty of good ones that exude optimism and celebratory joy, such as the entire genre of disco.

Bruno, like Mr. Carrabba before him, lacks tact.  He lacks the ability to package his “good for you” message in anything but in the most blunt of manners.  The song is about how Bruno wants to compliment someone, but like a woman walking by a New York City construction site they won’t take his praise.  You could look at it as him saying we are too hard on ourselves, that we old ourselves to impossible levels and we should truly like ourselves for who we are, but you can also take it, as I do, as Bruno is being super creepy and refusing leave this poor woman alone.  The doling out of compliments and lauding goes well beyond “bae is cute” into pure brown nosing, “nice-guy”isms that is nauseating to the ears.  Every line reads like a Hallmark card, or what a twelve year old thinks is romantic.  It is a shame too, as it is insulting to us the listener.  We are more sophisticated than that.  We are able to understand the conflict of loving someone from a far and do not need Bruno to hammer on the praise like barbecue sauce to ribs.

With lines like “Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her trying” I’m left wondering what on god’s green Earth is he talking about.  Who tries to make their hair fall a certain way?  Am I this out of touch with reality?  Do people put effort into how their hair falls?  The whole song reads like this with shit like “Her lips, her lips, I could kiss them all day if she’d let me/ Her laugh her laugh, she hates but I think it’s so sexy”.  Not only is it just so contrite, but its also weirdly superficial.  What do you think of this woman’s personality?  What about her political views?  What do you like about her ability to express her feelings?  None of this comes through.  It’s the G rated version of “HER ASS IS FIIIIIRE”.  Bruno knew they couldn’t play that version inside Kroeger, so they had to tone it down from “I love tonguing her ass-hole” to “Oh, her eyes, her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shining”, which does not even make sense.  Are you saying her eyes cause light pollution?  That is a genuine concern.  She may need to see a doctor.  Bruno’s vomit slop makes Bikini Kill‘s Rebel Girl sound like the love song of our generation.  Actually, that my not be too far off.

I put this song on the list initially for its cutesy musical play and overly nice lyrics and cringe inducing schmaltz, but the more I read the lyrics, the more I write about it, the more I hate it for its shallow play at love and courtship.  It is more nefarious than a soulless corporate nice nice song, instead being a lauding over someone’s looks, and laugh, but being incapable of looking beyond it.  Bruno’s fuzzy song is more sinister than it’s glossy sheen lends itself to be perceived.  Somehow in the span of a few paragraphs he went from “who the fuck does this guy think he is?” to “fuck this guy”.

#2 Train – Hey Soul Sister

Nearing the end of this list I have struggled with completing the write-up for these last few songs due to how angry I am becoming when writing.  These last few are less frustrating and more sources of pure spite.  Train, is on my shit list for many reasons.  They are one of the few bands that I find more soulless than Maroon 5 which is a massive accomplishment.  They are a band with no central identity, a collection of painfully dull adult contemporary songs that vary wildly in style and theme, with the only common denominator being they are bland and designed to be played over decades old department store speakers.  I could write a whole thesis on why Train is pure toxic waste that should have its existence erased from our collective conscious.  If you own a Train album you are part of the problem.  It’s like the Thomas Kinkade of music. Might be pretty upon first glance, but really its pure bullshit and an insult.

This specific plague of bad music in song form is a dire combination of disgustingly bland music and purely strange lyrics. The cutesy ukulele string plucking that on its own induces eye-rolls so savage they risk permanent blindness.  It is frothing schlock from the mouth and appears to have been designed via flowchart to both piss me off as much as possible and come across as sweet and innocent as humanly capable. It screams from the rooftops “This is a cute love song” without deserving it, and you are supposed to nod your head and go “yes, this three some odd minutes of sound cancer sure is a cute love song”.  You can have a cute ukulele song.  There are plenty of them.  Ukulele’s are cursed to be cute, look at them, they are tiny guitars, and tiny things are cute.  So at first you are disarmed by the basket of kittens style intro, your heart is warmed because you are being swayed by the charming plucks of those teeny little strings.

Like I have said before, I hate when a piece of forces me to feel a way in such an apparent manner.  Aside from the rare oddity, a song is a failure when it blatantly tells me how I am supposed to be feeling.  This includes when super heavy metal songs tell me to feel super heavy angry, when I am told to be overly sad or happy, or when I am told to Cha-Cha real smooth.  Yes, there are exceptions, such as when I am told to shout, wave my hands in the air like I don’t care, or twist, but the rule is stronger than the exceptions here.  A song should be a persuasion rather than a command.  Hey Soul Sister is a vile offender of this rule.  It violently forces you to feel warm, fuzzy, and in love without deserving it.  Pat Monahan has the voice to carry the message, but the charisma of a piece of wood.  The song is a formula for love, but love is not math, and Pat just looks like a douche-bag for his efforts.  That ukulele wears its welcome out very quickly.

Stepping away from the music itself we get to the lyrics.  These lyrics are cosmically bad, an uncanny display of hatred for the English language and an assault on the sung word itself.  In reading them to prepare for this article I was taken aback by how truly incoherent, and miserable they are.  Lets just look at the refrain: “Ain’t that Mister Mister On the radio, stereo”.  Of all the musical references to make in 2009 Mister Mister (God bless ya Pat Mastelotto), is just one of the strangest choices to make.  Who is going to get that?  Maybe 10 people who will hear this song will go “Oh fuck yea Mister Mister references”. Maybe it is for the indie cred? Who knows, I hate that I am that fixated on a single line of this sonic throw-up.

That single line aside, the rest of the song is based on Pat’s (Monahan not Mastelotto) perception of what he thinks Burning Man is like.  This song is apparently about Burning Man.  Let that sink in.  He thinks people listen to Mister Mister at Burning Man.  No Pat, they listen to rave music and Grateful Dead and gyrate under the influence of heavy drugs while corporate shills try to sell them Red Bull.  Pat’s weirdly cute delusion of Burning Man is confounding.  It comes across as a love song, right?  With lines like “Your lipstick stains on the front lobe of my left side brains/ I knew I wouldn’t forget you” you would naturally assume this is a love song.  Then why is it not about a bunch of dusty 20 somethings using hula-hoops and taking gooballs.  To pull a quote from Train‘s guitar player about the creation of the lyrics  “Pat had never been to Burning Man, but he had an image in his head of what it must be like. All these beautiful women dancing around the fire. That was the imagery he conjured up when he was writing the lyrics to, “Hey, Soul Sister.” It’s a pretty big deal. Thousands and thousands of people go to it every year. People run around naked and I guess it’s a total crazy deal”  which may be the worst combination of words every combined regarding Burning Man, Train, this dumb song, and music in general.  If I were to recite the lyrics “Way you can cut a rug/ Watching you’s the only drug I need/ So gangster, I’m so thug” besides your first reaction being “This is the whitest shit I have ever heard” would you ever assume this about Burning Man?

So Mr. Monahan decided he wanted to explore what Burning Man was, but not actually experience it, not go there and develop a song from actual experiences, but to imagine what it is like and go from there.  This is not a song a bout the Vietnam war where you can not go there; you can go to Burning Man.  Pat, surely has the money to go and not have to actually sift with the riff-raff.  He can experience Burning Man from the comfort and luxury of a massive RV, safe from the dust and contact highs.  Pat gives a big middle finger to that idea though, no, maybe watch a youtube video instead and then write expunge gibberish on an innocent ukulele.  He may have learned a few things from attending, like such as that he should not have created this disgraceful melody.

Anytime you see some jerkwad play this song at an open mic night I encourage you to throw rocks at them and once you help them clean the blood off of their face you must explain to them why it is wrong to play this song.  It is wrong to utter this song’s name.  From this day forward, dear readers, this song does not exist.

#1  Guns ‘N Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine

And here we go, #1 on my list of songs that cause me to spontaneously combust upon each listening is Guns ‘N Roses Sweet Child O’ Mine.  Every instance, every excruciating second of this bloated carcass of a song, this national anthem of drinking Coors Light in your Trans-AM, this display of poor taste, this over the top display of everything wrong with rock music in the 80’s, is an exercise in irritation, a temptation to end it all, and a justification for the banning of music form modern society.  Sweet Child O’ Mine is a combination of every bad musical idea compressed into its exhausting five minute run time which feels more like a thousand millennia.  I silently weep just thinking about it and aggressively sob the moment I hear that intro rip through my pure innocent speakers.  I had to buy new speakers for this article because Sweet Child O’ Mine came through them in preparation for this article.  I dare not risk the contamination.

How can I count the ways this song is terrible?  How much time do you have?  The number goes pretty high.  Let’s start with offender #1: Axl Rose, Axl Rose, Axl Rose, who gave this man a microphone?  At no point has Axl had a good singing voice.  At no point was his voice endearing, at no point was it pleasant to listen to, and at no point does it not sound like the shrill battle cry of an army of ostriches.  His tone deaf wailing feels like a parody at all times, completely unaware that he is the butt of some sort of sick joke.  Does Axl know? Does he know we do not take him seriously?  Wait, do people know we are not supposed to take him seriously?  Is Axl Rose just Andy Kaufman in a body suit?

The lyrics themselves are nowhere near as dreadful only because the bar has been set so low by other songs on this list.  Whether this is about someone’s kid, significant other, pizza delivery person, dog, 1977 Chevy Vega, or a really good sub sandwich is uncertain, and a mystery time will never be certain of.  I take little offense to them beyond the random yammering of “Where do we go now? at the end that goes on ad nauseam.  Considering this comes from an era of rape fantasies in music form this could be far worse.

It is hard to put into words how much I hate Rose as a vocalist, or even as a person.  I am not being glib in the paragraph above, I feel like he is some sort of joke.  What is there to like?  He is like a 6th rate Robert Plant fill-in for your local Kenosha Led Zeppelin cover band.  Every line he delivers is pure torture and agony, his howling shrieks  flail from off-key to a sound humans were never intended to produce nor hear.  It is surreal to me that anyone heard him shriek and then went, “yes, that tone deaf witches cackle is exactly what will make our band great”.    Let us not forget that Rose has a penchant for being a bigoted piece of shit, using racial and homophobic slurs in a relatively casual manner.

 Rose’s tendency to act like a spoiled, racist, homophobic, arrogant, crude, and trashy brat adds to the disdain.  He has shown consistent disregard for his fellow bandmates, supporting staff, and audiences alike by showing up hours late to gigs, demanding special rights to the name Guns N’ Roses, and just being a shitty man-child.  His demand for their adoration and attention is insulting as a listener.  Of course Rose is not the only frontman to act like a horses ass, but whatever stroke of luck he gained to be a frontman despite being completely void of skill makes it all the more insulting.  This leaves us with this boorish oaf blathering on end in a high-pitched sirens call, taking advantage of our good will, and being unaware of how entitled he is acting.

Musically, the song drags on and on, with what seems to be about 500 guitar solos much to the joy of Slash I am sure.  Slash needs to have 500 solos though as he needs to give the listeners a chance to recover their hearing due to Axl’s plague infested voice box, and Axl seems to love the sound of his voice here.  His constant pondering of “where do we go now” has a near hypnotic nature to it, its constant repetition capable of putting its listener into an intoxicating trance, turning the space filling line into a mantra worth pondering.  The build up leads to another round of witch’s cackles about that “Sweet child” while Slash proceeds to hit every note on his guitar to let us all know that he is indeed aware of what notes are.  If I had to play in Axl Rose’s band I would have to question my understanding of tone as well.  It is fitting in a way, Slash plays every note and Axl sings every note incorrectly.  I appreciate the music lesson.  It could have been a lot shorter, and less grating.  The finale, goes on, and on, and on.  I can only assume that despite the claim that this is a sub-six minute song, every time it is played a worm-hole opens up, bending space and time, allowing this auditory pestilence to exist for a small eternity.  There is a good chance this song is secretly 6 years long.

But really, why, why  does this song lead me to wishing that music had never been invented?  Sure, it is a boorish and juvenile, but if that were the only criteria I would introduce you a thing called Five Finger Death Punch, or Ted Nugent.  There is something about Sweet Child that exceeds in being irritating.  It is a masterclass in frustrating, as if it was created in a lab to be annoying.  You could chalk it up to taste, or preference, but when I boil down Guns ‘N Roses to its purest form I come to one answer, hair metal.  No, Guns ‘N Roses is not hair metal, but it comes from the same pool of origin.  The same formula is there, big guitar solos, flashy displays of sexuality,  and raging vulgarities for lyrics.  It is hair metal in its composition, only it is significantly grittier, gruesome, and unpleasant.  The glittery sheen, feather boas, and eye liner may be gone, but the same fundamental components of the brain-dead genre are there, but with an extra dose of disturbed testosterone.  Gone is the flash, somewhat idiotic charm, and slight wink of femininity (despite its often degrading lyrics) and in its place is an extra hint of violence, chuggy riffs, and distortion.  Guns ‘N Roses is hair metal’s trailer park cousin.  Sweet Child ‘O Mine is the worst offender, a slow, vocally shrill, overblown, obnoxious, and uncouth play at your emotions.  Sweet Child ‘O Mine is the equivalent of showing up to a wedding at the Ritz Carlton in your “dress jeans”.

Like other songs on this list, it is undeserving of the emotion it wants to gain from you.  Like its future ballad, November Rain, Guns ‘N Roses thinks it can halt its boisterous display of knuckle dragging masculinity to tug at your heart strings.  I respect the attempt, it is is nice to see a crotch grab in musical form make an effort at understanding those soft things called feelings, but when it immediately goes back being the most obnoxious kid on the block it is nigh impossible to take it seriously.  Perhaps this is the best Guns ‘N Roses can do, a lackluster showcasing of emotional vulnerability, and if so,  I must ask, why even try?  Is it because this emotionally stunted song will appeal to the mass of emotionally stunted listeners?  Is this their attempt to reach out to those who struggle with their feelings?  Do I have it all wrong?  Well then, bravo Mr. Rose and Mr. Slash, for your brave effort, for your gallant effort to make those who do not know how to feel shed a tear.  Your creation of a machismo safe space has made our society better.  Next time, however, you may not want to follow your call to tenderness with a song about how someone wants to have sex with you due to being insane.

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