Friday, December 17, 2004

Crap-tastic!

I've finally read the "What We're Listening To" article in this month's PULP--an interesting concept, even if the title ends in a preposition--and I've to agree: Chris Hermosisima's answer was the lamest, while Georgette Tengco's was the best. You know what would be a great follow-up feature, though? A feature on people's listening histories, to trace the artists and genres they've liked and loved over the course of their lives-so-far. Sort of a "How We Got to What We're Listening to Now" piece, only hopefully with a less awkward title.

I thought this up after reading the May 2004 issue of Blender, which you lent me. "50 Worst Songs Ever!" the title read. "Some have crap-tastic melodies. Others are wretchedly performed. And quite a few don't make any sense whatsoever." It's a really good feature, and very funny, but I was horrified to see how many of the 50 songs listed were songs that I actually liked. Or worse, songs that I like.

Okay, so I'm not going to contest the inclusion of tracks like Gerardo's "Rico Suave" or Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight"--songs that just struck me, even as a particularly gullible pre-teen, as stupid. There are many songs, too, that would have made it to my own list of 50 Worst Songs Ever: Bryan Adams' "The Only Thing that Looks Good on Me is You" ("like someone explaining ZZ Top to an accountant," said the good people at Blender); Meatloaf's "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" ("This epic chunk of histrionic's worst offense is that it doesn't make any sense."); Chicago's "You're the Inspiration" ("Cetara's gratingly affected and over-modulated vocals float over 1984 standard-issue electric piano, and a nation of greasy, awkward seventh graders slow danced for the first time."); Aqua's "Barbie Girl" ("[set to] teeth-rotting synth-pop like a robot pony kicking children to death").

But--and here I'm putting me reputation as a music writer on the line--REM's "Shiny Happy People," Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence"? These were songs that were landmarks in my listening history. (Would that make them "earmarks"? Just wondering.) Blender's writers are so clever, too, that they make an absolutely convincing case about how bad these tracks are. How come I never noticed that "Shiny Happy People" had a riff that sounded like "a cellphone ring tone chosen by a sociopath," or that the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes" was "the missing link between grunge, the Grateful Dead, and Jamiroquai...that no one was looking for in the first place"? I came away from reading the article feeling that Blender is absolutely right, of course, and I should be stripped of my title, and then dragged into the street and shot for even not-disliking these songs, let alone liking them a lot.

At the hastily assembled mock trial that they will have before they put me to death, I will say in my defense that I was young and hormonal and addled when the songs first came out, and so I can't be blamed for my questionable tastes. I had just been given my first Walkman when Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings" came out in 1985, and they sounded good on the earphones. I had just discovered tequila in 1993, and was therefore too drunk to realize that Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes was "so tormented by what she refered to as her 'lahf'--which he had apparently spent trying to climb that 'heeyuhl of howp'--that she had invented her own accent" to sing "What's Up?"

I'll plead guilty to being pretentious, though, which will explain why I didn't mind The Door's "The End" ("the most pretentious rock star's most pretentious song") or Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence" ("'Hear my words that I might teach you': Officially the most self-important line in rock history!"). As for the rest, I'll blame it on either the continuing effects of alcohol poisoning from my teenage years, basic but temporary lapses in judgment, or peer pressure.

But then again, if there's anything I've learned writing music reviews for over half a decade now, it's that Good Taste isn't all that it's cracked up to be. And Mark Desrosiers of PopMatters agrees, in this pretty good article on "Eight Mistakes that Music Critics Make". I don't agree with everything he says--he's still a fucking music critic, after all, and they are inherently distrustful--but he has a good name. Mark Desrosiers. All music journalists should have such musical, rock-starry names. Yes, like "L uis Kat igbak" and "K ri stine Fon acier," names that say, "We're smart, and opinionated, and funny. You can believe us, and buy us free drinks."

Speaking of which, I need coffee.