Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part X (b): #10-1

10. Bruno Mars - 'The Lazy Song'
(2011, #1, DL)

DL: Motherfucking Hell. I told you the upper echelons of the chart would be indescribable and in turns out I was right. Just watched the entire Top Ten in visual form and the amount of time I felt a powerful, magnetic force between the screen and my fist was vast. Not least in this one, where the level of hatefulness reached during THAT "really nice sex line" was optimised via his "this tall to enjoy this ride" hair and fuckcunting grin. A certain, truth-playful person I once knew was once afforded the pet-name 'Bruno' by her enigmatic, similarly unhinged boyfriend due to her penchant for the works of Mr Mars. She called him 'The Pig'. Bruno and The Pig. BRUNO AND THE PIG. And it's that level of association that turns a bad song into a total cunt song. Never mind, the next one will be better...

AN: This sort of passed me by. There’s something quite offensive about the appropriation of reggae motifs. Gap Year imperialism. I suppose this is the American equivalent of British nu-folk: MOR for privileged kids gesturing limply at “roots”. Conversely, American nu-folk is actually quite good on the whole.

JG: It’s almost tolerable (after all, Elastica had much the same idea with ‘Waking Up’) right up until the moment Bruno Mars starts noting that he can shove his hand down his pants if he feels like it. It then progresses to Mars using the internet to locate call girls, sending a terrible shiver down the spine, as though Robespierre had entered the room just as one was extolling the virtues of constitutional monarchy.

TM: “Today I don’t feel like doing anything”. Bruno: you are implying that on other days you are contributing to the wellbeing of human civilisation and culture. You are not. You are a drain on the lifeblood of all that is wise and good. Perhaps this is what modern liberalism has come to: chirpy strummed chords, paeans to apathetic arsing around in your ‘castle’, the chronic conceit of “some really nice sex”. And of course messing around is synonymous with a ‘college degree’. Frankly, a new album by Franklin Bruno would be a preferable prospect compared with this beaming irritant.

Aye, it's a lovely video; on a par with Buster Keaton's 'One Week' in its portrayal of home life...
9. The Wombats - 'Let's Dance to Joy Division'
(2007, #15, DL)

DL: Perhaps the bronze medal in the race to become the 'Britpop 2' nadir. I've turned to drink in order to endure the Top Ten twice in order to re-acquaint myself with the plethora of suicide-inducing shite that awaits me, yet I'm not sure it's performing any anaesthetic qualities. Just inane, and a blasphemous name check, yet a fitting one. What was once a style of music so associated with the edgy, the raw and the poetic reduced to infantile, inane bullshit with nowhere to really go after this. Such a monotonous howl too. That middle-eight is particularly indicative of production-line indie. And you thought Stock Aitken and Waterman did cynical and formulaic song-writing? 'Better The Devil You Know' is worth a billion of this.

AN: Joy Division were always the ultimate unco-optable band, so the fact that they were roundly co-opted in the noughties speaks volumes about that decade as a whole. This is the paradigmatic counter-revolutionary artwork: irony, mediocrity, pastiche, and faux-colloquialism neutering one of the bleakest, most difficult bands in pop history.

JG: You know what? I’ve had about enough of the way that Joy Division have been commoditised into some saleable chunk of Great British Musical Heritage. Conveying the fractured, often unintelligible nature of alienation and ostracism in an uncertain, darkening environment was precisely the point of Joy Division. Whereas now they seem to have become a branded commodity for indie clubs. Fuck off.

TM: Intense, chugging boredom: from the first guitar lines to their complete misapplication of irony. “You know what to ask for!” Apparently: unending smirking revivalism with guitars and the despoiling of past musical wonders. A children’s choir has never been so inaptly used as here: to background this numpty’s dashed off extemporisation around the words: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. “This could all go so wrong”. You mean to say, you loveable mop-top wannabes, that it hasn’t with this fucking abysmal song? Get ye to New York, though I doubt they’d have your brand of numbskull retro.

8. Toploader - 'Dancing in the Moonlight'
(2000, #7, DL)

DL: Help me please! I told you not to trust people whose biggest hits were covers and I was right. Just the right kind of party anthem that feels horrendous to endure if you're not on board. I'm thinking Jamie Oliver, I'm thinking omnipresence, I'm thinking Jo Whiley, I'm thinking horrific things. Is 'smugness' a genre? It should be. Although I did enjoy its ironic use in Four Lions. I haven't heard this for quite a few years, and I hope this is the last time. The sound of utter dismay and a loss of faith in all that surrounds you and every school of thought you've ever thought made you feel safe. I'd wager that people have topped themselves to this song.

AN: Again, there’s an imperialist aspect to this: African American soul used to sell millions upon millions of records, tickets, and merchandise by a group of soulless Western session musicians. It’s really quite depressing when you begin to approach the economic underpinning of karaoke MOR rock.

JG: Is it the organ? The shockingly poor vocals? Or even the fact that Jamie Oliver likes this? No. The reason this is a crime against music is that, back in 2000, as with many toffs of his age, a young George Osborne was firing his cold black semen right into the horse-face of a young wench from Buckingham just as the annoyingly twee middle-eight kicked in. And for that reason alone, dear reader, this is one of the worst songs ever recorded.

TM: Is there a more representative slab of 2000s torpor than this cynical cover version of a tepid single from 1973? King Harvest’s original is dull but harmless; this is a cretinous cluster bomb lodged in the heart of the culture. From their name onwards they are shite. Eastbourne vocalist adopts the sort of phony mid-Atlantic accent that utterly grates on me. Radio and club DJs, dance-floor denizens, ‘music fans’: all should have known better than to elevate this to its perch of infernal ubiquity. At least their belated 2011 third album flopped: a deserved public indifference. But then this fucking song appears for the millionth time! And people lap it up as if it’s the musical second coming.

What is it with these curly haired vocalists?
7. Scouting For Girls - 'She's So Lovely'
(2007, #7, DL)

DL: Worst song of all time for me, but that's democracy for you. Like some estate agents trying their hand at 'that indie music' and getting it all wrong completely. The usual 'cheeky' signifiers, the 'wacky' bassist. A massive pile of FHM ear-sperm that makes me so angry that I could commit 100,000 words to it and still never fathom why it makes me want to annihilate entire continents. It's excruciating enough, but like The Wombats, its middle-eight has to be heard to be believed, like 'Country House' era Blur-meets-Simply Red turned even more chronically evil. Presumably they thought that their moniker put them in the same sensitive-pop bracket as Belle and Sebastian or Camera Obscura but no, just no. Impossible to even enjoy ironically and if the lack of lads in bands scoring hits these days means we're missing out on gibberish like this that makes Cast sound like Can then FUCKING GOOD. Cunts! And I still don't think that's enough.

"She's pretty, a fitty"? SHE'S PRETTY, A FITTY?!!! I mean, that lead singer must have got this past his band-mates without them shooting him in the face via completely agreeable motives. It would have only been a manslaughter charge. If you're housewife-friendly anodyne pop music, don't try to masquerade as something you aren't. Unfortunately, the noughties equivalents of Chris De Burgh et al had delusions of credibility. FUCKING BRITPOP. Seriously.

AN: Unimaginative, repetitive, cynical, trite, blasé, disengaged, weak, clichéd, backward-looking, corporate, underwhelming, non-existent, offensive, flaccid, dire, boring, boring, boring.

JG: The fag end of the Blair era coincided with pop music raping its own re-animated corpse. Here, the frightful trio take their cues from such flotsam as Sailor, Edison Lighthouse and The Rembrandts. Toss, basically. Plus, Roy Stride – for God’s sake man, you’re singing about some absolutely stunning woman offering you non-committal sexual favours and you “don’t know how we’ll make it through this.” Get a grip, you idiot!

TM: Argh. Now this is getting epically painful: a chirpy, eager-to-please piano enters, stage-bereft. Head-banding. Bowling alleys. So far, so far Neanderthal; though our simian forebears would turn up their noses at this lot. Then all too soon: that braying, god-awful chorus and monumentally ghastly lines like “She’s pretty; she’s a fitty”. Who ever thought that such minstrelsy to witless drooling was a good idea? Maybe it was the inarticulate, moronic, laddish repetition that charmed people? The prospects for pop seem desolate, sometimes...

"She's pretty. A fitty." That is all.
6. Snow Patrol - 'Chasing Cars'
(2006, #6, DL)

DL: I heard that Tom May had to break down his analysis of the Top Ten into two halves and I'm thinking of following suit. I never thought that the Second Division of Britpop was that bad, having not been susceptible to the main players of the late 1970s and 1980s who they were ripping off at the time, only discovering the music of Joy Division, The Smith, The Cure and the Bunnymen during and after Britpop itself but can now see why the second rate players of Britpop irked so many, although I will still say that Gene, Shed Seven and Echobelly et al had a few good tracks. This is why I could possibly forgive a teenager for holding 'Chasing Cars' in the same esteem as I hold 'Fake Plastic Trees'. On the other hand, that's bullshit, and teenagers of the noughties and now have instant, free access to a world of musical history that I could have only dreamed of as a teenager. So fuck that argument.

'Chasing Cars' is a desperate, tuneless and cynical piece of music that takes the mid-paced yet emotionally potent mid-tempo balladeering template of Radiohead and turns it into utter calculated dross. From the loud-quiet dynamics to the insanely rubbish insincerity of its half-arsed exploration of unrequited love, every note of it sounds designed with fiscal benefits in mind. You can't really blame Lightbody and co. for clinging onto their place in the hearts of casual music fans and reality TV music supervisors alike after struggling against the grain for so many years (you could have probably seen them in the Joiner's Arms in Southampton with one man and his bludgeoned prostitute for £2.50 and a bag of pork scratchings in 2002), so fair play, but I don't hear emotion in this, I hear cold, calculated cynicism.


AN: There’s a nice catharsis about the top 10. I really dislike Snow Patrol and just couldn’t understand their apologists over the last decade. It’s heartening that we’re of the same mind about this. A cultural lowlight of recent history.

JG: The message of this song is as follows: never mind all that alienation you feel toward having to sell your labour power for a decreasing reward, a quiet moment with one’s squeeze can help ameliorate that disaffection and block out that big nasty old world, leaving one fresh enough to face more of the same shit ad infinitum. A quiet moment that sounds like a blunter version of Keane, no less. Twats.

TM: How many more videos will there be with a moony-eyed, t-shirted dullard lying. On a floor. With that slight, self-satisfied grin on his face, surely pondering the pennies this colossally boring dirge would yield? I am not an easily offended person but I have had enough with this tedious and vague Andrew Strauss-endorsed effluence. Is it an aspirational anthem for striving entrepreneurs? Is it a theme for those manufactured ‘poignant’ sporting moments on TV? Is it about lurve? It’s about fuck all. ‘Chasing Cars’ is a lesion on the arse of an increasingly stale British mainstream music scene. This record has spent 108… ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT weeks in the UK Singles Chart since its release nearly six years ago. Who is buying or MP3-ing this now...? Be ashamed.

"If I lay here..." I might just develop a personality. Or a sense of remorse.
5. Maroon 5 - 'She Will Be Loved'
(2004, #4, DL)

DL: This song almost single-handedly put me off pressing 'play' on the last quintet. Ouch. Such fake sincerity, such utter nauseating gooiness. “I don't mind spending every day out on the corner in the pouring rain”. Isn't it rather noticeable how all these 'tender' declarations of 'love' seem to be from the viewpoint of a determined stalker? To me, the refrain “she will be loved” is synonymous with some cheesy goon who’s just run off with your bird and is trying to make you feel better about it. Or abducted her, with the full aim of appearing on some televised appeal to confirm her safety. He'd probably set up a good cause in her name and fuck off to France with the proceeds. And I'm only 1:27 in! 'Though I tend to get so insecure...' No shit, Sherlock. Lasted two more seconds. 'It's not always rainbows and butterflies...' This earnest wank really grinds my gears. Shall we go on? And another crap middle-eight! Adam Levine's probably forever locating girls with “broken smiles”. Weak ones, to manipulate like it's going out of fashion. Can I be friends with anyone who likes that?

AN: The top 10 seems to support the theory that 2004-7 was some kind of nadir for pop. I was 19-23 during these years and, to speak sincerely, I’m incredibly angry that my youth was wasted being forced to listen to the likes of Snow Patrol and Maroon 5. That anger is still a central part of most of the things that I do.

JG: Maroon 5? The Feeling? Scouting for Girls? I lose track of who’s who among that lot. Anyway, this is absolutely terrible. This is where that Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker nonsense from a few weeks ago leads. Unambitious, turgid, restaurant music like this. In a ying-yang twist, somewhere in a parallel (better) universe, diners must be downing their Chablis to Altern-8’s ‘Hypnotic St8’.

TM: This is the product of a complacent, clapped-out culture. Every time this has appeared on a TV advert or a shopping centre PA system, it is a little death. It becomes REALLY horrendous with the bridge into the whining, mind-numbing, deadly chorus. Singer Adam Levine did have a go at the ‘fucking evil’ – his words and mine – Fox News for playing his music, without realising that that is the name of the commercial game he signed up to. 

4. Mark Ronson feat. Daniel Merriweather - 'Stop Me'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: I'm happy to announce that I'm now on the good old fag-per-song ratio. Maroon 5 was horrid, but even more so with the knowledge I had to face this next, like being called to the Headmaster's to confess to farting in assembly.

So basically... how dare you pair of fuckers unleash this level of vandalism upon this seminal song, or even pair of songs? How can you deliver 'Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before' with so little humour, wit, knowingness, irony... just the way he sings it... 'Seething' is the only acceptable reaction. YOU FUCKING CUNTS! If I could have gone any higher than ten out of ten, I would have. Surely someone you encountered before releasing this must have informed you that it doesn't work at all? Plus, has brass ever sounded less rousing as per every time Ronson polished a steaming turd with it?

Fuck you Mark Ronson featuring Daniel Merriweather. FUCK YOU.

AN: As with #9, a counter-revolutionary piece of shit. I don’t want to waste any more of my life thinking about this sort of worthless effluvia.

JG: Does anyone really need to explain why this great robbery is here? Cross-referencing was an interesting way around cost restrictions in the heyday of rave, but crashing The Smiths into The Supremes? I mean, come on; that just smacks of the socialite, aristocrat circles that Ronson has always frequented. It isn’t witty or quirky; it really isn’t and is wrong in every conceivable way.

TM: Another cover. Ronson embodies the new Cameronite establishment of Britain today; he is particularly representative of this era as his two biggest hits have been mystifyingly accepted cover versions. Dreadful, laughable, tepid tripe; it goes without saying. But it must be asserted, as this did reach #2 in the charts and the Ronsonian mode continues to set the tone, alongside the BRIT and the X-Factor schools. The vocals are showy, slick and grating, showing no affinity whatsoever with the Mozzer’s idiosyncratic lyric. You can practically hear the silver spoon; Ronson is the grandson of a convicted share-trading fraudster and property tycoon, with family links to Leon Brittan and Malcolm Rifkind. His mother married Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. With all the privileges of his St John’s Wood upbringing, why can’t Ronson do better than this nonsense?

3. Elton John - 'Candle in the Wind 1997'
(1997, #1, DL)

DL: Ah, a tender tribute from one friend to another. Nothing tasteless about that. Only it's totally tacky and Taupin's lyric scans appallingly. 'Youcalledouttoourcountry!' This doesn't anger me in the way the rest of the Top Ten have thus far, but it's still a 10/10 hate for its utterly sinister and somewhat inappropriate qualities and I'm sure Messrs Gibson, Niven and May have more to say in a far more academic way than I can. This did hilariously mean that the whole wide world is far more au fait with AA-side 'Something About The Way You Look Tonight' than the weaved one ever though dreamed of. And 'Bingo!' by Catch for that matter. Did this song really need to happen? It was bad enough when he was posthumously stalking that glamour model.

AN: Nothing has been quite the same since this happened.

JG: Ah, the Diana funeral. A moment of enforced public mourning like no other: nothing but violins on Radio 1; Tony Blair crying for the cameras; serious questions in Parliament about a Viz story that dared to prick the bubble of such jejune grief. The distance between those days and those in Pyongyang in 2011 is considerably shorter than we allow ourselves to think. This piece of collective mix of class deference and tabloid voyeurism reached its apogee with Elton John’s piece in Westminster Abbey, killing whatever lingering vestige of mystique he might once have had.

TM: I am not going to have a go at Lady Di, the ‘Princess of Hearts’ in Blair’s vacuous phrase. That would be too easy; she clearly did good deeds within systemic limits. It was more how the whole event established a cult of sentimentalism that imposed limits on British culture and music; partnering the overblown, overhyped Be Here Now in keeping out distinctive, dissident voices. This is the sound of that early, more liberal Blair era that could not help but be profoundly neo-liberal. Its prevalence needs to be made clear: 5.4million sales in the UK, best-selling single worldwide in the modern era (with Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ probably edging it out in the longer term), bizarrely: 46 weeks at the summit of the Canadian chart. Oh, and it’s another cover, this time by the original artist himself; with re-fashioned lyrics: hackneyed ‘rose’ metaphors and so much that reeks of Catholic idolatory: ‘the grace’, ‘the wings’, ‘this torch’. Empathic sentimentalism could be a spur to collective action; it does not have to be as profoundly disempowering and dispiriting as this is.

'I want to be the new Diana
(OK!, Hello)
Visiting the shore occasionally
Politics and minefields, press and P.R.
These are bad places for a queen of hearts'
2. Sandi Thom - 'I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker with Flowers in My Hair'
(2006, #1, TM)

DL: Authenticity, and the lack of it, seems to be a recurring theme in our countdown, and you won't find less of it than in the narrative surrounding this big pile of PR-manipulated jizz. “Pop stars still remained a myth” sings the lady whose appeal was mainly formed around a tall tale about a struggling artist performing gigs from her cellar every evening to thousands upon thousands of fans across the world online, with miraculously enough bandwidth to allow this. Of course, these were the burgeoning Arctic Monkeys days when the idea of a musician or indeed any other cultural phenomenon gaining prominence online via word-of-mouth still filled the public testicle with callous clumps of gullible spunk. The song itself is a doe-eyed ode to those simpler, pre-internet days “where accountants couldn't take your soul” and suchlike. Is the music industry cynical enough to support this and actively endorse the infinite ironies around it? Yes, yes it is. There's a ‘best of’ out if you're interested.

AN: Joy Division, The Smiths, punk: nothing escaped the commodifying embrace of a triumphant capitalism in the last ten years. When you consider how they managed to take the counter-culture away from us, it makes you want to weep. I repeat, I’m just so fucking angry. So sad.

JG: In a way it just admits the end of a process long underway. Previously subversive movements become re-sold as little other than marks of individual expression of the type so memorably derided by Slavoj Žižek in his analysis of the way in which late capitalism commands us not only to express ourselves through various disciplinary quirks, but to enjoy doing so. The Superego writ large, combined with a lethal dose of historical denial. It’s enough to suck the serotonin out of an entire convention of clowns.

TM: Okay... The jibe at Blair’s guitar playing is well placed, but this song is part of the problem: its retro fixation is a roadblock to insurgent new music. “When we didn’t know everything”? I think that the age of Granada television, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, theatre-in-education and Penguin books, we knew rather more. “Scared of computers”? Presumably: WOTAN and BOSS. Alex has written previously of Thom’s absurd, ‘confused’ elision of “’77 and ‘69”. This is a paean to 60s/70s ‘authenticity’ that simplifies and reduces those pasts to fashion accessories, being a PR man’s idea of what makes ‘radical’, ‘rebellious’ music. It failed the first time it was released in 2005; it supplanted Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ from the top spot on 4th June 2006. What a sad indictment. More IXtra: less, much less, of this conservative shite.

Yes, the PR man from 'Quite Great Communications' is in shot
1. Nickelback - 'Rock Star'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: 'She's So Lovely' aside, I cannot think of a more deserving chart-topper in a countdown of horror. Of course, the song is understood (made more infuriating) when 'enjoyed' alongside its video, in which a roll call of famous American bell-ends from the worlds of sport, music, film and general anonymity each take turns to perform a line from the song in the most crass, arrogant and punchable way imaginable. There are some British people in there too. I know this because huge, unsubtle signifiers like the Houses of Parliament allude to this. It's been said that it's unclear as to whether the song itself as a satirical ode to the materialistic, decadent rock-star lifestyle but as there's no real humour in there worthy of being deemed remotely funny, I'd say it was exactly the kind of tedious celebration of the high-flying soulless lifestyle as outlined above. If it is satire, it's the worst attempt at satire in the world and is particularly strange considering the guest stars of the video lip-sync every lyric in a highly celebratory way. No one comes out of that video not looking like a complete cunt. It's like being force-fed a fatal dose of the most base, crass and stupid elements of American mass culture.

Embarrassing, painful, knuckle-headed, tacky, reminds me of Republicans and sofa adverts, wrestling, handlebar moustaches, rednecks, country music, cunts, bastards, twats... although they have been noted for responding to criticisms free on social networking sites so maybe Chad Kroeger would like to step and claim his award for being behind our Worst Song of all time?

AN: A worthy number one. This manages to glorify the profit motive, advocate anorexia, bury rock music for good, and fundamentally be a piece of evil crap. Friends, it’s been emotional. Thanks for putting up with my meandering rage. Solidarity to messrs Gibson, May, and Lichfield. This was a necessary repudiation, if a painful one. Onwards!

JG: What can you say? At root, Kroeger and his Kurt Bon Jovi lot are only trying to make us think beyond the shallowness with which they think we fantasise about being rock stars. So why, then, does this song stink like an abattoir? Because Kroeger and co have made it as rock stars. And they’re mocking us. “Ha ha, you think we eat for free and have eight bodyguards that like to beat people up.” That’s exactly what you do (or could very easily do if you wanted to), Kroeger. Didn’t you read The Dirt? What else? It plods, Chad Kroger whines, the riff sounds like it was written in 1953 by a 6 year old David Bowie. Chad Kroeger is also an utter cunt. He looks like one, acts like one and just is one and he can fuck off. Grrrrrrrrrr. Shit like this – it makes psychopathy swill up in my head. Can we stop now?

TM: Ultimately, this ode to bloated, inane excess had to be number one: receiving 10/10 on the hate-o-meter from all four of us. This ticks every box: unadventurous, stunted guitar chords, mentions of James Dean and Elvis, sham ‘inclusiveness’ in the video; leering misogyny, lunkheaded machismo, avaricious money-grabbing toss about “playboy mansions” and “a credit card that’s got no limit”. This record represents the etherised ‘common sense’ of our neo-liberal age: its ailing philosophical core. It is up to us to roll away the stone; or, indeed, the millstone that Rock has become...

1 comment:

  1. I was hoping for an appearance from Nickelback, so it was nice to see them turn up - in true Nickelbackian fashion - with a colossal ear dissolver that goes right in at number 1.