Friday, January 05, 2007

De-snarking Blender, Part 3

For the top 20 of the 50 Worst Artists, I may need to pile on in one or two cases. Snarky critics can't be wrong all the time.

20. Howard Jones. Again, rock critics have a serious problem with positivity. Rock is supposed to be rebellion, we're told. And hip-hop is supposed to be rebellion combined with re-claiming an image, or something like that. And pop is supposed to be ... well, they haven't decided. But apparently, it's OK to be pop as long as it's about sex. Jones gave people other reasons to feel good, and he wrote some decent hooks. Worst you can say about him is that the synth sounds are dated.

19. Dan Fogelberg. For one thing, this isn't "earnestly strummed acoustic guitar." A lot of Fogelberg stuff is damn fine finger-picking. Back in the days when I was competent at such things, I played the guitar part for Longer while the three girls who passed for my school's "chorus" sang. Worst I can say here is that it didn't improve my chances of dating any of them. Soft rock is what it is -- and if it didn't exist, Jason's blog wouldn't be so much fun.

(Coincidentally, I'm listening to some expert finger-picking as I type. It's Lindsey Buckingham's To Try for the Sun. Kind of a flimsy song, but he's such a good guitarist that it hardly matters.)

18. Pat Boone. Yes and no. I've heard it said that black musicians never would have stood a chance in U.S. pop culture if guys like Boone hadn't borrowed it first. So perhaps it's a necessary evil, and perhaps it's evil that such an evil would be a necessary evil. But Boone himself wasn't evil, even if he ticked off his religious crowd with his metal album. I get the feeling he's a little confused deep down, seeing good and evil in both Hollywood and the evangelical movement. That'll lead him to some odd choices, but it's not fundamentally bad. (Pardon the pun.)

17. Benzino. Who?

16. Oingo Boingo. Not a great band, but Dead Man's Party alone should keep them off this list. And Danny Elfman wrote the Simpsons theme, for Pete's sake.

15. Yanni. As a former viewer of VH1's New Age/jazz fusion show ... whose name I've now forgotten ... I can see why he's listed here. But is Blender right in thinking that "Midwestern matrons" buy his stuff? I can't picture that.

14. Yngwie Malmsteen. Well, at least he can play. Just because he has bad taste in songs ...

13. Mick Jagger. Has he really done enough solo work to qualify?

12. Tin Machine. Bowie's side project was oddly interesting. Fun appearance on SNL.

11. Latoya Jackson. Easy target. Doesn't count.

10. Air Supply. OK, fine. I can apologize for Fogelberg, but not these guys.

9. Lee Greenwood. Fair enough, and the line about patriotism being "the ultimate meal ticket for a Nashville hack," is the best line in this whole list.

8. Vanilla Ice. Yeah, it's hard to disagree with that one.

7. Asia. "Hey, Blender snark guy?" "Yeah, what is it, fellow Blender snark guy." "We need some prog-rock bands for the top 10 here." "Oh, yeah! Prog-rock SUCKS!" "I know! All those nerds actually practicing their instruments." "Yeah, tell me about it. So which bands do we pick?" "Does it matter?"

Why yes, it does. Pick early Genesis. Pick Dream Theater. Don't pick the guys who managed to pack their chops into some pop-rock classics. Sure, some of the lyrics were clunkers ("And when your looks have gone and you're alone"), but this is riff rock at its best.

6. Kansas. Dust in the Wind and Carry On My Wayward Son are the two best Christian rock songs written by anyone not in U2. And the guys in Kansas hadn't even become Christians yet.

5. Starship. To be fair, they did a few good songs before dropping the "Jefferson" part of the name.

4. Kenny G. I'll pile on here. Even I can hear the technical flaws in this guy's playing (hello, register break!). If you want to hear soprano sax at its best, listen to Branford Marsalis. Solo, with Sting, with The Samples -- it doesn't matter.

3. Michael Bolton. The other pile-on. But I'm not quite sure he was serious. The overwrought dynamics, the herniated strain on the high notes -- are we sure his entire career isn't a parody of bad soul singing?

2. Emerson, Lake & Palmer. So it's OK for every crap band in the world to bash through Louie Louie, yet re-interpreting classical music on a bank of synthesizers, a bass and a drum kit is a nightmare? Again with the prog-rock bashing.

1. Insane Clown Posse. I don't remember enough about these guys to end on an up note.

But they were kind enough to tack on a b.s. "Are you in the worst band in the world?" quiz that is clearly nonsense. They hint that multiple drummers qualifies as "sucking." The only bands with multiple drummers that spring to mind are .38 Special and the Allman Brothers. Funny how they're not on this list.

And it becomes clear from the quiz that Steely Dan qualifies as a "good" band. Not because they have a jazz influence, because that's clearly a "bad" thing. Not the fact that they could play -- also "bad." So it must be because they're named after a dildo. Which tells you more about the Blender staff than you ever needed to know.

6 comments:

Mrs. MMM said...

Maybe .38 Special was the missing #38?

And Asia rules.

Quinn said...

Two comments:

1. My 93 year old grandmother wanted me to listen to Yanni because she felt it was very spiritual.

2. Dude, your analysis of Kansas has just blown my mind.

Neel Mehta said...

Mind-blowing Kansas analysis aside, dude, why are you reading Blender? It's from the Maxim people who started a new magazine because they thought that young songstresses were hot.

I have more of a problem with who's NOT on the list. Any serious list like this should include more stuff from the late 80's Bon Jovi era (the worst era of rock music, though actually including Bon Jovi as bad is debatable) and the mid-90's faux depth wannabes and copycats.

For example:

Gin Blossoms. Everything about these guys is "Hey, we're cool, we understand irony." But the juxtaposition of pretty and ugly does not make you insightful.

Stone Temple Pilots. You know it's bad when the words you think they're singing are much better lyrics than what's actually sung. I am convinced to this day that Scott Weiland got hooked on drugs because it's part of the rock star manual.

Winger. Says it all that Stewart wore a Winger T-shirt on Beavis and Butthead.

Matchbox 20. Saved the worst for last. I'm of the opinion that Rob Thomas should die a slow, painful death, but people seem to like him and he does have a major Grammy. So let me say now that these people are wrong. Rob Thomas and his once and future band are the height of pretensious jackassdom, especially when Rob decided to spell out "twenty" and use lower case. The mere existence and continued popularity of this band suggests, somehow, that the terrorists have won.

Jason said...

David Cross does a great bit about Lee Greenwood, specifically about his hypocritical line "And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today," saying that the 9/11 remix was his opportunity to actually, you know, gladly stand up next to them and defend her still today, since the opportunist blew it the first time around. What a hypocrite.

(And if not for soft rock, my website wouldn't exist at all.)

Jay said...

Speaking of Kenny G, if you haven't seen Pat Metheny's diatribe about the saxophonist's overdub of himself on Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World," it's a must read. (He refers to the recording as "musical necrophilia," and that's the kind part of Metheny's review.)

Once you've read the Metheny rant, you can then move on to Richard Thompson's take on the subject--his song entitled, obviously, "I Agree with Pat Metheny."

(Thompson, of course, is one of the most brilliant guitarists alive, but he also enjoys knocking out the odd novelty tune every once in a while. Another example available online is "Dear Janet Jackson," which was inspired by her Super Bowl halftime appearance.)

bdure said...

Jay -- I have indeed seen the Metheny bit, either through Michael's blog or Jason's. It's a classic.

While I know Richard Thompson's music (even interviewed him circa 1990, oddly enough), I hadn't heard those. Devastating wit. Fun listens.