Ever listened to a tune and, feeling that gut deep desire to cover your ears and scrub your brain, thought some equivalent of “I’d rather raw dog a beehive than hear that crap again”? Dramatic, si’, and yet…
Hunter spent several hours he will never get back listening to a top 100 ‘worst songs ever’ playlist from Songza today. The list was compiled by AOL.com. *Sigh*, poor AOL. Anyway….
So he spent the time assaulting his better sensibilities with crap ass tunes, originally as a distraction, but halfway through open questions lurked in the back of his protesting mind.
Just what makes an individual hate (or love) a particular song? Aren’t musical (or, for that matter, all aesthetic) tastes subjective, despite our obsessive music-geek debates over styles, genres, and quality of a sound or lyric?
What purpose do ‘worst…anything’ lists serve? Do they exist as some critic and fan ‘fuck you, you suck. We’ve kept a record’ smackdown of shittier artists or of good artists occasionally dropping on we the fans a lump of compositional/lyrical shit?
Are we masochists if we enjoy compiling (and presumably listening to) these playlists?
Why do the most reviled songs often find haters after having achieved commercial success; said success a democratic vote decided in the form of purchases made?
Is Hunter too philosophical, or has his brain been compromised by a ‘shitty song’ virus that causes him to ask himself annoying questions he must then annoy others with?
These questions rolled ’round Hunter’s ‘shit song’ infected mind while listening to the likes of ‘The Hamster Song’ by Hampton and the Hamsters, Gwen Stefani’s ‘Holla’ Back Girl’, Paul McCartney’s ‘Ebony And Ivory’, ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ by Baha Men and Los del Rio’s immortal wedding nightmare ‘Macarena’ – not to mention so so many other turd tunes.
Hunter observed that hyper-successful (read: popular )tunes such as Billy Joel’s lyrically and structurally challenging ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, Barenaked Ladies’ hysterical, philosophical gem ‘One Week’, and Deep Blue Something’s feel good, shaky-relationship equalizing ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ also made AOL/Songza’s shitlist. So Hunter asked himself, and asks you, what gives? [full disclosure: Hunter acknowledging bias and subjectivity on these tunes].
So, again, what gives?
Most folks will likely agree with the premise that objectivity is possible in recognizing what makes a song good .
Structurally, it must be significant or complicated; three chords or so do not usually a good song make.
Lyrically it must be insightful, complicated (when paired with the song’s composition) or interesting; twelve or so words repeated throughout, no matter what the words are, should seal the deal to drop a song into a shitlist.
Finally, the song should, by its nature, have the capacity to gain broad appeal; if by its nature the song necessarily must offend or irritate , and yet other standards of ‘the good’ are absent, the tune cannot be considered good; deliberate confrontation without compositional quality just illustrates an artist’s shitty ‘tude.
These three basics of objectivity might cue some disingenuous disagreements and faux outrage from ‘open minded, let’s not judge’ kinda folk. To them Hunter says ‘show me where i’m mistaken’.
In other words, Hunter will preempt such sideshows, saying to those who who’d argue a song cannot be recognized as either good or as bad regardless of or because of its message , popularity, or novelty : ‘put up or shut the fuck up’.
Hunter suspects that popular and objectively ‘good’ songs make shitlists if that tune is so popular that the very quality of the ‘good’ the song exhibits irritates enough people. The haters decide that the songs irritating popularity – ‘overplayed syndrome’ – trumps objectivity. Those haters have thus abandoned common sense and cannot be taken seriously.
We can safely leave aside also the ‘appeal to authority’ displayed by the clueless who immediately scream, without defending their designation of a song as ‘bad’: but its on so and so’s list’.
Hunter suspects that fascination with ‘bad songs’ is the fan’s means to illustrate ‘good taste’ and ‘musical insight’ by inference and comparison. In other words, when upon hearing some shitpile the listener’s default position of ‘I know a bad song when we hear it’ can often be translated to: ‘I’ve got great tastes’.
We love to hate ‘worst songs’ because they make us feel good about ourselves; about what we either ‘know’ to be good or about what we ‘feel’ is our own obviously superb taste.
Are these lists ‘objective’? Hardly. Can they be? Likely. Will we continue to enjoy shitlists whether a playlist is objective or not? You bet we will.
Hunter wants to listen to the ‘100 worst’ again. After all ‘we built this city on rock and roll’. He will likely wait till the shitty song virus runs its course.
Pitchfork’s best 500 of the 90s, anyone?
- This Season I Will Be Mostly Listening To … (tostandandstare.wordpress.com)
- Sing Me a Songza (lineout.thestranger.com)
- What I’m Listening To Playlist: Chicks Who Rock (thekeyofkels.com)