Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part III: #160-141

And it's time for a bit of Part 3...

160. Emmy the Great - 'Mistress England'
(2011, N/A, TM)

DL: Lament to those who ‘dreamed their daughters would marry Prince William’. To paraphrase Bernard Black, “I never thought I’d say this to anyone, but… ‘Get a job’.” Charmless helping of Tory indie-folk.

AN: I’ve written about this elsewhere, and I’d sort of like to move on now. As W.B. Yeats once wrote, “Too long spent hating on risible private school cabaret / Can make a stone of the heart”.

JG: I think this conveys the sheer ennui of celebrity worship around the Royal Wedding quite wittily, if I must be honest. Not something I’d consider a Top 200 contender at all.

TM: A KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON dirge with insipid lyrics about UCAS forms and fairy-tale dreaming. A conservative’s idea of a clever song: ‘keep up appearances’ and genuflect before royalty, plebs!

159. Thurman - 'English Tea'
(1994, failed to chart, TM)

DL: Jangly Conference Britpop lost in the midst of time. Whimsical old relic that almost comes across as a spoof of that particular movement; I believe that The Fast Show's Indie Club band had more bite.

AN: Ha, this is hilarious! I’d never heard it before. ROFL!

JG: The Viva Brother of their age; boring, derivative, banal and with absolutely nothing to say. Takes Blur’s problematic, ironic “anti-grunge” stance far too literally. Infuriating “mockney” vocals too.

TM: “But if you don’t feel very loyal, you can always read about a royal”. ‘Indie’ atrocity that even Britpop laureate John Harris has castigated. No-hopers Shed Seven sound like The Kinks in comparison.

158. Bryan Adams - 'Summer of '69'
(1985, #42, RC)

DL: Can't enjoy this Boss-lite eighties constant now I know it's not named after the year but a Summer in which Adams spent embroiled in the sexual tryst of the same numerical figure. Bad taste in mouth.

AN: Sorry for the second pitiful self-plug of the week, but I said all I really want to say about this here.

JG: Appalling Reaganite re-imagining the late 60s as a time of hangin’ with the boys, chasin’ the ladies and kickin’ back the beers whilst ignoring those bloody peacenik Commies. Bryan Adams was 9 years old at the time.

TM: Played to rigor mortis, if not outright fatality. Can anyone find this invigorating now? As far as the mythologizing of childhood goes, Nas, Laurie Lee, and Ariel Pink are infinitely preferable.

157. AC/DC - 'Let There Be Rock'
(1977, #17 - album, AN)

DL: If this is real music, give me disposable, manufactured, exciting and vibrant pop music any day of the week. Dull, repetitious and overlong. Each to their own but I find no depth of emotion in this.

AN: I fucking hated it when people started to canonize boring, macho rock music around about 2002. That’s why I chose this, basically.

JG: Are we seriously including AC/DC in this?

TM: This is ‘Rock’ as a religiose millstone around the neck. Don’t experiment or think for yourself, just believe in the myth and the riff. 1955 wasn’t the beginning and jazz is better anyway. Incessant.

156. Bob Geldof - 'The Great Song of Indifference'
(1990, #15, TM)

DL: If Live Aid was fuelled by a true sense of altruism, then it must be a coincidence that it prolonged the careers of narcissistic bores such as this. Emanates the intimate charm of steaming excrement.

AN: I’ve never listened to this and I don’t want to.

JG: His contemporaries A House did this sort of thing much more effectively (and acerbically) on their sneering, self-loathing 'I Don’t Care'. But they were speaking from a position of obscurity and didn’t have time for Geldof’s tiresome nonsense.

TM: Trifling pomposity from Saint Bob. Of course, writing a Dylan piss-take complete with Irish knees-up buffoonery is just bound to shake people out of their apathy. GIVE ME YOUR FUCKING EAR PLUGS!

155. U2 - 'Angel of Harlem'
(1988, #9, RC)

DL: For me, U2 were at their prime during their halcyon days of icy desolation, and this slice of plastic soul marks their initial shift from what made their sound so unique and into patronising cliché.

AN: U-fucking-2. This is ethically dubious millionaire minstrelsy. And it sounds like shit.

JG: U2 themselves freely admit that this was their most difficult period, and this tentative rock-soul tribute to Billie Holliday hangs uneasily between the two. Still, at least they were having a go.

TM: Earnest bellowing from the messianic one. This is from their tediously ‘authentic’ Real Rock phase, pilfering U.S. signifiers for ballast and lucre. The film is laughable, the saxophones sickening.

154. Avril Lavigne - 'SK8r Boi'
(2002, #8, DL)

DL: Banal faux-rebellion with punk-pop by numbers production. What irks me is the way these Kerrang! emo/metal acts seem to think that they are in any way less manufactured than your average boy-band.

AN: I quite like the key change in this. Marketed confectionary but surely we could’ve picked ‘Girlfriend’ instead?

JG: They called her Average Lavigne, but this is far more criminal than that. She’s just a female Bryan Adams, isn’t she? Harsh, but fair.

TM: I will give any record a chance, but this is irrefutably irritating in its simplistic rhymes and sham ‘rebellion’. By the 2000s, subcultures were effortlessly co-opted by the corporate mainstream.

153. Bus Stop (Feat. Carl Douglas) - 'Kung Fu Fighting'
(1998, #8, JG)

DL: My giddy arse, this is tacky. Like drawing cock-and-balls on the Mona Lisa. There's nothing quite like ad-libbed additional refrains and raps to annihilate your thoughts of smile-inducing originals.

AN: Another pointless novelty record. Ruins a decent original.

JG: The worst of all the great many cynical dustings-off of 70s disco fluff that shone so darkly in 1998. The spiritual heir of this sort of thing is nothing other than the ‘Holiday Rap’. At least that’s funny.

TM: “A kung-fu fighter in the disco!” A very late-90s cheapening of disco, missing the original’s oddity. It enters the sphere of the senseless with the MC’s gormless vocals and moronic chant-leading.

152. Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes - 'Up Where We Belong'
(1983, #7, DL)

DL: Contrary to the belief of the average Digital Spy user, I think the panel agree that both the mainstream and leftfield have faults though it's this kind of drippiness that vindicates the darker side.

AN: Ah, the eighties. They were shit, weren’t they?

JG: A relatively early example of the professional duet in which you can’t ever imagine actual people even thinking the alien, sucrose lyrics; let alone saying them to one another.

TM: Harbinger of many a syrupy film tie-in ballad to come. I have no problem with ostentatious emotion, provided the display avoids the sort of calculation and bombast on pitiful display here.

151. Paul Weller - 'The Changingman'
(1995, #7, DL)

DL: We asked 100 people to name something that sprang to mind when faced with the terms 'tedium' and 'inertia' and they all said 'Noelrock'. Astoundingly, the Mod-father was only 37 at the time, not 129.

AN: By this point Paul Weller’s voice had deteriorated into a geriatric growl. And I’ve always found him to be an especially dislikeable man. Terrible tune.

JG: I’ve always thought Weller needed Buckler and Foxton more than he’ll ever know. This is plodding semi-MOR from a man whose decline into mediocrity closely tracked that of his forebear Steve Winwood. He’s somewhat redeemed himself more recently.

TM: The ‘Mod-father’ lifts the riff from ELO’s superior ‘10538 Overture’ for the purposes of plodding, dad rock. This stodgy blues posturing belies his previous experimentation. “Jaded”? Yes, Paul.

150. Eminem - 'Not Afraid'
(2010, #5, DL)

DL: I listened to The Marshall Mathers LP the other night. It was shocking, sinister and hilariously gripping. How he re-emerged with this whiny, self-pitying, painful shite is beyond me. Retire again!

AN: Slim not operating on all cylinders at this stage. Still, could be worse.

JG: Eminem really has run out of things to say, hasn’t he?

TM: Entirely lacking the complexity and depth his earlier work possessed. One of the few to diss Dubya in 2004; in 2010, this was just a myopic irrelevance besides The-dream, Kanye, Big Boi and Janelle.

149. Lenny Kravitz - 'Are You Gonna Go My Way?'
(1993, #4, RC)

DL: Hendrix-lite, but evidently I don't like to rock as much I must have previously imagined. One of those songs I feel like defending because of the glory days of Now! albums. Perhaps my last dissent.

AN: See my comments on #157 but substitute “2002” for “1993”.

JG: Like so many artists on this list, I can’t even work out what Lenny Kravitz was trying to achieve here, or why he thought it a good idea.

TM: The first, and surely not the last, appearance for a justly maligned poltroon. Daft Hendrix facsimile riff; strutting, cocksure lyrics: “I am the chosen, I'm the one / I have come to save the day.”

148. Cliff Richard 'Power to All Our Friends'
(1973, #4, TM)

DL: I'd put Cliff in the same bracket as Noel Edmonds and Cilla: Santa-like figures in childhood that would turn out to be a right set of arse-knobs upon adult inspection. It's no ‘Wired For Sound’.

AN: Wowzaroo. Words fail me.

JG: Power to the bees? Power to the vine? Power to the Sun (as though it hasn’t got any)???!!! What on Earth is going on here???!!!

TM: Another saviour whose day in this list has come. This Eurovision entry foists happy-clappy Christianity on us; as appealing as his Festival of Light compatriot and mad old busybody Mary Whitehouse.

147. Jamiroquai - 'Virtual Insanity'
(1996, #3, RC)

DL: I remember when it was all about saving the planet rather than arsing around in Ferraris and alighting nightclubs with a cocaine nosebleed. Bono-esque levels of integrity. Somewhat prophetic though.

AN: I have a soft spot for this, but I can see what was awful about it. Cartoon black culture for Trustafarian tossers.

JG: Revisiting this reminds me why I hold Jay Kay is such contempt, with its hackneyed, nonsense lyrics that read like a five year old musing about Aldous Huxley.

TM: This mad hatter’s no Simon Munnery, but rather a ‘quirky’ clown, setting the cause of urban music back several millennia. What whimpering ‘profundity’ at the end; actual inanity, more like.

146. Will Smith (Feat. Dru Hill) - 'Wild Wild West'
(1999, #2, JG)

DL: Smith's early Fresh Prince work is great. It embodies something of an old-school, playful, pre-gangsta sense of innocence that his unimaginative, sample-heavy hits largely selling crap films don’t.

AN: ‘Men in Black’ (tune), was actually pretty good. Not so this.

JG: Suitably “mutton-into-lamb” piece to accompany the overwhelmingly slight, CGI-drenched Barry Sonnenfeld film.

TM: While far from the rich Western vistas of Leone and Morricone, it is relatively inoffensive, disposable product. Mere merchandise, yes, but ‘tis flanked in this list by rather more heinous specimens.

145. Nick Berry - 'Heartbeat'
(1992, #2, RC)

DL: 'Heartbeat' was a magical series in its heyday, with wondrous North Yorks scenery at play plus admirable determination to never reach 1970. Nothing wrong with this. If I rated it badly I'm ashamed.

AN: Actually, maybe things have improved in some ways since 1992.

JG: Suitably dribbling soundtrack to the ITV re-imagining of the early 1960s as a kind of Middle of the Summer Wine rural idyll. Shit, frankly.

TM: Sham nostalgia in place of vivid life. The stridently bland video features the smooth Berry, an anonymous lady and the North Yorkshire Moors in what is little more than an advertisement for combs.

144. King - 'Love and Pride'
(1985, #2, TM)

DL: Other than for nostalgic purposes, there is no reason why anyone should opt to listen to this in 2012; now go back to voicing adverts for box-sets you won't find in shops, as they're fucking rubbish.

AN: Cringe-worthy as this is, I enjoyed it. I mean his voice is dire, but I can’t help but think that any band actually playing funk as competent as this deserves some kudos.

JG: League Two New Pop, not much different in principle from Thurman or Milburn. Utterly inessential in every way imaginable.

TM: Included forsooth for the gangling garishness of the self-styled ‘King’, who fronted a notably monotonous VH1 show in the mid-90s. While the music is okay this upstart was never going to best Prince.

143. The Strawbs - 'Part of the Union'
(1973, #2, TM)

DL: Until the other week, I thought that this was an empowering anthem. I do now realise that in reality it's a total exhibit of snide and condescending shit, and for that reason, I am most certainly out!

AN: What’s the consensus of the irony or otherwise of the lyrics to this? I feel like a response depends on which way you take ’em.

JG: Imagine how much more agreeable life could be today if Thatcher had gone after The Strawbs instead of the National Union of Mineworkers.

TM: This became a favourite at union conferences and picket lines; more fool them, as this is an ironical ‘celebration’. Hudson and Ford sung this with Michael Ancram at the 2001 Tory Party Conference.

142. Peter Andre - 'Flava'
(1996, #1, DL)

DL: If you thought the OK! magazine mainstay had been irksome enough since his time in the jungle, then go back to '96 to experience the worst appropriation of street culture ever. But he loves his kids!

AN: A beautiful piece of music.

JG: Inexplicably popular New Jack Swing-themed number about five years too late. Also remarkably flat-sounding, considering that this is meant to be about living the high life.

TM: Musically, this is far from inept, but it is vocally and choreographically listless. It is a drained, inert culture that treats the likes of Andre with significance rather than sheer indifference.

141. Usher (Feat. Will.I.Am) - 'OMG'
(2010, #1, DL)

DL: Why does pop music become even more shallow and inane during times of economic strain for most normal people? Is this escapism or the gritty reality of having your face rubbed in it? Entirely up 2U.

AN: A clear sign of how commercial R’n’B has (in most cases) declined since the early noughties.

JG: F this S, lol.

TM: The synth is superficially pleasant, but the song is sketchy at best. Usher’s vocals are abjectly foolish. “Never ever has a lady hit me on the first sight”: I don’t wish violence on anyone, but...

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