Friday, January 13, 2006

List of the Week: When Bad Artists Make Good Music

It happens: even the worst musicians can somehow -- accidentally, perhaps -- make compelling music. Maybe they were working with a brilliant producer. Maybe they needed a fantastic remix. Maybe they got lucky. Who knows?

This week, we celebrate those rare, beautiful moments when the bad become good...even more one, brief moment. It's inspiring, almost: if these jerkoffs can succeed, anyone can.

Ranking on this list is determined by a cross-reference of both how good the song is and how bad the artist is; generally speaking, the worse the band, the higher the ranking. (Or, in other words, it's kinda random.) And it goes without saying that these artists are "bad" because I say so. If you see a band you like on this list, I mean no offense. Though I suggest you start listening to some better music.

10. The Grateful Dead, "Touch of Grey." The Dead were ponderous, self-indulgent, and boring. Somehow, though, this song -- their only mainstream hit -- managed to be somewhat short, to the point, and had a great melody. It also had a fantastic video, with marionette skeletons playing all the instruments.

9. Puff Daddy, et al., "It's All About the Benjamins (rock remix)." He needed Rob Zombie and Dave Grohl to do it, but their studio trickery turned Diddy's stupid ode to making money (gee, there's an original concept for a rap song) into a thumping masterpiece. Even Weird Al's parody kicks.

8. Nickelback, "Leader of Men." Yes, Chad Krueger's wannabe grunge stylings actually worked, exactly once: their first hit in the United States, "Leader of Men" was actually a really catchy rock song. Unfortuntely, everything else we've had to suffer through can be traced back to this track.

7. Rush, "Freewill." Listening to Rush was almost painful at times. These guys were three of the best rock musicians on the planet, but their songs collapsed under the weight of self-important noodling. Thank the Prophets for "Freewill," then, the one track that escapes all their arrogance. And you gotta love that awesome bass solo.

6. Limp Bizkit, "My Way." Sure, the lyrics are dumb -- "It's my way!/My way or the highway!" -- but "My Way" boasts an awesome melody. I also love the way Durst, actually attemping to be a songwriter, toys with the dynamics. (It's also barely possible that my appreciation for this song is mostly due to its connection to Wrestlemania X7, which I attended. You decide.)

5. The Doors, "People Are Strange." I loved this song when I was kid. So you can imagine my surprise when I grew up to learn it was performed by the Doors, whom I couldn't stand. The Doors? Jim Morrison? You're kidding, right? Yet another dull "classic" band that managed to pull it all together for one song. At least they gave us that much.

4. The Eagles, "Hotel California." "I hate the fucking Eagles, man!" The Dude and I agree on that. So it's somewhat baffling that this, one of the great rock songs ever written, could have come from the same people. I suspect the involvment of Satan. Or pot. Either/or.

3. Megadeth, "A Tout Le Monde." Emotional appearance in Some Kind of Monster aside, Dave Mustaine has always been an insufferable turd, and his band's awful music has suited him perfectly. It's only fitting that this jilted-prom-date metalhead's finest hour would be a depressing, introspective song about suicide. Also fun: I first heard the song in MIDI format, when it was used in Gannon's dungeon in a home-brew remix of the original Zelda. Cool, huh?

2. Britney Spears, "Toxic." Whoever produced this should get a Congressional medal of some kind. I love those diving strings, and the way they seem to melt and flow into one another. And that weird-ass effect on Britney's voice toward the end. Not to mention the smoking video, which can set fire to your house if you watch it with any dry rags around. I'm willing to tolerate all the other assorted Britney garbage in exchange for this one song.

1. Creed, "Torn." Oh, how I love this. Creed literally peaked with their very first song: "Torn," track one side one of My Own Prison. It's quite the slice of post-grunge brilliance: Stapp's very fine vocals, a terrific riff from Mark Tremonti, the whole thing is really great. And then it's all downhill from there, as Creed jumped the shark with the very next track and sailed in crap music history. Makes you wish they would have quit while they were ahead.

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