18 April 2009

Songs That Need To Die

Over the years, I have been compiling a list of the songs I never want to hear again. But wait - there's a catch.

These aren't your normal, run of the mill shitty songs. You won't find any Creed, Matchbox Fucking Twenty, or Nickelback on this list (although, if all copies of "Photograph" were incinerated in a nuclear explosion, I would still wander through the post-apocalyptic landscape and mutter "Not enough gun"). The crucial difference is this: I consider these good songs. Some of them are even great, and I love them with all my heart. But every single one has been played ad nauseum since the beginning of time, curdling the pure essence that lies at their heart, and someone needs to put a stop to it and end their misery.

1. "Santeria" (and its known associates, "Wrong Way" and "What I Got") - I have to say it: These songs are overrated. They're good songs, yes, but they do not deserve the monstrous airtime they've received since their debut. I can't walk into a bar and walk out without having heard one of these fucking tracks. And what makes them so popular? The lead singer ate it before they hit the big time. I think that might be the only reason. People saw tragedy in his story and latched onto a trio of fun-timey tunes as if they summed up all of human existence. When our generation is gone, will these songs continue to be played as much? No. People will begin to appreciate (or non-appreciate) them for what they are, and gradually lose interest in the sad story that contextualizes them.

2. "Sweet Home Alabama" - If I cut off my balls and moved into a monastery tomorrow, and lived in utter silence and celibacy for the rest of my days, I would consider my life a success provided I never heard this fucking song ever again. It's the most overplayed song on this list, perhaps the most overplayed in history. The opening notes alone make me want to dropkick puppies by the barrelful.

3. "Hey Ya" - Even OutKast is sick of this song. Stop making them play it.

4. "American Pie" - I have joyous youthful memories of dancing to this song at an event at a conference/lecturing thingamajig I went to in Wisconsin as a high school junior. I hope other generations have a similar experience without subjecting me to it, and at the same time, I hope to never meet Don McLean, because if I do, I will smash him in his withered old fucking face.

5. "Piano Man" - There are a lot of Billy Joel songs I could have chosen. I went with this one, because it's the only one that makes me turn to the jukebox/karaoke singer/radio when I hear it and glare.

6. "Hallelujah" - This is the saddest one to include, but I must. Movies have ruined this song for us. They've used it time and time again, sapping it of its power and strength, and generally neutering it until it has become some shitty track for the obligatory "Everyone's sad" montage. Or, worse yet, an actual love scene, like the execrable one in Watchmen. It made the scene awkward and painful in a way entirely different from the awkward and painful scene in the comic. Some argued that Zack Synder was just trying to recreate the same vibe. I would argue that he entirely missed the vibe, and created a new kind of creepy all his own. (Here's a similar take on it.)

Deep down, it's not the songs that really trouble me. They are, after all, only songs. What is profoundly disturbing, however, is the rabid fervor with which they continue to be embraced and treasured, as if these and only these are worth preserving. I'm not even what might be called a "music person," but even I still know that there's a rich, inviting world of songs I have not heard just waiting for me to discover them.

That's why I've been a big fan of The A.V. Club's ongoing "Nashville or Bust" feature by Nathan Rabin, which has introduced me to so many great songs I would have never encountered otherwise (and with witty-yet-informative prose, as Mr. Rabin is known for). Why continue to wear down the imaginary grooves on your "Sweet Home Alabama"s and your "Piano Man"s when you can leap into Gram Parson's world and become obsessed with "Hot Burrito #1" (a beautifully melancholy song despite its title) or explore the many iterations of "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"?

And that's just covering country and some of its variations. You also have chanson waiting for you, and movie soundtracks, and classical music, and Europop and Kpop, and enka, and who knows how many other genres I'm missing because I'm dumb. GET OFF YOUR ASS, PEOPLE. DISCOVER SOMETHING NEW.

That is your mission for today, and everyday.

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