The ten best songs by awful musicians
Stopped clocks are right twice a day. Geoffrey Arend is married to Christina Hendricks. Performance artists get federal funding. Canada is south of Detroit. People wear Google Glass and think they look awesome. Some things you just can't explain, like how really shitty bands occasionally luck into recording splendid songs. To wit, here are the 10 greatest songs ever recorded by not-so-great musicians:
"Apologize," One Republic
Ryan Tedder is a hit-making robot in the worst sense imaginable. Crafting melodies with the sole objective of charting, he's a pop-music panderer, whether for his own band or the slew of sellouts he produces for. But here's the thing about pop music: Bad as the listening public's taste can be at times, sometimes mass affection is warranted. "Apologize" is one of the times they--and Tedder--got it totally right. The song is reminiscent of Chuck and Blair locking eyes from across a crowded club in Gossip Girl. There's just nothing more emotionally gripping.
"Boogie In Your Butt," Eddie Murphy
This might be the most sophomoric song ever recorded. The lyrics--clearly the fruits of an extremely inebriated green-room conversation--consist of Murphy rapping about shoving a bunch of disparate objects that rhyme into a rectum. ("Put a telephone in your butt/ Put a dinosaur bone in your butt.") But(t), in a still-on-the-rise (this was '82) Murphy's hands, it's infectiously hilarious, and the backing band is funky, like Morris Day loaned Murphy the Time for the night.
"Demons," Imagine Dragons
Taking the baton from Limp Bizkit, Imagine Dragons seem to operate under the mistaken impression that relentlessly cranking everything up to 11 magically makes music better. Except on "Demons," where Dan Reynolds backs the verses into methodical Coldplay territory before the chorus explodes. Somehow it works.
The Wilson sisters are rightfully hailed as feminist trailblazers in what was then a rock landscape completely immersed in testosterone. But that doesn't mean their music was any good. Yet on Heart's most powerful of power ballads, "Alone," all the melodramatic guitar-lickin' works, and the chorus' come-on is oh-so-steamy.
"Drops of Jupiter," Train
This song has been so mercilessly overplayed since it was released 13 years ago (!) that you'd be forgiven for considering it annoying. But that's not Train's fault. "Drops of Jupiter" could be 99.9 percent trash and it would still be redeemed by the amazing line, "The best soy latte that you ever had and me." But the tune, masterfully paced and lyrically ballsy, isn't trash. It's actually pretty good, unlike the balance of Train's discography.
"Roundball Rock," John Tesh
No offense to Pitbull or the Black-Eyed Peas, but nothing got you jacked up to watch NBA hoops like John Tesh's "Roundball Rock." Written specifically for NBC, which aired the league's games during Michael Jordan's heyday, no instrumental in the history of pop music so effectively fused a classical string section with Caribbean rhythms, smoking hot Fender foreplay, and even a damn fiddle solo. Suck it, Yanni.
"End of May," Michael Bublé
Michael Bublé seems like a genuinely decent dude, and his voice is gorgeous. But he's utterly trapped in his role as North America's go-to crooner. Harry Connick Jr. always had a Cajun undercurrent that allowed him to edge things up when he wanted to, but Bublé's never quite found a way to broaden his horizons. The closest he got was "End of May," a spare, haunting ballad about trying to get over the love of your life. For Bublé, this was Emily Blunt, so you can imagine why he was so distraught. But, actually, he didn't even write the song. My brother did.
"Break On Through," The Doors
When talented but troubled frontmen die suddenly, usually at the age of 27, we're left to wonder how good they could have been. But with the Doors, we sort of knew they weren't that great. Were it not for Jim Morrison's blacked-out antics and libidinous charisma, they'd have gone down as just another run-of-the-mill blues-rock quartet (like the Black Keys, but with two more members). Yet out of that mill came one taut chunk of psychedelic lumber: "Break On Through."
"I Wanna Sex You Up," Color Me Badd
When taking stock of the two best-known "sex" songs of Bush Senior's presidency, George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" is universally considered to be the better track. A lot of people really, really wanted to bang the former Wham! frontman, and this dirty ditty lets you know that George, masquerading (unconvincingly) as a heterosexual at the time, is only about nine inches behind you, ready to raw-dog it with the subtlety of a pile driver. Conversely, nobody wanted to bone any of the dudes in Color Me Badd -- especially the Kenny G doppelgänger. Yet CMB's lyrical seduction is more nuanced and female-friendly, and the instrumentation is New Jack Swing in a bottle. In short, it's the superior "sex" song, even if George is still infinitely more fuckable than the CMB boys combined.
"What's Luv?" Fat Joe feat. Ashanti
Remember the early aughts, when virtually every rap track had a hook girl on it? This was Ashanti's calling; her feathery vocals were never meant to carry a tune, but they could sure smooth out a banger. Mix in some Nintendo-like samples over a thumping backbeat, and you've got the highlight of both her and Fat Joe's careers, although "Lean Back" was crazy dope.
Follow Mike Seely on Twitter @mdseely
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