Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Top 9 “Beloved Classic” Songs That Radio Needs To Stop Playing (And the Songs They Should Play In Their Place)

Music, like any form of art, is a subjective medium. What some may hear as a pleasant arrangement of chords and melodies set to an interesting beat others may consider less pleasant than the sound a squirrel makes when you run it through a dull wood-chipper. Or Yoko Ono.

It’s everywhere around us. To many, music has become so ubiquitous that they stop listening and simply hear it without giving any thought to its structure, meaning, or direction. To others, however, each piece holds its own unique story, lesson, or parable to be dissected, devoured, and digested like a squirrel found in ragged chunks next to Yoko Ono.

As such, there are songs that have become staples on the radio, considered hits by many, that are played in regular rotation on niche stations that deal exclusively in the hits of a given genre or decade. “Radio listeners” turned themselves into “radio hearers,” and have kept some of these pieces alive and moving longer than they were meant to exist, like a musical zombie shambling across our radio dials. We hereby present for your consideration nine beloved classics that need to be put down, where their specific faults lie, and alternative tracks that would be better suited to carry their load.

1. “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” – by Aretha Franklin

Problems: Repetition, Tragic Stupidity

Recorded in 1984, the title track of Aretha Franklin’s first platinum album peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Charts in 1985, and features heavily in 80’s radio station’s rotations.

Looking at the lyrics, the word “Zoomin’” appears in this song 41 times. With a song length of 4:44, that means there is one instance of “zoomin’” every 6.92 seconds, which sounds more like a NASCAR event than a track from the Queen of Soul. When you consider that each instance is book-ended by the word “who” (with an extra one thrown into another lyric), that means that in a span of 284 seconds, Aretha asks the universal question “Who?” a whopping 83 times, or once every 3.42 seconds. One would normally have to go to production of Tommy performed and attended entirely and exclusively by a parliament of owls to get that kind of output. If we asked anyone the same question every 3.42 seconds, we would expect to get slapped until our cake-holes stopped producing sound, not awarded with a Grammy. This is the musical equivalent of the “Most Annoying Sound Ever” contest from Dumb and Dumber. And what in blue-Hell is “zoomin’,” anyway? The song itself defines it as “foolin’.” Why not simply ask “Who’s foolin’ who?” Is the song about infidelity? Sexual aggression? Driving really fast? Whatever it is, Aretha doesn’t seem to understand, as she continually asks who is doing it, and to whom.

Replacement: If you want an 80’s song about infidelity, why not give a listen to Oran “Juice” Jones’ “The Rain?” It's a song about a man who catches his girl cheating and blows up her spot in the breakdown, and a hell of a lot more entertaining than listening to the confused screeching of someone who isn’t quite sure about the subject of her own song.

2. “My Heart Will Go On” – by Celine Dion

Problems: Belabored Sentimentality, Excessive Length, Clumsy Language

If there is an exemplar of over-dramatization, her name is CĂ©line Marie Claudette Dion. The love theme for James Cameron’s Titanic reached number 1 on Billboard’s Top 100 on February 28, 1998, and spent twenty grueling weeks suffocating us like a fat aunt giving that uncomfortably long hug at Christmas. It still gets played on adult contemporary stations and any station that regularly uses the word “Love” and does not immediately follow it with “Gun.”

When I typed “My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion” into the search engine, it said “Showing results for 'Slowly Drowning In Sap.' ” The theme song for James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic (which managed to make a story about the most famous wreck in the history of ocean voyages into a footnote in some teenagers extended first date diary), My Heart Will Go On is guaranteed to disrupt anyone’s good time. It clocks in at 4:41 (5:11 if you’re listening to the soundtrack; her heart really does go on… and on… and on…) and the chorus is more like Grover from Sesame Street describing the function of a pacemaker in a fresh corpse than any kind of genuine sentiment expressed by people who actually love each other. Legend has it that the word “cloying” spontaneously appeared in dictionaries everywhere at the exact moment this song was recorded. By the way, there are exactly two instances when this much flute is acceptable in a movie; the training sequence in The Karate Kid, and any appearance of Ron Burgundy.

Replacement: If you want a song about a shipwreck, there’s no finer choice than Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Although the video does not feature Kate Winslet’s naked torso, it does have the distinct advantage of not featuring Kate Winslet's acting.

3. “Shine” – by Collective Soul

Problems: Repetition, Simplicity, Annoying Insistence

Also known as that crunchy song where the guitar stops and the guy says “Yueah!”, this song reached as high as number 4 on Billboard's Alternative Songs Chart in 1994 before crashing on our couch and eating all our Cheetos while watching Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on Cinemax.

Shine suffers from an identity crisis. Guitarist Dean Roland describes the chorus as “basically a prayer,” but the group vehemently denies they are a Christian Band. The repetition of the chorus’ only line over and over and over is like a rosary of poorly written prose, and its uninventive and uninspiring guitar work would make Mother Teresa spit on anyone daring to call it a riff. Aside from its repetitive religious pleadings, the remainder of the song is reminiscent of a rejected script for Dora the Explorer;

Give me a word
Give me a sign
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find…

Lay me on the ground
Fly me in the sky…

Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Teach me where to go
Tell me will love be there…

For the love of your/not your God, Shine, can you not do anything yourself? For 3:55 (5:07 on the album cut) you nag us to show you, teach you and lay you. Doesn’t the Lord teach that he helps those who help themselves? Plus, any song that is a favorite of self-absorbed delusional emo fuckwads who shoot up their schools needs to be retired.

Replacement: If you’d like a song with vague religious references that actually features skillful guitar playing, we cannot stress enough how “Snow (Hey Oh)” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers will light you up like a votive candle.

4. & 4A. “It’s Alright,” & “But It’s Alright” – both by Huey Lewis and the News

Problems: Unnecessary Remakes of Inferior Quality

No, that’s not a typo. In 1993, Huey Lewis & The News released an acapella cover of Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions’ “It’s Alright.” They had such a good time with it, they decided they wanted to do it again, so they found another song with the same title, and did it again in 1994, releasing their cover of J.J. Jackson’s “But It’s Alright.” Line up those two songs, it sounds suspiciously like a college student trying desperately to assuage the burgeoning fears of his eventual date-rape victim.

The songs themselves aren’t bad; the originals are both excellent tracks by competent musicians. The question is, why would they allow a human scarecrow like Lewis to handle their product? “It’s Alright” was Lewis asking the question “what would it sound like if we took all the instruments- and fun, charm, and joy- out of this song?” Acapella done correctly is a fantastic, beautiful thing. The News version sounds like acapella done by a wedding band that was stationed a little too closely to the open bar.

At least that was an attempt to give the song a different feel. With “But It’s Alright,” they didn’t even bother to change a thing except for the tempo, which is sped up by about a billionth of a second.

Check this out.

It’s a YouTube Doubling of the songs played next to each other. Sure, you have to fiddle with it a little bit, pause the Huey Lewis track for about half a second or so in the beginning, and they eventually separate again, but for a few brief, shining moments, you’re listening to the exact… same… track. So why bother?

Replacements: If you want to hear these songs, why not listen to the songs the way that God (and Collective Soul- or maybe not) wanted you to hear them?

The Impressions lay it down with “It’s All Right”

J.J. Jackson’s 1966 recording of “But It’s Alright”

5 (4B?). If You Don't Know Me By Now – by Simply Red or Seal, depending on the source of the transmission

Problems: Unnecessary Remake of Inferior Quality, Depressing

Speaking of unnecessary remakes, this song is on all the time, and which version you hear depends on what stations you listen to (Simply Red, 80's niche stations; Seal, more modern stations). Neither version is as good as the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes original, which isn't really that uplifting to begin with. Basically, our relationship sucks, and I see no way that it'll get better. Yeah, that's a rockin' way to get your Saturday afternoon started!

Replacement: If you want a song that questions how well you know someone, witness the perfect storm of comedy: Ludacris' You Don't Know Me Like That, as featured in the closing credits of the sublime comedy hit Tropic Thunder. Does it get any better? I say thee nay.

6. "What if God Was One of Us?" – by Joan Osborne

Problems: Depressing, Belabored Deceased Equine Battery

An interesting question, instantly rendered inane by sub-par song structure. The repetition is staggering: 252 words, 10% of them are the word "yeah". The only song relying on "yeah" more than this one is She Loves You, by the Beatles, which was, like, the first song ever written, and is actually a good, upbeat song, not a slog through a rainy funeral.

I imagine this song as a conversation between two people at a party, laying in lawn chairs and looking up at the night sky;

Party Goer One: "Hey... what if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on a bus, trying to make his way home?"
Party Goer Two: "Wow, man... that's deep."
PG1: "Like, what's his name? Yeah... And would you use it, or call him Sir, or your holiness, or something like that?"
PG2: "Good questions. The great unknowable truth of it all."
PG1: "Yeah... yeah... God is great. What does God's face look like? Would you want to see it if it meant you had to convert?"
PG2: "I dunno, I guess. I'm sure he looks pretty good."
PG1: "Yeah... yeah. Does he get texts? Isn't he lonely? Who calls him? Maybe the Pope, in Rome."
PG2: "I don't know. I'm gonna go see if there's anything left to eat."
PG1: "God is great, man. I mean, he's really good. What if he's one of us?"
PG2: "You know what, keep the weed. I'm out."

Replacement: If you want to hear a song about God and his greatest creation, how about Wonder by Natalie Merchant? It presents a unsolved mystery that makes you ponder the existence of God while actually being somewhat upbeat and intellectually stimulating (what is it about the narrator that makes her so wondrous? Can she fly? Does she have a third eye in her forehead? Can she explain common core math without using imaginary words?).

7. "What is Love?" – by Haddaway

Problems: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition, Tragic Stupidity, Repetition, Repetition

Stop looking for a link, you know God-Damned well what song I'm talking about. This turd filet topped the charts in 11 fucking countries, and hit #4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 based on it's use in a terribly derivative Saturday Night Live sketch. This song is proof that it really doesn't matter what you sing about, people don't use their higher brain functions at a club.

Two hundred forty-eight words. "What is love" is repeated 14 times (although it feels more like forty) which is 42 of those words. "Don't hurt me" doubles that up, taking up 84 more words. "Baby" and "no more" each make 13 appearances, wiping out another 39 words. The ever-popular "Yeah" rears it's head three times. Word count for those ten unique words: 168. That leaves 80 remaining words. Two thirds of the lyrics are the same ten words repeated ad nauseam. Good gravy, someone put a bullet in me.

Replacement: If you want to hear a song asking a simple philosophical question, listen to What is Life? by George Harrison. You'll get amazingly talented musicians rocking your face off rather than carpal tunnel syndrome of the ear.

8. "Breakout" – by Swing Out Sister

Problems: Repetition, Confusion

This song won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It reached number four in the UK in 1986, number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart in 1987. Meanwhile, can anyone tell me what the blue-fuck this song is about?

Don't start to ask
And now you've found a way to make it last
You've got to find a way
Say what you want to say
And breakout
Lay down the law
Shout out for mre
Breakout and shout
Day in, day out
And breakout

If you repeat that three times, you've pretty much sung the song (and probably have a semi-serious head wound, so seek treatment). There are other words, but they make as little sense as the chorus.

Replacement: If you want a song about rebelling against authority (my best guess at a meaning for this crap) listen to the wicked talent Idina Menzel defy gravity. She's got an amazing voice for the ages, and the song is so much more enjoyable to listen to in every way. Plus she's hot.

9. Sussudio – by Phil Collins

Problems: Repetition, Tragic Mind-Rending Stupidity, Clumsy Language

If you haven't already in life, go to The guy is raucous, profane, irreverent, and hilarious. Among one of his many long-standing crusades is informing the world of how talent-less Phil Collins is. I don't know if I agree with that statement, I feel he is a somewhat competent drummer and his work with Genesis was pretty tight. But boy, if he was judged solely by this piece of music, he would have been drawn and quartered ages ago.

How this dumpster fire reached number one on the U.S. Billboard chart is beyond me. The title is a nonsense filler word that Collins improvised while playing with a drum machine, meant to be a place holder until he could come up with something better. He never did, the lazy bastard. It's rare that the first draft of ANYTHING ever makes it to the final stage, and that's for a good reason. The meaningless of the word just points out how meaningless the song itself is. He just smashed a drum machine with the keyboards from Prince's 1999 and a nonsense word and lead off an album with it. Phil himself has stated it's a song about an imaginary crush. This song shows that even an imaginary love can be unrequited, because no one can love this pile of abortions.

Replacement: If you want a song about an imaginary crush, try either Beautiful by James Blunt or On My Own by any of the actresses to play Eponine in Les Miserables.

There are many more, and as long as they make music the clueless general public will continue to buy the shittiest examples of it. Post in the comments below if you have a least favorite fan favorite.

P.S., I own none of the rights to any music posted here, and I claim no credit for any of these works. Links used without permission.