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The 5 Most Overrated Male Musicians, Part Two

They're pompous. They're pretentious. They gave themselves stupid nicknames. Everybody loves them -- except for me.

Kathy Shaidle


April 30, 2013 - 7:00 am

Last time around, I started quite a conversation about the merits, or lack thereof, of Pink Floyd and Bob Marley.

Now we’re dispatching three additional sacred musical cows to the slaughterhouse:

#3: Stevie Wonder

At the risk of wandering into Elvis Costello territory — yes, he really did say this — I’m gonna come right out with it:

If Stevie Wonder wasn’t black and blind, there’s no way he’d be as highly esteemed as he is.

A white guy who named himself “Wonder” would never hear the end of it. Instead, we never hear the end of Stevie’s songs, especially on American Idol.

OK, so that’s not his fault, but you know what is?

Besides The Secret Life of Plants and “I Just Called To Say I Love You” and “Ebony and Ivory”?

The song below.

I’m indebted to David Stubbs for putting my incoherent dislike of Songs in the Key of Life into words:

“Isn’t She Lovely” transcribes to vinyl every last icky-cooing dollop of sentimental gloop to which once-sentient adults are reduced when they have babies and, true to the album’s form, lasts longer than purgatory. Several minutes into this, with no light at the end of the tunnel of choruses, King Herod seems like one of the Bible’s more engaging and reasonable characters. “I Wish” contains the most ridiculously misty-eyed and excruciatingly doggerel-ridden reminiscence on childhood.

#2: The Doors

The Doors are like certain Twilight Zone episodes or The Shawshank Redemption:

Really deep and profound — if you’re 12 years old.

Jim Morrison’s lyrics — sorry, I mean “poetry” — are, well, let this guy say it:

Jim Morrison wrote a lot of poetry, and most of it was (…) pretentious, regrettable, faux-intellectual diarrhea. Reading Jim Morrison the poet is like watching a shirtless SAE pledge strumming James Blunt on his old acoustic in the university commons during spring break: totally insufferable, uninspiring, and distasteful.

By the way: the dude who wrote that is a fan of The Doors.

Just saying.

I can almost understand old hippies staying fond of The Doors for nostalgic reasons.

What I can’t comprehend are the teenagers and college students who love their overblown, empty-calorie noise.

Jim Morrison’s “Romantic” affectations were simply a flimsy cover for his interpersonal obnoxiousness.

He got away with a lot of rude, obscene garbage because he presented himself an an “artiste.”

And then he died, which, as the old joke goes, was a great career move, because you can see from his mug shot that he was doomed to get really fat in short order.

Who the hell calls himself “the Lizard King,” anyhow?

Especially since all his songs and “poems” about snakes sound like they were written by a guy who’d never actually seen one.

Again, I cede the floor to David Stubbs:

He was congratulated for shedding a beam of black light on the sunshine Sixties scene. However, his doggerel visions of what might lie beyond if we were to be really intense enough to break through and find out, was just as drivel-addled as any Aquarian age nonsense, a lyrical world of crystal ships and snakes and reptile kingdoms and snakes and ancient lakes and girls of low morals and snakes – basically, the banal lexicon of the tattoo parlour brought to life.

Oliver Stone is one of their biggest fans.

What more do I need to say?

#1: Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is a pompous blowhard whose overwrought, arrested-adolescent lyrics make Jim Morrison sound like Philip Larkin.

And like Morrison, he wrote about stuff he knows nothing about — like having a real job — and, like both Morrison and Stevie Wonder, he gave himself a ridiculous “penis” nickname: “The Boss.”

The only reason “Because the Night” is good is because Patti Smith co-wrote it.

Long ago, I read in a British music magazine that Springsteen used to hire actors as medics and ambulance drivers, to drag him off the stage at the end of one of his “exhausting” three-hour concerts.

If that’s not true, it should be.

I’m not alone in my hatred of Bruce Springsteen, which had simply been garden-variety dislike until a) he cheated on his wife and b) he started getting really stupidly and outspokenly political during the Bush years.

This guy’s “10 Reasons I Hate Bruce Springsteen” is an instant classic. (And yes, Neil Young’s song for Philadelphia was far superior.)

But as usual, it took an Englishman to give Springsteen the thrashing he deserves:

Someone like Tom Waits makes me feel like I understand America a little better. Springsteen makes me feel hopelessly estranged from the place with his hyperventilating soap operas about young lovers riding outta this one-horse town on the back of a hurricane down the highway of dreams. (…)

His lyrics are wrought from overcooked high school poetry (“we ride through mansions of glory on suicide machines”), homespun hokum, and the York Study Notes to John Steinbeck.

Springsteen appeals to the eternal adolescent in every rock fan, but not the fun, irreverent version, rather the inner Holden Caulfield, earnestly searching for ANSWERS and TRUTH, desperate to be a hero in the drama of his own life, utterly incapable of laughing at himself or the world.

Oh, and then there’s that “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town” cover.

Unlike a lot of Bruce-haters, I don’t object to Springsteen’s fans at all. I love rabid fandom.

I just don’t think Bruce Springsteen deserves his.

Coming Next Week: The 5 Most Overrated Female Musicians

(KATHY SHAIDLE is a blogging pioneer who runs FiveFeetOfFury, now in its 15th year. She's been called "one of the great virtuoso polemicists of our time," by MARK STEYN. Her NEW book is Confessions of A Failed Slut (Thought Catalog, 2014).

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Top Rated Comments   
And while I'm hating on Dave Matthews.

What's the difference between a Dave Matthews Band Fan and a Jehovah's Witness?

A Jehovah's Witness will eventually give up trying to convert you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nicely done. Bruce is a total phony. Blue collar, sorry, 'Working Class' music for people who have seen 'The Deer Hunter'
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think Springsteen likes to see himself as Woody Guthrie (who at least "walked the walk" as well as "talking the talk"). He's more like Berthold Brecht and not in a good way. According to Paul Johnson in his book, "Intellectuals", Brecht affected a pose as a "People's Artist" while wearing tailored "working men's clothes" and living in a posh apartment in an exclusive neighborhood in East Berlin reserved for upper-level Communist Party officials (Brecht also had a Swiss bank account). Seeing that picture of Springsteen in his button-down plaid shirt with the sleeves torn off and his bandanna made me think of some lame Will Ferrell "SNL" sketch where the Springsteen character is railing at his broker over a cell phone between sets.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (93)
All Comments   (93)
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I'd have added The Beatles to this list. Not one mention of them in all the comments.

Come on! She loves you ya ya ya? Not exactly great writing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The only music truly defined by who doesn't like it is the music you never heard.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bono is the king of poseurs, an overrated singer and an egomaniac. He feels entitled to lecture Presidents and Prime Ministers about his lefty misconceptions (ie lecturing Paul Martin, Canada's then-PM, on the need for African debt forgiveness), while moving U2 to the Netherlands for more favorable tax treatment. He gives Irish blowhards a bad name.
Check out his pathetic attempt to 'duet' with the wonderful blues choir on "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" from Rattle and Hum. Sickening.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Springsteen: Couldn't agree more. Over hyped and over rated.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nicely done, Kathy. I agree about Springsteen post Nebraska, but Born to Run really was a new, distinct, cool sound when it came out and Darkness was a great album. I have never understood why people think Eric Clapton is "God." I think his music is boring in the extreme and he doesn't sing well. And I know this is heresy, but I think the Beatles are the most overrated band ever. Rolling Stone has 4 of their albums in the top 10 of all time. There is one good song out of all those albums--I'm Looking Through You--and that's it. So overrated.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is always a little strange for people who couldn't write a song to save their lives to make claims about who is "better" or "overrated". I never understood why some people love people like Springsteen but he has written at least an album's worth of solid songs over the years.

As a struggling musician/songwriter myself I can tell you that writing a song that millions of people enjoy is not easy in any way. You may not like some of the stuff that gets popular and neither do I, that doesn't mean it is "bad" however.

As for this list, the Doors are not really overrated IMO because there has always been people who don't like them. Personally I think they were great. They have an instantly recognizable sound and Jim Morrison had X-Factor to spare.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My 2¢ and speaking in general terms; Rock stars have a catalogue of music that they are obligated to perform throughout their lives so fans can hear their favorite songs in a live setting. So what happens is we have a burst of amazing creativity from song writers early in their careers. They are influenced by their classical training, eclectic listening and/or their innate genius. After their initial burst of creation they become curators for their own music catalog and they start cannibalizing their own songs and creativity.

I'll use Stevie Wonder as an example. "Innervisions" and "Songs In The Key of Life" were astounding feats of composing and musicianship. After that Stevie became a curator of his music and nothing he's written since comes even close, think "Part Time Lover".

(Springsteen does indeed suck.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Unlike a lot of Bruce-haters, I don’t object to Springsteen’s fans at all. I love rabid fandom."
Actually, I don't love rabid fandom. I have never experienced it and I don't believe there has ever been a human being who deserved it. I have derived a great deal of pleasure from the musical gifts of many artists, ranging from Joni Mitchell to Pavarotti- with some thrilling live performances - but it is, after all, music...not eternal life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'll agree all are overrated - but each one did have some great songs that endure as classics.

My complaint is against PM more generally, but this article is a prime case in point. Why is it necessary to put it on multiple "pages" requiring extra clicks. Even "view as single page" requires another click, when the entire article and comments fit on one page without undo scrolling.

Is it some scheme to defraud advertisers into thinking there are more eyes than there really are?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This whole thread just shows that people have different tastes.

How utterly unprofound.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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