The “Academy of the Overrated” scene in Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1978) is meant to get us to hate Diane Keaton just before Woody Allen changes his mind and falls into bed with her.
Yes, as Mariel Hemingway’s character puts it, Keaton and her beau are “creeps” — but mostly because their “academy” inductees are so gauche, as is their decision to inflict their pretentious pillow talk onto hapless acquaintances on a public sidewalk.
Let’s face it:
Some artists really are overrated, especially today when words like “genius” and “classic” (and the current go-to empty-calorie adjective “iconic”) have been neutered by lazy, know-nothing writers.
First, we prick the inflated reputations of 5 rock and pop stars with XY chromosomes and little else to recommend them.
#5: Pink Floyd
Let’s tackle Roger Waters’ reputed antisemitism first, since it lets me put off having to actually talk about his dreadful “music” for a bit.
Waters made news most recently when New York City’s famous 92Y, under pressure by Jewish groups, cancelled his scheduled lecture.
I’m not a fan of anybody trying to get someone else’s public appearances cancelled, and not just because it’s happened to me.
What’s unusual about this particular instance, however, is that critics’ “accusations” against Waters are true.
Some will object that “anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism” and if we existed on a pure and sterile plane of Platonic forms, they’d be right.
But here on planet Earth, anyone who’s engaged a rabid “anti-Zionist” in “conversation” knows that within moments, their opponent will slip up and spit out some slur upon “the Joooozzzz!!!”
I save myself time and simply assume that long-time anti-Zionists are Jew-haters, because life is too short and I have laundry and stuff to do.
Those who grew up with Pink Floyd’s 1979 double album “The Wall” will remember it as the perfect antidote to the crueller aspects of teenage life. Chronicling the mental breakdown of a pop star, the rock opera rages against suffocating parents, tyrannical teachers and social conformism. The story concludes with the hero hauled before a nightmarish court, where everyone in his life testifies as an adversarial witness. Before the defendant can say a word in his own defense, the judge bellows a guilty verdict: “The evidence before the court is incontrovertible. There is no need for the jury to retire!”
I was reminded of this scene Saturday while attending a session in New York of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a self-appointed people’s court that has met periodically since 2009 to sit in judgment of Israel. (…)
Another reason to be reminded of “The Wall”: Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s chief lyricist, was a member of the jury.
It was ubiquitous in my steel mill home town — a whining drone blaring from every paneled suburban basement and tricked-out Chevy van.
But those of us who’d discovered punk wanted nothing to do with the overproduced bellows of millionaire dinosaurs like Pink Floyd.
That doesn’t make Pink Floyd’s music any more palatable, however.
Had their efforts been presented matter of factly, I’d give them a pass.
But every Floyd album was held up by under-read, musically unsophisticated teenage boys as a deep, profound commentary on society (man!!!) as well as an example of superior performance and production.
They’d show off their stereo system using Dark Side of the Moon, sounding like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas:
“Check it out! One instrument comes out one speaker, and another instrument comes out the OTHER speaker!!”
Have you, now a sober adult, actually listened to Dark Side of the Moon lately?
Can you scrape off enough encrusted nostalgia to acknowledge that album’s sheer awfulness?
And while those Wizard of Oz weirdies aren’t Floyd’s fault, they’re not helping matters, either.
When I scream “The Who are better than that stupid band you like,” I’m thinking about Pink Floyd first and foremost.
#4 – Bob Marley
The king of rasta “music” (and his idiotic “religion”) inspires so much loathing I barely have to do more than cut and paste this entry. Thanks, other people!
Punks like me were supposed to love reggae — The Clash and The Slits said so! — but luckily I got hold of The Boy Looked At Johnny, a collection of Julie Burchill and Tony Parson’s music criticism at the NME. (My stinky, brittle copy is the only book, besides a thesaurus, that is a permanent fixture of my writing desk.)
While cheerleaders for punk, Burchill and Parson hated reggae and Rastafarianism — the two were and are inseparable — and I inherited their disdain:
To Rasta, man is Stud, woman a sperm receptacle, who couldn’t possibly enjoy sex unless she was the lowest whore in Babylon. Rastas believe in God whom they call “Jah” and smoke dope all the time in the hope that this will help them communicate with him. Rastas believe that Haile Selassie (unsuccessful military dictator of Ethiopia, ousted by invading Italians in 1936) is the Son of God. Rastas preach black supremacy, and prophesy that unless they return to Africa by 1983 the world must perish.
Had this view since been refuted by contemporary idols Dillinger, Black Slate and batty bald headed Bob Marley, then their rights would be worth standing up for. As it is, who would raise a hand if the National Front treated the Rastas as the Rastas treat their women?
And themselves: his “religion” supposedly kept Bob Marley from seeking cancer treatment.
Remember that “tribute to Bob Marley” at this year’s Grammy Awards? Neither does anyone else, because it was terrible. The most entertaining part? You can actually see all these A-list performers suddenly remembering, too late and on live TV, that Bob Marley’s songs are, in fact, really really bad.
I don’t know how anyone who basically “wrote” the same dirge-like, nonsensical “song” over and over again qualifies as a genius, but I suspect that (along with heavy and regular drug use) the soft bigotry of low expectations played an enormous role in Marley’s megastardom (which was engineered, by the way, by a wealthy white toff.)
White people are Marley’s biggest fans, which tells you all you need to know.
A deliciously nasty entry devoted to Marley at “Stuff White People Like” notes, however:
Under no circumstances should you ever bring a white person to [an authentic] dancehall reggae concert, it will frighten them.
I went to the place
Where every white face
Is an invitation to robbery
An’ sitting here in my safe European home
I don’t wanna go back there again
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#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.
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.
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?
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#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.
There are fewer female musicians for me to hate, because a) there are fewer female musicians and b) I’m a chick.
It pains me to admit that I’m prone to the same irrational tribalism I denounce in others, but it’s true:
The second Sarah Palin strode onto that stage to accept the VP nomination, I turned into a six-year-old girl:
“A girl! A girl!! Yayyyyyy!!!”
I knew nothing about her policies. I didn’t care. I still don’t, much.
Because female performers are easier for me to identify with, they’re harder for me to dislike.
But I managed to scrape together a trio…
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#3 – Sheryl Crow
When she dated Lance Armstrong, the nasty joke making the rounds was that Sheryl Crow is proof that cancer is contagious.
Mean, sure. But Crow is proof that good looks get some women much farther in life than they deserve.
Since Sheryl Crow burst onto the charts, I imagine thousands of singer-songwriter gals playing thankless, no-pay gigs in Nashville and New York have been muttering about how unfair it is that Crow is a star and they aren’t.
Many of them are correct, and I say that sight unseen — or rather, sound unheard.
Sheryl Crow is a star because she looks good, and her songs’ hooks override their many, many other, negative, qualities.
Take “Soak Up the Sun” and “All I Wanna Do” (which I actually thought were the same song until I had to look them up for this article).
Crow ingeniously overlayed toe-tapping, top-down road-trip tunes onto bitter whiny lyrics about being a broke loser in Los Angeles.
The same morons who thought “Born in the USA” was patriotic thought Crow’s songs were neo-Beach Boys paeans to summer. All I heard were foot-dragging, droning dirges, sung by a hungover woman shuffling around downtown L.A. looking for a cheap breakfast joint at 11 a.m.
She had some other songs, but I forget what they are.
#2: Lady Gaga
As a homely girl made good in the music biz, Lady Gaga kind of messes up my Sheryl Crow theory.
However, I have a theory about Lady Gaga, too:
She had an older sister who had a friend who had a bunch of Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich, a Candy Darling scrapbook plus a VHS copy of the 1980 British movie Breaking Glass and a DVD of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
The sister borrowed them all and never gave them back.
Then Lady Gaga found them and built her persona from these building blocks, thinking no one else would notice.
After all, who else had ever heard of these obscure people?
She was right, because 99% of humans have no sense of history or culture. Their idea of an “old movie” is Star Wars.
Lady Gaga got rich on the indifferent stupidity and un-sophistication of the average person.
Plus the fact that her political message is mainstream but her appearance remains slightly daring — if, as I said, derivative.
Lady Gaga is that contradiction in terms — mass-market rebellion — of the sort we haven’t been forced to endure since Hair.
My other theory is that Lady Gaga will be blamed for a suicide epidemic in the near future, but that’s another article.
Anyway, here is the woman Lady Gaga stole half her career from:
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#1: Chrissie Hynde
Speaking of which:
Chrissie Hynde has the career Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde should have had.
Maybe Hynde made a pact with the devil.
(That might explain the group’s accursed inability to maintain a stable lineup.)
Look: “Brass in Pocket” is a dumb song. All their songs are un-hummable, tedious, and indistinguishable, except for “Back on the Chain Gang,” the one song I’ll grant is well above average.
One good song in thirty years.
When Hynde whines “I’ll stand by you,” it sounds more like a threat than a promise. You want to yell, “No thanks, I’ll be fine…”
Chrissie Hynde is a boring lead singer, besides being a smug, humourless leftoid.
It’s like she’s taken a handful of Quaalude and is now trying to imitate (the infinitely superior) Joan Jett.
If Hynde were a man, the band would never have risen above the pub rock scene.
Yeah, you bought their first album when it came out. Have you listened to it since? Do you ever crave a Pretenders song? Of course not.
The Pretenders are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is all you need to know about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Admit it: This woman got robbed…
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