Songs I hate by artists I love.
We all have songs written by our favorite artists that we simply cannot stand. They ruin the flow of an otherwise perfect album and make us dive for the dial when they come on the radio. Here are a few of mine.
Chances are that even if you are not acquainted with Elvis Costello’s discography, you are familiar with his biggest hit, 1977’s “Alison.” Critics love this song and it regularly appears on “greatest pop songs” lists, mixtapes by lovelorn music nerds and classic rock radio. I hate this song. I know, I know. Hating “Alison” makes me heartless, unromantic and a bad Elvis Costello fan. But the song! The song is so whiny, self-pitying and maudlin. And the nasally, bratty way Costello drags out “Ahhhhllll-i-suhhhnnnn” is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I love every song on My Aim is True…except for this one.
At his best, Justin Vernon writes gorgeous baroque pop songs. At his worst, Vernon can sound like he is positioning himself for a Yacht Rock episode. “Beth/Rest,” from the otherwise lovely Bon Iver, Bon Iver, falls into the latter category, unfortunately. Vernon is an indie darling capable of great work but this still sounds like a Kenny Loggins B-Side.
At the risk of seeming like a truly, deeply awful human being, I must make a confession: I absolutely despise John Lennon’s peace-on-Earth anthem “Imagine.” John Lennon wrote dozens of incredible songs but “Imagine”–his most famous solo effort–draws attention to his biggest weaknesses as a songwriter and public figure. The haunting piano line is matched with painfully obvious, moralizing and narcissistic lyrical content. Yes, a world without war, starvation, hatred and division would be ideal but no one needs John Lennon to tell them that and then pat himself on the back for having done so. Remember when John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared on the Mike Douglas Show and called people up to tell them they loved them? This is like that in song form: insufferably turgid and heavy-handed.
Black Flag’s “Slip It In” off of the record of the same title is neanderthal sexism at its absolute nadir and I cannot imagine what kind of cajoling it took to get Kira to sing her part. Black Flag was so much better than this. Awful.