About once a week, I receive a comment on any given of my musical articles calling me a heartless bastard incapable of enjoying any art whatsoever. And they’re right– I have no ability to feel anything other than rage/hatred or smug superiority. But compared to what you’re about to read, I’m a sunshine wallflower drunk on the sensory ale that is life. What follows is an inside look at an actual, real article by Ben Shapiro, writer for Breitbart dot com. This man considers Nirvana, John Lennon, the Who, and Bob Dylan to all be overrated and horrible, and by the end of it, you are going to wonder what kind of music he possibly likes at all. So, a warning to those with weak constitutions or fans of any music released in the past 75 years- you’re going to get pissed off at what this guy has to say.
The following is merely an excerpt. Again, go here to read the full madness.
10. Anything By Lady Gaga. She is the worst. There is no excuse for her. Her songs are awful. She’s a bad knockoff of Madonna (who sucked to begin with) and has no vocal quality. When your most famous lyric (from “Poker Face”) is “mah-mah-mah-Poker Face mah-mah-Poker Face,” you’ve got a huge problem. But now she’s our problem. Our unsexy, autotuned, annoying, androgynous, self-righteous problem. I hate you, music industry.
Is Lady Gaga overrated? Her average score over her career on Metacritic is a 66. That’s not awesome. Critics were infatuated with her for a while, but I don’t think she’s anywhere near being held in high enough esteem to be “overrated.” And when you incorrectly say her most famous lyric is “mah mah poker face,” you don’t need to tell us it’s from the song, “Poker Face,” you fucking asshole. I graduated Kindergarten. And that’s not even true. Do you have a Facebook? Every other post is a quote from “Born this Way” or “Bad Romance.” You should really learn about the things you criticize before you criticize them.
9. One, U2. U2 is second only to The Beatles in the pantheon of overrated bands. Pretentious, whiny, boring. This is the kind of stuff you expect to hear Phoebe playing on her off-days at Central Perk in Friends. The lyrics are over-the-top non sequiturs, just broad enough to sound meaningful, but just vague enough to make no sense. “Have you come here for forgiveness / Have you come to raise the dead / Have you come here to play Jesus / To the lepers in your head.” Wait a second – if you’re here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head, isn’t Jesus also in your head? Are you schizophrenic? And what about the Holy Ghost? Where does he come in? What do dead people have to do with anything? Why am I trying to understand a song designed mostly to get Bono chicks?
U2 is only a good band when they don’t think they are. Zooropa is their best album, and it’s a collection of offhand recordings taken on tour that the members don’t even like. When Bono writes something he’s proud of, it’s pretentious as best and absolute garbage at worst. That withstanding, One is a great song for sheer musicianship alone. If Bono got assassinated tomorrow, U2 would be two geniuses and a bass player. So, yes, Bono is a douche. I’ll concede that much. But the dude’s given more money to Africa than America does to its allies, so I think he deserves to get laid with whoever he wants. Even if U2’s thirty year musical career was entirely a ruse “designed to get him chicks,” it’s still done more good in the world than you, Ben Shapiro, you non-contributing fuck.
8. My Generation, The Who. Aside from being the perfect set-up for “Who’s on First,” which is eminently more entertaining than most of the Who’s music, the Who have provided us with very little of value. Tommy is the least of their sins (and that’s a pretty damn big sin). Try on “My Generation” for size. They’re talking about their generation. But you don’t know what they’re saying, which makes it difficult to understand their generation. Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. And the lyrics are dumb, dumb, dumb, when you can actually decipher them: “People try to put us d-down / Just because we get around.” Interjection: enough of the near-rhymes! Rockers are so damn lazy. “Things they do look awful c-c-cold / I hope I die before I get old.” If only.
I know this is bad for me to say, but when you lead in with a name-drop of a Abbot and Costello bit we all have already seen and close with a lame joke about rock lyrics you don’t like, I can only say my suspicion about who you are is confirmed: you are an old person who figured out how to use a computer long enough to yell at us about what kind of music you don’t like. You could not be more personifying what the Who were criticizing, you fucking, fucking, fucking idiot!
7. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen. Yes, everybody loves the Boss. I don’t mind some of his stuff. But this song is not good. It’s perfectly mediocre. Take away the yelling, and it’s elevator music. Man, that’s some ‘80s stuff. Nice hair, dudes. Nothing actually happens during this song. It is repetitive and unexciting. It takes Springsteen sweating profusely to generate any sort of mild excitement for the crowd. There is no development section, as per the usual rock arrangement. Now that he loves Sweden, I feel less bad about ripping “Born to Run.”
You really typed “there is no development section, as per the usual rock arrangement?” Dude, that’s the whole point of rock music– that there are no rules, no typical arrangements, and no usual sections. I’m very sorry that the music of Bruce Springsteen is less ornately constructed than you expected. You’re probably wondering where the harpsichord is– well, that instrument isn’t typically in current music, even as far back as the eighties, which, obviously, you make fun of. Are any generational trends stupider than the next? What was popular when Ben was a kid? Gutenberg Bibles and the Thirty Year’s War?
6. Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin. Overblown beyond belief, this magnum opus of the soporific has annoyed millions all over the globe. It is endless. The opening solo has become de rigeur for losers trying to win girls by playing the guitar. “But,” you say, “it has woodwinds! Woodwinds!” Yeah. Great. It starts out in promising fashion, actually, but quickly goes off the rails – or rather, slowly goes off the rails, Titanic-style. The same four bar sequence essentially repeats for the vast majority of eight minutes. This was not a musical idea that required eight minutes of development. LSD may make things more interesting, but it can’t make them that much more interesting, can it?
Internet traversing world, Ben Shapiro has made one tremendous discovery about a musical genre he has little to no understanding of– sometimes, it involves drug use. And, occasionally, such drug use affects interpretation of the music. Of course, “Stairway to Heaven” features a progression famous throughout rock music that’s been imitated probably more than any other song. It’s one of the few tracks ever written that you can definitively say has directly affected almost every one of its successors. But undoubtedly, it’s fame just happened because every single person who listened to it was on LSD. Ben Shapiro seems to have just discovered that drugs are a thing that people take recreationally, and, like a seventh grader, would like you to know that he is aware of their existence. Jokes about how people are “on LSD” or “are schizophrenic” are overused, interchangeable, and a hallmark of bad internet writing. I’ve seen funnier top ten lists on webs.com subdomains registered by tweenagers.
5. Satisfaction, by The Rolling Stones. It’s got a memorable bass line. That repeats 100,000 times, in Led Zeppelin fashion. The big question here is whether the Rolling Stones can or cannot get satisfaction. If they can’t get no satisfaction, that means they can get satisfaction. It is maddening that so many rockers think that simply because they have no musical training, they need not apply basic English. While the Stones later suggested that the lyrics were supposed to rip on the commercialism of rock (and they do), the main thrust of the song (pun intended) is clearly frustrated horniness. Most teenagers would have the good grace to get a Playboy and work this out for themselves. The Stones decided to inflict “Satisfaction” on us instead. The song itself goes nowhere – which is a problem with most rock songs, admittedly. But Rolling Stone named this the second-greatest rock song of all time. Which speaks to the shallowness of rock.
Quality is objective, individual meaning is not. I have a friend who loves classical music. I don’t mean that he says that to sound deep and get laid. I mean, this guy’s rock block consists of Beethoven. That’s the music that inspires him. I like Arctic Monkeys, so our tastes aren’t particularly analogous. At the same time though, when I listen to Beethoven, I can tell it’s good. When he listens to the Arctic Monkeys, he can tell that they’re good. If you’re going to grow up and review things, you need to understand how subjectivity and objectivity work, and you’re doing it wrong, Ben. Just because you don’t like a great song by the Rolling Stones doesn’t mean it’s not a great song. Just because you think rock is “shallow” doesn’t mean it is. And just because Mick Jagger didn’t double-check his lyrics with The Elements of Style doesn’t mean they’re any less meaningful.
4. London Calling, by The Clash. Two notes. The entire song is essentially two notes. A more annoying song has never been penned. If London calls, don’t answer.
When most people hear the word “punk,” they associate it with rebellion, because, well, that’s what that word means. The musical subgenre of punk originated as an alternative to the contemplative, hippy rock of the 1960’s. It was loud, fast, angry, and its lyrics carried no political or social repercussions. The Clash were named “the most important band in the world” during their heyday, because they were. Their songs were a loud “fuck you!” to the system, and it turned a stagnating musical environment on its head and showed people that music could be whatever you wanted it to be. The three-chord anger that Ben Shapiro hates was a rebellion against the Beatle-esque contemplation that Ben Shapiro also hates, which was a rebellion against the bebop-influenced white boy jazz that, yes, surprise of surprises, Ben Shapiro hates as well. I have two questions. One, why, is it necessary to explain musical history to a columnist who wrote an article about it? And, two, what the hell does Ben Shapiro actually like?
3. Smells Like Teen Spirit, by Nirvana. No wonder Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Sadly, his music lives on. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – what exactly is teen spirit? – is both musically jarring and lyrically painful. The kooky two-note leitmotif (can you call it that when it’s in an alleged song like this?) is less Bernard Herrman than the three-year-old who discovered your guitar in a closet, then also found your shotgun and became a Brady Campaign statistic (which, come to think of it, is sort of similar to Cobain’s life story). And Cobain’s raspy whine is enough to put anyone on heroin. Then there are the lyrics. If you’re going to bother writing lyrics at all, don’t do it right after spending a drug-fueled night with Courtney Love. “Load up on guns and bring your friends / It’s fun to lose and to pretend.” At least he’s attempting to rhyme. Unfortunately, he forgot the part where lyrics are supposed to make some modicum of sense (or, for Meghan McCain, emoticon of sense). When you’re living in Seattle making millions off your nihilism and absolute lack of talent, you don’t get to complain about your ills. At the end of this song, if you don’t feel “stupid and contagious,” feel lucky. This song is aural herpes. And, by the way, Andrew Breitbart hated Nirvana with the fiery passion of a thousand flaming suns.
This entry just gives me a clearer lens into the twisted hellscape that is the mind of Ben Shapiro. I’ll paint you a picture: this guy is a bitter old man who figured out how to mail Breitbart.com his stupid bullshit and hates all kinds of music released in the past 75 years. He didn’t know that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was written far before Kurt Cobain was rich, he didn’t know the story of how the song got named, and he didn’t know that it was basically a parody of the idea of a youth revolution, which just means one thing: Ben Shapiro is too lazy to use Google. And you know what, that’s fine! Sure, write criticism of music you don’t understand. But if you’re going to do it, here’s some advice. I call it Lesson Number One of Life on Earth: If you want to disagree with something, you should know basic facts about it first. And if you’re going to say dumb shit about something in a complete opposition to near-unanimous acceptance, you’re going to have to have more than lame, Comedy Central Roast Courtney Love jokes to back up your claims. Aren’t you conservatives supposed to be hard working? And, by the way, your appeal to authority is fucking stupid. Andrew Breitbart? That crazy dick? Yeah, I don’t really give a shit what Andrew Brietbart thought about Nirvana.
2. Like a Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan. The fame and fortune of Bob Dylan make you question the presence of a benevolent God in the universe. He sings like a cat being run over by a nail-studded steamroller. His lyrics are lazy and stupid – he doesn’t bother for rhyme scheme (“home” and “unknown” do not rhyme), or even that the words scan with the music. The song itself makes no sense. What is a “mystery tramp”? Why should you “turn around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns”? Are they sad clowns? What does a “Siamese cat” have to do with anything? And then he articulates these nonsensical lyrics as though he has no front teeth. I’m sorry, but screaming “How does it feel?” with an organ in the background is not great music. That’s Jeremiah Wright on an off-day. And then there’s the harmonica. My God, the harmonica. “Blowin’ in the Wind” is awful; “Times’ They are a-Changin’” is hipster crapola; “Hurricane” is a falsification of history, and awful. His songs are endless. This song runs over six minutes long; “Hurricane” runs over eight minutes. Eight minutes. The first movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony runs less time, and has more than four chords.
I learned about Bob Dylan in history class last week. In a store, in the classical music section, I once found an album called Fundamentals of Western Civilization, and Bob Dylan was on it. My Grandfather defines any track released after 1958 as “nigger music,” and even he makes an exception for Bob Dylan. If you don’t want to like Bob Dylan, that’s fine. But just be aware that, according to history, music, and old racists, you’re wrong.
1. Imagine, by John Lennon. There are no words for how truly evil and terrible this song is; Kurt Schlichter has done a masterful job of epically fisking this small shard of utter and complete rubbish. First, the aesthetics. It begins with some pretentious piano chords to set the mood: this will be a deep song. Lennon sings it in cloyingly whiny fashion, like a schoolgirl who has discovered that there are starving people in Africa for the first time. It’s vomit-inducing bad. And the music itself is not just unspectacular, it’s blasé. It commits the worst musical sin: it is completely boring. But that’s not what makes this song so horrible. For that, we have to examine the lyrics, which are not just ignorant, but Soviet-style ignorant. It’s a communist, atheist song, pure and simple. This could be the Barack Obama campaign song – but it would express too clearly what the redistributionist left wants for the world: no borders, no God, no meaning, no values, and no wealth. And it’s being penned and sung by one of the richest people on the planet. Despicable as art; despicable as politics. Imagine the world without it. Aren’t you smiling yet?
Man, did I call him turning out to be a radical conservative or what? This guy actually used the word “atheist” as a negative adjective, and then followed with saying it should be a Barack Obama campaign song! He just destroyed all his credibility in a handful of sentences too stupid for most people to even conceptualize. The guy’s only in agreement with about one percent of one percent of everyone, and I typically don’t like to make fun of those people. It’s just too easy. From now on, I will never try to reason with anything from Brietbart dot com, for the same reason you can’t reason with evolution deniers or fans of Insane Clown Posse: simply accepting them as legitimate is giving them way more credit than they fucking deserve.