The music industry is rife with bad bands. So how can we, as anointed music experts, come up with a definitive list of the worst of the worst? Of course, we take it for granted that most music listeners can tell which popular acts really are untalented, so we won’t waste space talking about the Britneys, Shaggys and Backstreets of the industry. Even they know they’re bad. We also won’t touch those who had hits and mercifully faded into oblivion, so adios Black Crows, Sugar Ray and Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony. No, we are only going to occupy ourselves with the performers who many think are good but really lack true substance.
10 – RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
So, the Chili Peppers stumbled upon a good song in “Under the Bridge.” But more or less reproducing it 30 times on the next three albums was a bit much.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. Everybody loves a good, epic tune, but the Peppers are now resolved to jamming empty ballads down listeners’ throats. An artist just can’t do that and hope to be respected — ’80s hair metal bands, please stand up.
The Chili Peppers were once musical innovators with a unique sound that was prime for cultivation. However, therein lies the band’s problem — the only thing it has successfully developed is the inability to progress.
9 – ANI DIFRANCO
There is a fine line that separates political singing (Joan Baez) and political ranting. When that line is crossed it usually means trouble, and in the worst case, the result is horrendous — the result is Ani DiFranco.
The perpetual symbol of feminism has whiny lyrical talent, but that does not authorize her to pick up a guitar and submit the world to throaty renditions of pseudo folk songs.
Using dreadful music as a weapon against the oppressive “man” won’t get your brand of masked activism anywhere, sister — say it, please don’t play it. And if music is your true love, well, then go play the triangle for the Indigo Girls.
8 – LENNY KRAVITZ
After struggling with a mediocre career in the late ’80s, the former Romeo Blue hit it big with 1993’s Are You Gonna Go My Way. He then went back to his roots, which was making mediocre music.
While claiming to pay homage to his rock idols, he unabashedly retreads the old tires, making songs that don’t so much as pay tribute to old bands as they simulate them. The title track of that album, without a doubt a Jimi Hendrix rip-off, lent him false industry cred and thus allowed him to make songs with lines like, “I wanna get away/I wanna fly away/Yeaheeyea,” and get away with it.
Hey, at least he dresses well.
7 – NELLY
There’s creative Southern rap (Outkast), funny Southern rap (Ludacris) and crappy Southern rap (Master P). Nelly fits squarely into the last group.
With beyond-wack lyrics (“Shimmy shimmy/cocoa pop/ listen to me/uh”) and Casio-esque beats, the bane from St. Louis has carved a vast crevice in the lineage of unintelligent rap. And then he has the gall to challenge legendary lyricist KRS-ONE to battle? That’s like a Chihuahua barking at a Bengal tiger.
As Common put it, enough with these “hollerin’ gruntin’ n—-s.”
6 – HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS
The ’80s were the bubonic plague of musical history. Over the years, though, music has almost forgiven the neon generation for its negative influence.
There is one unforgivable sin, however, that will never be pardoned. That’s right, I am talking about Huey Lewis and the News.
Huey’s combination of light rock fluff and unbearably vacant lyrics — which can be heard in any office building elevator or state fair near you — endeared him to countless, possibly tone-deaf, baby-boomers. Well, hindsight is 20/20, you faux Billy Joel; the ’80s are gone, and the baby-boomers aren’t buying records anymore — goodbye career.
5 – LIMP BIZKIT
My beloved Red Sox wear dark blue hats, so the day I saw a 20-something male wearing a red version, backward no less, I wanted nothing more than to send Fred Durst back to whence he came.
Besides starting the lamest fashion trend this side of Goth and short, bleached hair, the limp ones also started mindless feuds with other performers (Creed, Christina Aguilera) as ways to gain media attention and garner credibility.
These faux rap-rockers profited from the popularity of Korn and Rage Against the Machine by dumbing things down to the three things young males care about most, those being sex, sex and sex.
And you should always be wary when a band’s first big hit is a cover.
4 – DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
Dave Matthews was great the first time I heard him, when he was named Peter Gabriel.
Preppy Gen-Yers, with no memory of the former Genesis frontman and innovative video and musical artist, flock to hear this yodeler and his group of musical merry men. But what they don’t know is Gabriel did the same thing 20 years ago, only better, making songs with more style, such as “Sledgehammer,” and social impact, such as the classic anti-apartheid song “Biko.”
On top of that, Matthews’ lyrics are like puddles on blacktop; they’re both shallower than they seem. And he knows his fans will never know any better.
3 – CREED
Because Creed was resolved from the beginning to make a career out of stealing from other bands, the least it could have done was pick good ones. Instead, on every radio station there are moldy grunge-rock tunes from a counterfeit Pearl Jam/Bush hybrid.
Creed’s real low blow, though, is the fact that through some painfully comical miracle, the band has managed to start a musical movement of copycats that play the same songs, sing exactly alike and resemble a happy medium between Kurt Cobain and Keanu Reeves.
Creed claims to be inspired by the Almighty. Sometimes the Lord can be downright cruel.
2 – AEROSMITH
Do the latter-day sins of a once great band destroy its musical credibility? You bet your scarved microphone stand they do.
This once-illustrious rock band of the ’70s and early ’80s — which penned the genre-bending “Walk this Way” and the legendary ballad, “Dream On” — have used the ’90s to mock and consequently annihilate a once seemingly indispensable rock ‘n’ roll career.
The “Crazy,” “Amazin'” and “Cryin'” trifecta was evidence that any attempt to continue writing rock songs would produce a creatively devoid imitation of its predecessor. And thanks to their latest attempt at bubble-gum pop, Aerosmith has squandered any chance at ever being considered respectable again.
1 – BEACH BOYS
There are imitation musical acts, and then there are just downright frauds. The Beach Boys — who hadn’t a single member who ever touched a surfboard outside of photo shoots — became popular during the completely gratuitous surf music era.
They used excessive vocal harmony backed by guitar riffs copied from Chuck Berry (who even threatened legal action). “Good Vibrations” stands as the lone innovative song in a mass of feeble tunes about girls, cars and surfing. Pioneers? I think not.
And if not for The Beatles and the “British Invasion” saving rock ‘n’ roll from the sandy abyss toward which it was headed, rock history might be laden with leis and flowered shirts.
0 – EMINEM
The Elvis Presley of rap music, Eminem has capitalized on the myriad of artists who came before him.
The fake-blond one became popular by releasing radio-friendly jingles with annoying, easy to remember hooks (“Hi my name is …”) onto unsuspecting youths nationwide. Then he claims to keep it real while stacking up the sacks of money.
Like Presley, Eminem is without a doubt talented, but the two received more publicity for the controversy they stirred than for their music. For better or worse, emcees have been rapping about homophobia, murdering, womanizing and general thugatry for umpteen years, but the cries about censorship then were BIC lighters compared to the flame-throwers surrounding Eminem. Why? The same reason Presley became a rock icon and Chuck Berry a footnote.