Bad Music

I’ve been thinking about what makes music bad. These ruminations were prompted by my favorite guilty pleasure, Evanescence. I know they’re bad, but I love them anyway. But…why are they bad? What makes, say, a single song become an annoyance to thinking listeners everywhere? Here’s what makes music bad for me:

  • Bad lyrics. Roy Orbison is beloved, but he did nothing but sting together clichés–most of the time his lyrics didn’t even make sense. Because bad lyrics are very high on my own bad meter, I can’t stand Orbison’s music. That’s not to say that others don’t value different things more highly, obviously.
  • Corporate music. I have no love for manufactured pop stars. Note, however, that there is a statute of limitations on this for me. I love the Monkees and many Motown acts, knowing full well that they were put together by a producer.
  • Overexposure. This one often doesn’t apply to me, because I don’t listen to mainstream radio, but I do realize that a good song can become a monster if it’s played twice an hour. This also has a statute of limitations; the overexposed hits of today become the nostalgic joys of the future.
  • Cloning. Notice something about Creed, Train, Silverchair, and Nickelback? Yep, they’re all the same band. While there is often an artist or two in any group of clones that stands out, they are usually all blanded-down copies of a master band (Pearl Jam, in this case).

Looking at my list, I can see that my pet example, Evanescence, is probably a victim of overexposure. Because I’m more or less immune, I can still listen without being driven mad.

There is a final factor that also applies, and it’s one I try to be free of: the Uncool. I’m pretty sure that Evanescence makes some folks cringe because their music is overdramatic without irony, and has obvious Christian overtones. Maybe one of those would bother me if I didn’t enjoy the music itself so much. Hard to say. I get less enamoured of irony as I get older, and I’m hardly going to give up a band I like just because they’re into religious mysteries.

The verdict: Evanescence–not bad. Nyah.

UPDATE: Thought of two more to add to the list (and there may be more coming):

  • Unmitigated schmalz. See “That’s What Friends Are For”.
  • Repetitiveness. When you buy an album, it’s nice if there are several different songs on it, not the same one over and over. I’m reminded of the time my dad, a country dj, was reprimanded for introducting Stella Parton’s newest single with: “Here’s the latest from Stella Parton, which sounds just like the last one…” It was true–“Danger of a Stranger” and “Undercover Lovers” were, melodically, identical. That said, I do think Evancescence is guilty of some repitition on Fallen, but not to the degree that it bothers me.

8 Responses to Bad Music

  1. Kelly says:

    Hoobastank, The Reason. I cringe evry time I hear the first few Piano notes pounded out. For me, this one is over exposed, has bad lyrics and an annoying lead singer who whines the whole song. I think they were clonned, too, from some eighties big hair band. I wish KINK would stop playing it.

  2. GreyDuck says:

    I want Coldplay to go away. Right now. I don’t even listen to the radio more than I’m forced to simply by being here, and I still hate (hate hate hate) that song, “Clocks.”

    But anyway, now for something actually relevant.

    I’ve begun a mild fascination with asian pop music, so the “corporatized, derivative, manufactured, cloned” thing doesn’t bother me all that much ‘per se.’ Nevermind that I can’t understand one word of the lyrics, since most songs’ lyrics don’t make much of an impression on me regardless of language.

    That said, I’m wholly with you on the idea that an album should contain a few different songs rather than the same damned song (or two, if they throw in a ballad) over and over again. (See Duran Duran’s “Astronaut” for an example of how not to impress me.) The Ali Project album “Erotic & Heretic,” for instance? Two good lead-off tracks (one of them a mildly remixed version of a song from an anime series they scored) followed by a wimpy ballad and variants thereof. Puh-leeze.

    I also can’t stomach schmalzy pabulum. Bleargh.

    Evanescence, in and of themselves, don’t annoy me. I’m a bit tired of the two songs that have gotten major airplay (again, occupational hazard) but I can find better “artists” to be down on. Heh.

  3. Cat says:

    Foreign language music–there’s an interesting point. There’s a lot of stuff I listen to, like Natacha Atlas or The Gipsy Kings, that I’m fully aware would drive me nuts if I knew what the words meant. One advantage to being monolingual.

  4. Man Overboard says:

    Okay now. You listed all those points for quantifying bad music, and didn’t indict Evanescence for every single one of them? Overexposure is hardly their biggest fault.

    Bad Lyrics: So much cheese it may as well be Wisconsin. Lame, angsty cliches spouted by a girl whose hollow image gives away her lacking personality.

    Corporate music: While they weren’t MUCH better before Fallen, they *did* have the occasional daring song structure, more guitar leads, guest appearances by METAL vocalists rather than rappers, and they weren’t afraid to try something unique in a song. (See Origin) When they were signed to Windup, most songs were cut down, smoothed out, solos removed, lyrics simplified (further), and guest rappers added.

    Cloning: If Linkin Park is a derivative, what do you call a derivative of a derivative like Evanescence?

    Unmitigated Schmaltz: See: My Immortal

    Repetitiveness: Ben Moody will win no awards for the riffs written; they’re simple, boring, unimaginitive, make every song sound the same.

  5. Ryan says:

    Re: foreign language

    I’ve been listening to a *lot* of Polish music recently, even though I don’t have any clue what they’re saying. I was heartbroken when I found out that the Polish rapper I had been telling everyone about was actually heavily anti-homosexual in his lyrics.

  6. Cat says:

    MO: I think you’re confusing schmalz with melodrama. I don’t mind melodrama, but most people probably do. That’s what I meant by over-serious. They do have some cringe-worthy lyrical cliches to answer for, but the overall percentage is not that high.

    I’ve never heard Linkin Park, and don’t listen to mainstream radio, so, *shrug*.

    Finally, you and I define corporate music differently, though I certainly see where you’re coming from on that. For me, corporate music means the act is manufactured from day one, like The Monkees. Being unfamiliar with the band before Fallen, I can’t speak to their development under corporate control, but I think I can safely take your word for it.

    So, no, for me they don’t qualify under every criteria. Would it matter if they did? Eh, probably not. They were just the whipping boy for this particular post.

  7. maxkelley says:

    It’s disappointing to see that “music” refers only to pop music. No wonder you find it shallow and repetitive! I recommend that you listen to classical music. It’s rich, varied, moving… A beautiful violin concerto brings tears to the eyes. Try the Brahms, the Sibelius, Beethoven, Mendelssohn — they are all heart-rending and all different. You’ll never be bored by “music” again!

  8. Cat says:

    It’s disappointing to see that you make assumptions about my musical taste from one blog post, but obviously, not everyone who reads this blog knows me personally, so no big.

    My music collection spans all genres. I was just sticking to pop for clarity and brevity.