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Loving the A.V. Club’s “HateSong”

June 24, 2013

The A.V. Club has a feature called HateSong, where they “ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.” In concept this is fun; in practice it is utterly hilarious. The A.V. Club actually conducts interviews with their participants to understand why they hate the songs they do. There are some obvious choices – comedian Eugene Mirman hates The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”, Mike Rosenberg (aka, Passenger) hates Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, P.O.S. (Stefon Alexander) hates Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba” – but the real fun comes when the subjects show complete disdain for popular material that isn’t universally mocked. The criticism is generally so over-the-top as to be pretty ridiculous. Here are some of my favorites (click the HateSong link in each entry for the full interview)[1] :

1. Just in case you thought the greatest band of all time was immune from criticism …

  • Hater: Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch
  • HateSong: The Beatles, “With A Little Help From My Friends” (1967)
  • How does he really feel? “I hate the song. I hate Ringo’s version, and I hate Joe Cocker’s version. I can’t imagine anyone ever doing that [song] and me liking it.”
  • Funniest sentiment: “But the sentiment behind it… I hate it. ‘What would you think if I sang out of tune?’ Ugh.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? “… maybe if one of the other Beatles had taken the time to sing it properly, I might’ve liked it better. But as it is, nah, I don’t like it at all.”

2. Or that you could escape criticism by singing about your dead son

  • Hater: Har Mar Superstar’s Sean Tillmann
  • HateSong: Eric Clapton, “Tears In Heaven” (1992)
  • How does he really feel? “People always talk about the subtext. Yeah, Eric Clapton’s son died, but that’s even worse! Now you’re, like, profiting off your sorrow. I don’t know. The whole idea of ‘Tears In Heaven’ is so community theater. That title is like a play your gay high-school teacher wrote.”
  • Funniest sentiment: “We did karaoke like a month ago after brunch. It was 4 p.m., really early. We were kind of drunk already, too. Anyway, it was only me, my four friends, and another couple there, and this chick decides her first song is going to be ‘Tears In Heaven.’ And I was like, ‘It’s four in the afternoon; it’s bright out. You don’t want to hear ‘Tears in Heaven’ in the middle of the day sung by some chick at a bar.’ That’s a horrible idea.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? “Clapton’s just a dick and terrible. He hit on George Harrison’s wife. Why do they put up with that dude? Why do they think he is a league with the Beatles when he’s fucking Eric Clapton? You can’t trust a guy who looks that pervy and does that much cocaine. It’s like, ‘You’re not a musician. You’re my accountant.’” [I think that’s a no.]

3. Imagine if you hated arguably the most popular song of all-time

  • Hater: British folksinger Frank Turner
  • HateSong: John Lennon, “Imagine” (1971)
  • How does he really feel? “It’s always grated on me as a song for a whole host of reasons: the production, the lyrics, the sappiness, its popularity, the knowledge that Lennon was so much better than this one song, and yet it’s the one most people know.”
  • Funniest sentiment: “I was not aware there was one [a video] until you asked. [Pauses to watch it.] Ha! Not good … The main message I got from it was ‘Check out my massive house! Also, my wife [Yoko Ono] is uncomfortable on camera.’ She looks like she wants the earth to swallow her up. Maybe she’d twigged the song sucked as well.”
  • Is there any way you could like it?  “I think someone could probably do something cool with this song—interpretation is a wide-open field. I can’t say I’ve heard it [a good cover] yet myself, but you never know.”

4. I agree this song’s terrible, but I’m not sure I buy Dr. Albini’s medical claims …

  • Hater: Steve Albini
  • HateSong: Cher, “Believe” (1998)
  • How does he really feel? “It’s not just a terrible song. There are a million terrible songs. The world is crawling with a million terrible songs. But when it’s a terrible song that gives all your friends brain cancer and makes shit foam up out of their mouths, that’s when it’s a problem.”
  • Funniest sentiment: “A bunch of my friends, for whatever reason, decided they wanted to entertain that song as an interesting piece of music. You’d run into people you liked and the ‘Believe’ song would come on in the bar, and instantly, the conversations would stop, and they would start talking about how they actually liked that song. They actually liked the dumb vocal thing. It happened over and over again, just really cringe-worthy moments. It’s like in a zombie film, when you see your friend has been bitten and you’re just looking for the cues that he’s going to go full zombie on you. It was that sort of thing. One by one, I could see that my friends had gone zombie. This horrible piece of music with this ugly soon-to-be cliché was now being discussed as something that was awesome. It made my heart fall.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? “Probably the most depressing moment was when bands would start to cover that song, and sometimes they would do it with the vocal effect, and sometimes not, I guess as a way of validating the song, devoid of the cliché, maybe? But all the covers, like Bedhead Loved Macha’s, just made me embarrassed for those bands.”

5. I bet Kinane liked this version …

  • Hater: Comedian Kyle Kinane
  • HateSong: “The Little Drummer Boy,” originally written in 1941
  • How does he really feel? “Musically, there’s nothing wrong with the song. It’s the lyrics. First off, the song is about not having anything to give to baby Jesus, so you play the drum. You don’t play a drum at a baby. That’s never been a good idea in the history of the world, playing a drum at a newborn baby. That’s stupid. … Half the lyrics are singing drum sounds. You sing, ‘Pa-rum-pum-pum.’ It’s singing drum sounds when there’s a drum in the song. And that’s stupid. You’re singing the sound of an instrument that’s also playing in the song—dumbest song in the world.”
  • Funniest sentiment: “It’s based on a guy that juggled in front of a statue? Mary got excited about a juggler? Live human beings don’t get that excited about jugglers, let alone statues coming to life.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? “Well, yeah, [there have been a million covers] because it’s a Christmas song. Everybody just covers a Christmas song automatically because it’s a cash-grab. It’s just the worst.”

6. Christmas sure is taking a beating here …

  • Hater: Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton
  • HateSong: Bobby Helms, “Jingle Bell Rock” (1957)
  • How does he really feel? “’Jingle Bell Rock,’ for me, exemplifies succumbing to your worst impulses as a songwriter. It’s one of those Christmas songs that mostly feels like it’s trying to cash in on a couple of things … You can almost hear the discussion. They’re like, ‘You know what we should do? We should combine two things that America loves: ‘Jingle Bells’ and rock music.’ Then it’s ‘ka-ching’ from there.”
  • Funniest sentiment: “Most modern listeners would hear this song, and say, ‘Well, where is the rock, exactly?’ Mostly it sounds like jingle bell jazz. I recognize rock was young, but it’s sort of the equivalent of if I decided today that I was going to do a song called ‘Jingle Bell Rap.’ [Laughs.] It would be about as good. ‘Jingle bell rap. Shop at the Gap.’ That’s half the song right there. I recognize it’s a bad song, so I have the decency to stop writing it.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? “This song is blessedly short. … It is mercifully short. That is true. That is maybe the best thing you can say about this song.”

7. Before there were “Screaming Goats,” there was …

  • Hater: High On Fire’s Matt Pike
  • HateSong: Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” (1987)
  • How does he really feel? “I think they’re the crappiest, most overrated shit band of all time. And I fucking can’t stand them. [Laughs.] And that particular song gets under my skin to where I want to stab people. … The whole fucking theme to the song is retarded, and it sounds like someone scratching a chalkboard or putting a fork to a plate every time I’ve fucking ever heard it in my life. I can’t get through 30 seconds of it without fucking wanting to barf.”
  • Funniest sentiment: “The guy sounds like a goat. [Bleating.] ‘Baaa, baaa, dude looks…’ It just gets under my skin. I have this button called the off button or the mute button that I call the Aerosmith button on all my stereos.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? “… having fucking Steven Tyler sing about [transvestites] and do it in the most annoying way, where you just want to put the guy in a fucking chokehold. [Laughs.] Make him fucking tap out before he can get another word out of his mouth.”

8. I suppose it could be worse, he could sound like Steven Tyler …

  • Hater: Anthrax’s Scott Ian
  • HateSong: Morrissey’s “Suedehead” (1988)
  • How does he really feel? “It’s completely unappealing to my ears; there’s no sound on this planet that is worse than that…. I just can’t stand the actual tone, the pitch, the timbre, whatever other adjectives there are to describe it; it’s completely unappealing to me.”
  • Funniest sentiment: “That’s [the sound of Styrofoam being torn apart] a pretty shitty sound. But not as bad as Morrissey. If I could have thought of a worse sound, even outside of music, I would have said I don’t even have a hated song. I hate the sound of nails on a chalkboard or something. I don’t like that, but it’s more tolerable for me.” [A.V. Club: “You’d rather hear nails on a chalkboard than Morrissey’s voice?”] “I’m telling you, man. I really put a lot of nerd thought into this.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? “No. It has nothing to do with him as a person. I don’t know the guy. He could be a wonderful human being. I just don’t like the sound of his voice.”

9. High Times disagrees

  • Hater: The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon
  • HateSong: Weezer’s “Hash Pipe” (2001)
  • How does he really feel? “I have no idea why they would put it out. And first [after five years off]? I just don’t get it. I don’t get it at all. And I think it kind of showed the fact that there was a certain sense of apathy going on in that song, and that pisses me off. Any kind of apathy in a songwriter pisses me off.”
  • Funniest sentiment: [Responding to the comment that Rivers Cuomo once said that to write this song, he took one Ritalin, three shots of tequila, sat in a chair in his backyard, and closed his eyes until he imagined the song.] “Yeah, he should not do that ever again.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? [After becoming aware that in the censored version of this song that’s on the radio sometimes, it’s changed to “Half Pipe.”]  “’I’ve got my half pipe,’ because he’s about 45. Yeah, I don’t think so. That doesn’t work. You know what, though? If that was the original lyric, I wouldn’t have been mad. I would’ve been like, ‘All right, maybe he’s just really cool and likes skating. That’s cool. I can dig it.’”

10. Finally, Eric Burdon says, let’s see if 50 years from now people are still talking about a band named !!!

  • Hater: !!! frontman Nic Offer
  • HateSong: The Animals, “The House Of The Rising Sun” (1964)
  • How does he really feel? “When you hear the opening arpeggio chords, it’s like, ‘Are we done yet? Are we there?’ Instantly, I’m ready for it to be over. I don’t know what it is that I hate about it; it’s just exhausting.”
  • Funniest sentiment:  [Thinking about Eric Burdon playing the song every single night on tour still today.] “Oh God, he must be so sick of it. I can’t even imagine it. That would be hell to be onstage with him when the band starts, ‘Bah nah nah nah…’ ‘Here we go…’ [Laughs.] I feel for him. Our biggest hit is nine minutes long. At least his is only, like, three minutes.”
  • Is there any way you could like it? “I do understand that it must’ve sounded fresh. I can understand that. Especially if you’re saying it was pre-‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and stuff. It must’ve sounded pretty wild.”

[1] Please note: I excerpted quotes from the various interviews with every intention of keeping the quotes in context. That said, the lead-in “questions” here are my own, with the interviewees response taken from a question posed by the A.V. Club interviewer.

From → Music

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