Monday, August 6, 2012

The Worst Songs of All Time...According to Me

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then I guess music is in the ear of the listener… or something like that. What I’m trying to say is, just because I think a song is bad doesn't mean it truly is. In other words, you may love one of the songs on this list and that’s cool. But for me personally, here’s my list of LEAST FAVORITE SONGS OF ALL TIME.

The Living Years (Mike and the Mechanics, 1989). My goodness, I am not even sure where to begin with this one. This may be my absolute least favorite song of all time (if not, it is a close, close second…see below). But I have consistently hated this one since the time it was released. "The main reason?" you ask. It’s cheesy. It’s beyond cheesy. It’s essentially an audio jar of Cheese Whiz, with a few slices of grated American cheese added on top for good measure. In my opinion it sums up everything that is wrong with so-called “soft rock”. But, the song was immensely popular, reaching number one on several music charts and winning awards. So, apparently I am in the minority. I’m okay with that.

Cats in the Cradle (Harry Chapin, 1974…but the Ugly Kid Joe remake from 1992 is just as bad). Words cannot express my contempt for this song. It is similar in theme to The Living Years, and is every bit as obnoxious (the themes actually have nothing to do with my dislike, however). In the end I can’t even explain why this song bugs me so bad, but it grates on my nerves, and may be rated, in my book, the all time worst song (maybe…but The Living Years is right there, neck-and-neck).

Friends (Michael W. Smith, first recording was 1983, but played ever since!) I hate including this song because Michael W. Smith seems like a really great guy. In fact he’s had some good stuff out there, if adult contemporary is your thing. However, anyone who knows anything about Christian radio in the late 1980s and early 90s knows Friends was played, and it was played a lot (similar to DC Talk’s Jesus Freak just a few years later). Yes, Friends has a good message, but I’ve heard it so much I don’t know if I could stand to hear it again. Nothing personal, Mike.

You Don’t Own Me and Lightening Strikes (Klaus Nomi, 1981 & 1982). Okay, I was hesitant to put Klaus Nomi on the list for several reasons. First of all, he was so bad he had to have known it, and therefore maybe that was part of his shtick. Secondly, he was never mainstream, so I wasn’t sure if he should qualify for this list. However, after re-listening to both songs listed above, I had to throw ol’ Klaus on here. If you’ve never heard him (or seen him) watch the videos here and here, and I think they speak for themselves. (Not cool ruining a 60s classic like Lightning Strikes, by the way). If this is your first time seeing Mr. Nomi (whom passed away back in ’83), then I’m guessing your reaction will be the same as mine was: “What the heck?” I also throw out a warning: Klaus Nomi may haunt your dreams. Forever. 

You’re the Inspiration (Chicago, 1984). You could really add any song from the “Peter Cetera as lead vocalist for Chicago” era, but You’re the Inspiration sums it up nicely. Cheese.

Tubthumping (Chumbawamba, 1996). The title may not be familiar to you, but you’ve probably heard the song…”I get knocked down, but I get up again”…blah, blah, blah. No matter what they call it, it’s bad.

Angels Among Us (Alabama, 1993). You could really insert any song that relies on a kids choir to back up the main artist. Kids choirs really up the cheese factor on any song, which in turn ups the annoying factor.

Okay…there are tons more horrible songs, and I’ll be back with future installments. But, what did I miss this time that is on your list? Let me know!

PS…I’m sorry if I got any of these songs stuck in your head.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Film Review: Souls For Sale

Earlier this year, the modern-made silent comedy The Artist swept the Academy Awards, and rightfully garnered wide critical acclaim. As an amateur film buff, I loved the movie, but that’s for another review. The Artist, in part, deals with a young woman who makes her way to Hollywood and gradually makes it big. It’s a film for classic film lovers, and Hollywood historians will find much to love. However, The Artist was not the first silent film to address such themes.
Souls for Sale, from 1923, explores (to a limited extent) similar territory. Of course, there is a lot more at play in The Artist, but both films show a girl with a dream to make it big in Hollywood in the 1920s. In Souls for Sale, silent film star Eleanor Boardman plays that girl. I won’t go too much into the plot, but I will say that this film is a real treasure. It not only tells an entertaining story, but also serves as a valuable time capsule. The film shows the early studio system, and contains several great shots of 1920s Hollywood and Los Angeles. We also get the privilege of seeing several famous faces appear in cameo roles, including behind-the-scenes footage of Charlie Chaplin filming A Woman of Paris (a rare drama film from the famed comedian).
And while the film is just shy of ninety years old (!), the humor has held up remarkably well. Many silent comedies relied on slapstick, because audiences obviously couldn’t hear dialogue. However, Souls for Sale foregoes this and contains some very funny lines presented through the intertitles. An example of the film’s humor is a scene in which Boardman is upset because she realizes she has failed a comedic screen test miserably, and most likely will not see her dreams fulfilled. The director, not wanting her to be sad, realizes she might have a chance with dramas and exclaims, “I will make you a star if I have to break your heart and every bone in your body to do it!” At this, Boardman becomes joyful, hugging the director and thanking him profusely. Classic movie lovers will also catch a few digs at the then immensely popular Rudolph Valentino. The film possesses a sarcastic wit, and has no problem poking fun at Hollywood.
For decades Souls for Sale was thought to be among the many lost films of Hollywood’s early days, until prints resurfaced in several private collections. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies and the Warner Brother Archives, this rare film is now restored and available on DVD. Souls for Sale is one of the most obscure films I have in my collection, and I realize that an eighty-nine year old silent film won’t appeal to everyone. But, if you’re a history lover, or a film lover, there is a lot to appreciate in this forgotten tale.