Archive for Friday, September 16, 2005

Very bad things …

It’s time to ditch a few of the worst ideas still menacing music

September 16, 2005


Some bad ideas in the world of popular music suffer a short shelf life.

Hair metal. Gangster rap. Synth pop.

Keyboard neckties. Platform shoes. Japanese headbands.

Eddie Murphy's singing career.

Other bad ideas linger longer than a flattened skunk. In fact, some are so prevalent that few people ever stop to question why they're still around.

Here are a few tools, concepts and artistic choices that continue to be implemented by entertainers ... and continue to hound listeners, whether they realize it or not.


Take a step back from the pervasive use of a turntable to scratch records, and you'll realize it is modern music's silliest and most irrelevant instrument.

Why not bring a vacuum cleaner onstage and turn it on and off? Or how about employing the tones of bread popping out of a toaster?

How this practice, which doesn't even make a particularly cool sound, has earned any street credibility over the years is a mystery. The most untalented bass player in a high school punk band usually has more musical validity than a hipster making noises with his Technics.

Respectable examples: Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Beck

Worst offenders: They're all pretty irritating, but the sound of Limp Bizkit incorporating scratches into hard rock anthems is especially icky.


All the artists who feature more dancers onstage than musicians need to rethink their profession.

Live music is about spontaneity. It's about being able to interact with the fellow musicians onstage and with the audience in new and vibrant ways during each show.

There is a word for synchronizing a routine to four-minute pop songs: cheerleading.

Respectable examples: James Brown

Worst offenders: Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, boy bands


No, that's not a correctional dental apparatus from the 1950s. It's a harmonica neck holder.

The device is usually employed by singular folk musicians as a means to break up the monotony of protest songs being warbled over three chords.

But anything that encourages people to play harmonica who don't know how to play the instrument is a bad idea. (Remember Alanis Morissette squawking her way through "Hand in My Pocket?")

The neck holder is a hands-free invention that ranks right up there with the beer guzzler hat.

Respectable examples: Neil Young

Worst offenders: Many acoustic folk musicians, including Bob Dylan


A quick look at the Billboard singles chart reveals a shared trait: Half of the top-10 tunes employ the term "feat." (for featuring) when crediting the performers.

These include Kanye West (feat. Jamie Foxx), Missy Elliott (feat. Ciara and Fat Man Scoop), The Pussycat Dolls (feat. Busta Rhymes), Bow Wow (feat. Ciara) and 50 Cent (feat. Mobb Deep).

Time was that an artist could put out a single without having to resort to name-dropping in order to get on the radio. Now these pairings are virtually a necessity. They also reek of record label intrusion, in which the company tries piggybacking an emerging artist on the success of a more established one. Half the time the musicians don't even know each other until they're introduced in the studio.

Respectable examples: Dido joining Eminem on "Stan"

Worst offenders: Kanye West resorting to raiding Hollywood for musical partners


You would think past fiascos such as Ashlee Simpson and Milli Vanilli might have served as a lesson to others in the industry. (Anyone who thinks Simpson's career hasn't been affected should check out those minuscule box-office numbers for her latest star vehicle, "Undiscovered.") But as long as the public is willing to put up with pop stars who can't sing, they'll have to endure paying $45 for concert tickets and watching the star play make believe to prerecorded tracks.

Just ask Hilary Duff how the formula works.

Respectable examples: Umm, maybe if you're shooting a video

Worst offenders: Simpson's "Saturday Night Live" meltdown


Technically, this device "sweeps the peak response of a filter up and down in frequency."

In layman's terms, it's the thing that makes the guitar go "wah-wah."

Believe it or not, the wah-wah pedal was first popularized in country music before the psychedelic rock musicians of the late 1960s laid claim to its caustic sound. (The soundtracks to stag movies then followed suit.)

But even with all the digital doodads available to modern players, the cheapo effect refuses to die. It also can be used as a barometer for when the "lead" guitarist in a band can't solo. His lack of skill is directly proportionate to how fast he steps on the pedal to disguise the fact.

Respectable examples: Cream's "White Room" or Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)"

Worst offenders: Just turn on 98.9 FM


You might as well rename it "American Idol Syndrome." Melisma involves straying from the melody in order to force-feed several notes into one syllable of text.

And it has become the bane of the pop R&B; culture. When it's done with skill, it seems like showboating. When rendered poorly, it can derail a song.

Frustrated sports fans know it can also stretch an interpretation of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by several minutes when you are waiting for the first pitch.

Respectable examples: Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau

Worst offenders: Christina Aguilera and her ilk

Very bad things runners-up: fog machines, drum solos, samplers, fade-outs, hip-hop skits between recorded songs, rhyming "night" with "all right," tribute albums.


tscar 12 years ago

this is a really bad and not very well thought out article. it blows me away that you have that big of a problem with a fog machine that you need to include it in your "Runner-Up" catagory.

and you think having featured artists should go out of style in hiphop? everytime a musician goes into the studio they're collaborating with somebody different. whether it be a producer, a musician, or an artist, it doesn't make a difference. how could you have a problem with an artist stepping outside of themselves to help make their music better? can you imagine the impact it would have made if led zepplin did a joint album with the doors? it might have changed the landscape of rock music.

gccs14r 12 years ago

"This was more than a race issue this was a attack on hiphop."

Get back to me in 300 years if your music is still around.

Some songs are instant classics. Some songs become classics. Anything sufficiently vulgar that one's parents are embarrassed to hear it will never be a classic.

junkhand 12 years ago

calling gangster rap (that has been around for 18 years) a fad? questioning scratching(a staple of hip-hop forever)? taking a crap on bob dylan? attempting to make fun of songs featuring other artists?

this article is blows.

hurlehey 12 years ago

Hair metal lasted from 1979-1991, grunge only from 91-94, which one was a flash in th pan? If this article wanted to make fun of music, why not start with all the awful yet pretentious local emo heros,kicking so much music butt, they all work door at local bars!

bugmenot 12 years ago

This article is trash. I hate music critics who think that they know what good music is and what bad music is, when they know nothing of the bad music.

audvisartist 12 years ago

Music critics should be banned from criticizing music. Bunch of musician wannabes!

bholton 12 years ago

Figures you would have said you liked Eminem w/ Dido. Have you even seen Dj Qbert scratch a record with the deftness of Chick Corea on the keyboard? If you even want a slight idea of a dj is capable of check out Dj Sku Teusday nights at the Gaslight. Does a musician need to whine incomprehensibly, alone and immobile for you to respect it? I'm going to go lip synch my melisma ladened, choreographed routine for "Party All the Time" with some artist I just met, all the while scratching a record with a wah pedal and wearing a beer guzzler hat. You can go write some more bad articles.

trainyardzero 12 years ago

record scratching and samplers are the "worst ideas still menacing music?" Drum solos? hip hop skits?! how long have you been a music critic? if you have for very long, you must've had your head in the sand since most of the things you've listed as "menacing" have been very large parts of their respective genres, for better not worse. FADE OUTS? this is embarrassing.

audvisartist 12 years ago

I think it's safe to say that this "article" can be taken off as the headline article from

sonny 12 years ago

Man this dude is a*ucking dumbass. He's got to be a racist, pro white or something all I know is he aint right. But this reminds a brother your in Kansas ( some agree with this guy, alot of people)this makes me miss back home man. This was more than a race issue this was a attack on hiphop.

sonny 12 years ago

Yes I guess this is the tipical (white middle upper class veiw) it makes me laugh!! Yeah keep listening to bethoven that's the $hit go live. Hip hop is a mixture of all music and yes hip hop will never die. I guess you guys liked my grand parents form of hip hop passed down from are african ancestors called country that turned in to rock and roll. all these forms of music were started in black community's and first were raped. by white culture and they made it thier own, such as elvis as kid going to the black side of town to steal are *hit. made him lot's of money and us nothing. Years later more started to steal but it's not about race it's about the music. so hip hop is the new thief if you don't like it don't buy it all your kids are. they love it

jhoman 12 years ago

Such a sad article. It's quite obvious that the so-called journalist here is musically sheltered. To make such statements as that turntable being "modern music's silliest and most irrelevant instrument," reflects the writers lack of knowledge on the subject of turntablism. Please have a listen to Ricci Rucker and Mike Boo "Sketchbook," DJ Q-Bert "Wave Twisters," and DJ D-Styles "Phantasmagorea," and try to tell me that the turntable is a "silly" instrument.

I'm not quite sure what your problem is with having guest artists on hiphop songs. If you look back at the history of jazz, you'll see that artists constantly played together to further their art. The same thing is happening with hiphop. Rather than just focusing on the radio hits, why not dig a bit into the underground?

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