Day Two: Your least favorite song.
I'll admit it: I started on this thing without reading what the 30 different categories were. I'm starting to get the sense that they were written by someone in their formative years.
When I was 19, I had occasion to interview the sing for the Judybats, a band I dearly adored. We were scheduled to speak by phone and I departed from my normal interviewing routine of basically having a conversation, and then clarifying the points which needed it either at the end or sometime before publication. Since I wouldn't have a chance to follow up with more questions later, I decided to prepare some in advance, and was immediately confronted with the idea that there are only a handful of standard questions that people ask when a record is coming out.
As I said, I was 19, so my immediate thought was to come up with questions that would oppose the normal interviewing and marketing conventions. I suspect I just wanted one of my heroes to remember me.
Which is how I ended up asking him what his least favorite song on the new album was.
He was understandably nonplussed, and asked me to repeat the question. I did so, and he hemmed and hawed about various things before finally settling in on a track that had been written during the sessions for the previous album, but was making its debut on this one. He made it clear that the age of the song was the only criteria for naming it as his least favorite. He was simply more excited about newer songs.
I bring this up because it's what I thought of when I read today's category. It's a weirdly antagonistic question to ask someone who is giving up a bit of time to share music with people. I felt bad the instant after I asked the question, as I could see that, rather than coming up with something new, I had simply inverted a normal question in the least interesting way.
And there's a lot of that on this list. For most of the times you get to pick a favorite, you come back the next day and ponder its opposite. The challenge is doing so in such a way that it stays interesting to me. It would also be nice if it were interesting for you, but I'd settle for it not feeling like a chore.
Then there's the promotional nature of this thing to consider. I'm meant to add a youtube video of whatever my choice is. I can think of loads of music I do not enjoy, for whatever reason, but I wouldn't want to add a clip of something I dislike to my blog.
My first thought was something to do with the Black Eyed Peas, even though I think it's mostly about context with them. I saw them perform on Saturday Night Live, and my impression was that they were about as good as a mediocre high school talent show entrant. Which is pretty underwhelming, but if I were watching, say, a high school talent show, I doubt it would register so much as being atrocious. It's merely the heights of success they've managed to reach with their minimal gifts that I find galling. It's not so much about them as is it about the disparity.
So then, I thought I should think in terms of something I find loathsome or unlistenable from an artist I generally admire. That seems more appropriate. I thought of "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" by the Beatles. It's not hard to find people willing to admit this is their worst song, but it was a b-side, and it has a sense of whimsy and was clearly a lot of fun to record, so I'm giving it a pass.
And so, we come to the high-water mark of bad music by great musicians: Metal Machine Music. The basice story is as follows: Lou Reed still owed an album to his record label, but was angry about something, or didn't want to do it. He was contractually obliged, however, and the result was a full album of, well, this:
Note the appropriate imagery. I'm guessing no one who clicks in is likely to last longer than a full minute. I had a rather nice box set of his music in the early 90s, and it contained about a minute from this work, which seems about right.
Still, it was borne of frustration, and it sure sounds like it, so it does sort of work on some level. As a statement of displeasure with a record label—who must have blinked, swallowed hard and looked around a couple of times before shrugging and releasing the album as is—it seems like a particularly elegant way of saying "fuck you." It's the sonic equivalent of that famous photograph of Johnny Cash angrily flipping off a cameraman.
And for me, it's the high-water mark for unlistenable music from someone I admire greatly.
Or it was, until a couple of years ago, when Mr. Reed decided to stage a "Symphony for Dogs." It's gonna be hard for anyone to dethrone that. It cannot be heard by human ears, and that sort of inverts the idea of "unlistenable" in much the same way I tried to invert "what's your favorite from the new record" all those years ago.