10 Bad Songs on Good Albums

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Last year, Treble dug deep into the dregs of our favorite artists’ catalogs to see what diamonds were buried deep within the trash heaps of their worst albums. And this week, we’re flipping that, and shining a critical light on the worst songs from our favorite albums. One bad song doesn’t necessarily ruin album, but these 10 songs definitely threaten to do so. So, if you’re willing to get your ears a little dirty, here are 10 Bad Songs on Good Albums. Yeesh.

10 the beatlesThe Beatles – “Revolution 9
from The Beatles (1968; Apple)

As we mentioned in our recent review of The Beatles’ catalog, part of the White Album’s charm is its fragmented nature. Through its expansive and disjointed tracklist, The Beatles shows the future of the Fab Four, highlighting their individual interests and ambitions as the band headed towards their inevitable break-up. That chaotic approach works for the album because, for the most part, the songs are extraordinary. The main exception is “Revolution 9,” an amateur sound collage featuring a lot of noise and ‘spoken word’ by John Lennon, George Harrison, George Martin and Yoko Ono. Not that there’s anything wrong with noise or sound collage, but track is entirely inconsistent when compared with the album (which is saying a lot) and — to put it bluntly — doesn’t add much of anything to this otherwise monumental collection of songs. – AK

Police SynchronicityThe Police – “Mother
from Synchronicity (1983; A&M)

Only one thing holds The Police’s Synchronicity back from perfection, and it’s “Mother.” Like other tracks written by guitarist Andy Summers (think that awful Zenyatta Mondatta B-side “Friends”), the song is essentially a joke; this one’s a campy Oedipal nightmare. Some of the lines are kind of gut-funny (“Every girl I go out with/ Becomes my mother in the end”) but then Summers torturously screams them over and over — backed by a delirious looping synth and a screeching clarinet — and the whole thing gets old fast. “Mother” has all those macabre themes of paranoia and insanity that make the rest of Synchronicity so compelling, but delivers them without any of Sting’s subtlety or cleverness. It’s a borderline painful listen, especially on vinyl, when you have to hear it to get to the rest of the album. Of course, the brilliance of the rest of the album is worth the pain of listening to “Mother,” but that doesn’t mean we should have to. – SP

Replacements Let It BeThe Replacements – “Gary’s Got a Boner
from Let It Be (1984; Twin/Tone)

Put simply, The Replacements’ Let It Be is a phenomenal album. That’s due, in part, to its creative combination of classic-rock fueled post-punk and anthemic, generation-defining lyricism. But “Gary’s Got a Boner,” a track from the record’s second side, is a more straightforward rocker about, well, some guy named Gary’s hard-on. And, while its groove is enjoyable enough, placing the song next to brilliant cuts like “Unsatisfied” and “Androgynous” only highlights how disposable “Gary” is. While many tracks on this list are over-produced or combine high ambition and low follow-through, “Gary’s Got a Boner” commits an entirely different sin; it’s just a painful example of extremely lazy songwriting. – AK

Smiths Meat Is MurderThe Smiths – “Meat Is Murder
from Meat Is Murder (1985; Rough Trade/Sire)

Morrissey’s animal-rights politics are the stuff of legend, which has been the subject of either parody or ire, and understandably so. His publicity stunts border on cartoonish, and so does the title track to The Smiths’ second album, Meat Is Murder. It begins and ends with the sounds of slaughterhouse killing-floor buzz and mooing cows, which is just too WTF to even process with a straight face. And then comes Moz himself, pointing his finger at anyone whoever sank their teeth into some juicy ground chuck and brands him a murderer. That this track puts a cap on the album with a cringeworthy public service announcement — one without any irony or humor — effectively ruins the buzz built up by a set of songs that otherwise find Morrissey at his most cutting and witty. It’s easy to overlook obnoxious offstage behavior when the music is good, but this six-minute, slow-motion hissy fit is a total buzzkill. If you’re playing along at home in your own iTunes playlist, swap out this song, add “How Soon Is Now?” and end the album with “Barbarism Begins At Home” instead. – JT

Public Enemy fear of a black planetPublic Enemy – “Power to the People
from Fear of a Black Planet (1990; Def Jam/Columbia)

Between this and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy spent a good three to four years defining how music and politics should be mixed. There weren’t many missteps on these two LPs, and if there were, your gut would tell you they’d be found in some pointless interludes or on Flavor Flav’s tracks. But near the end of cassette side one right after the stellar “Burn Hollywood Burn” was this meandering, ponderous rap from Chuck D. Against a one-note mix by Terminator X featuring more squealing horns and scratched black nationalist recordings (of course!), Chuck’s few rhymes were far too spacious, his cadence loose almost to the point of natural speech. Repeating tropes we’d only recently just heard—808s, brand new funk—this was less of a we-are-everywhere rap and more of a pep-rally exhortation or a pulpit sermon. If Rapgenius can’t give readers any substantial insight on the bars you spit, consider not spitting them. That goes for you too, Mistachuck. – AB

bad songs on good albums REM Out of TimeR.E.M. – “Radio Song
from Out of Time (1991; Warner Bros)

More than 20 years after its release, Out of Time still gets a bad rap. Perhaps that’s due to the album’s opener — an ambitiously awful single by the name of “Radio Song.” The composition itself isn’t the band’s worst; at its heart it’s a heartfelt ballad that would’ve fit in fine along next to “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People.” But, for some reason, the band decided to go for an ill-advised funk-rock approach, which — given the general tone of Out of Time — would be cheesy enough on its own. Throw in an unnecessary string arrangement and a fairly sloppy ‘feature’ by KRS-One and you have one legendary ‘90s rap-rock fail. – AK

bad songs on good albums Massive Attack protectionMassive Attack – “Light My Fire
from Protection (1994, Circa/Virgin)

You’re wrapping up a listen to Massive Attack’s massively well done second album when Grant “Daddy G” Marshall calmly tells a live audience, “One more tune.” A simple drum loop kicks in, and reggae singer Horace Andy—so well-suited for much of Massive Attack’s discography—starts to echo his way through a cover of one of The Doors’ greatest hits. What the fuck is this? Well, it’s an implausible end to this quiet storm, an impossibly bad fit on so many levels: The tempo’s too fast compared to the songs that came before. The gunshot samples are senseless. It’s thematically pointless. Daddy G’s toasts and Andy’s “yeahs” make the song stutter along. And nobody’s quite sure what key Andy needs to sing in, especially not Andy. Massive Attack have far better covers in their catalog, so the best thing about “Light My Fire” is that it’s the last track on Protection. If you skip it, you’ve literally missed nothing. – AB

bad songs on good albums Nas StilllmaticNas – “Braveheart Party
from Stillmatic (2001; Ill Will)

After a couple poorly-performing albums Nas promised his fan base a return to form of sorts, neglecting gangsta rap in favor of the socially-conscious lyrics of 1994’s Illmatic. And with stellar cuts like “Rule” and “Got Ur Self A…” that pledge was more than fulfilled. “Braveheart Party,” on the other hand, was a poorly executed party track of sorts featuring Mary J. Blige and The Bravehearts (a group featuring — among other rappers — Nas’ little brother.) Not only is the song’s beat choppy in the least enjoyable sense of the word, but all the vocals (including Blige’s) are flat and disengaging; failing the two main criteria of a decent party song. Indeed, the song was so poorly executed that Blige normally requested that the track be left off of all future releases of Stillmatic. The request was quickly satisfied and we imagine all parties were glad to part with this flop of a song. – AK

bad songs on good albums Blur Think TankBlur – “Crazy Beat
from Think Tank (2003, Virgin)

The 1999 collaboration between Blur and William Orbit — 13 — produced some of the most challenging work with either artist’s name on it, even if Orbit has vowed never to work with Damon Albarn again. But “Crazy Beat,” the band’s 2003 collaboration with Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, just didn’t work. A weak attempt at re-creating the success of “Song 2” in an even less appealing package, it’s a disposable rock song with processed Donald Duck vocals that manage to get more annoying with repeated listens. What makes it even more baffling is how poorly it fits on Think Tank, which is characterized more by exotic instrumentation (the album was recorded in Morocco), muted textures and melancholy melodies. And yet someone — possibly many someones — saw fit to cram this throwaway — a B-side at best — in between two of the album’s best songs. The worst part about it is that it was actually the first Blur single since “Song 2” to chart in the U.S., which means that as poor of a song as it seems in context, as commercial strategies go, it actually worked. – JT

Kanye GraduationKanye West – “Drunk and Hot Girls
from Graduation (2007; Roc-a-Fella)

Since Kanye West released his third album Graduation in 2007, it’s somehow settled toward the bottom of West’s catalog, canonically speaking — which is just absurd. At worst it’s his fourth-best album, loaded with bangers like “The Good Life,” “Good Morning,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Flashing Lights,” and any album with tracks as strong as these can’t be a bad thing. (Also, y’all forget about 808s and Heartbreak?) But there is one abysmal track on the album, a song so bad that I’m actually shocked nobody involved bothered to suggest leaving it off the album. On its face, it should be a great song: a sample of Can’s “Sing Swan Song,” Mos Def, Jon Brion — lookin’ good there! But it falls apart spectacularly, somehow turning a mumbled lyric from Damo Suzuki into a drunkenly slurred hook about liquored-up girls in the club. It’s like a parody of a Kanye West song — lofty ambition, art-rock sample sources, big name collaborators, and a painfully out-of-place pop-rap “In da Club”-type lyric. It’s a good thing “Flashing Lights” comes next, a song heavy hitting enough to erase the memory of this baffling misstep. – JT

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View Comments (3)
  • Thank you for writing this about Mother. Finding someone else in this World who has taken the time to state this opinion has given me some hope in humanity

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