Contrary to popular belief, I wasn't always this svelte, charismatic and downright cool. Not remotely. As a young teen I was the picture of the gangly, awkward, acne-ridden brain-on-legs with few social skills, fewer friends and absolutely no fashion sense. The glasses didn't help, nor did my Beaver Cleaver haircut. I was a model pariah, but as young men are wont to do, I still harbored hope that some pretty girl would take pity on me and join me on the dance floor of my junior high school for some pubescent, hormone-fueled, jerky-legged, stiff-armed slow dance action. Sadly it was not to be, and thanks to those devastating letdowns in my formative years, there are certain songs I can no longer listen to without my stomach filling with acid – all the accumulated knowledge and savvy of the intervening years fleeing from my mind like frightened gazelle on the Serengeti.
And since I'm a masochist, I'm willing to revisit those traumatic tunes for your enjoyment. Here they are, in no particular order.
LIVE - LIGHTNING CRASHES
Man, was this song ever big. In fact if you ask most people to name a Live song, this will be the one they name – and if you ask for a second Live song, they'll probably look at you blankly and start drooling. Too bad, because Live did all kinds of other great stuff, but I digress. I remember hearing this song for the first time at a seventh-grade Valentine's Day dance, and I was struck by how fundamentally unromantic placentas are, but it didn't stop me from saddling up and bravely asking a girl in my class to dance. She laughed at me. I left. Okay, next song.
OASIS - WONDERWALL
Oh, Oasis. I have a special place in my heart for this band, and this song in particular. Before you start shitting on my head I'm well aware they were never, are not, and likely will never be very good, but when you're thirteen years old, things like quality music pale in importance next to What's Cool, and boy, was Oasis ever the bee's knees back then. Wonderwall was definitely top-of-the-heap on that album, and it was played over and over at every party I went to that year. In a desperate effort to improve my personal “cool” factor I sat down and learned how to play it on guitar, at a time when my musical abilities didn't match my musical ambitions, and so I very likely made a fool of myself. But the worst had to be listening to it on repeat in my friend Tim's basement watching everybody else dance. I sat on the bed drinking Coke and cursing my missing balls.
AEROSMITH - CRAZY
This is kind of a weird addition to the list, I know, because even though Get A Grip was released in 1993, Aerosmith inhabited a genre that predated my generation considerably – not too many 13 year olds I knew were really into classic rock, but Aerosmith was a curiosity. Maybe it was because Mrs. Doubtfire was released the same year and everybody jumped on the “Dude Looks Like A Lady” bandwagon, but either way, “Crazy” wound up on regular rotation at school dances for several years. Looking back now it's really funny to consider how little we understood the lyrics to that song – I remember having an involved conversation about why she “ain't wearin' nothin' underneath that overcoat” - we all figured she'd be kind of cold if that were the case. Regardless, “Crazy” holds the record for the Soundtrack To The Most Turn Downs Ever in my books. Seventeen, if you wanted an exact number, you fucking sadists.
BUSH X - GLYCERINE
Also known as The Other British Band (right behind Oasis), Bush X's rock sentiments were more palatable to a lot of my contemporaries than the obvious Beatles knock-off pop offered up by Liam and Noel. But the album “Sixteen Stone” was notable for having an inordinate number of soft-rock ballads (i.e. more than one), and “Glycerine” was by far the most popular. It had everything: catchy four-chord rhythm, Gavin Rossdale's delightfully-gravelly voice singing vague lyrics about...well, about a girl, I think, though it could just as easily have been Jell-O based on the title, and even a string section. Perfect slow song. Sadly, I wouldn't know – this song was played at my eighth grade graduation, and that was one cluster-fuck of a celebration, let me tell you. The girl for whom I'd fostered a borderline-unhealthy crush-turned-obsession promised me a dance at the end of the night (gasp) and in my haste to run to the DJ and request this song, she wound up dancing with some meathead jock she would later go on to date through most of high school. Thanks a lot, Bush X.
BRYAN ADAMS - EVERYTHING I DO (I DO IT FOR YOU)
Everybody get your sick bags ready, because this is perhaps the most saccharine song on this whole list. For those of you not old enough to remember anything but the recent Olympics, I can assure you that once upon a time, Bryan Adams was indeed a superstar (insofar as a Canadian musician can be a superstar, anyway). His music was all over the radio, and throngs of teen girls would flail their arms and sing along with “Summer of '69” while being blissfully ignorant of the implied double entendre. This song was Bryan's biggest contribution to the soft-rock genre and went a long way towards defining him as an artist. Much to my chagrin, because at that time there wasn't a teenage boy alive who could hold a candle to his smug, self-satisfied, leather-jacket-wearing, coiffed-hair, muscly singer body, balls-to-the-wall sex appeal. Even if I had gotten a dance out of this ultimately depressing number (which would later go on to feature prominently in Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country, usually played over the battle montage from “Saving Private Ryan”), it's guaranteed the young lady wouldn't have been thinking of me. She would have been thinking of Bryan, and to be honest, I wouldn't have been able to blame her. Still can't, come to think of it.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, obviously – I could write a book about the abysmal failure that has been my romantic life over the last ten or fifteen years (and one day I just might!) - but I think you get the idea. Anybody else out there have a song they love to hate because of how shitty it makes them feel? Hit us back in the comment section – because misery loves company.
Alex James is the head writer at State of Affairs and can regularly be found repelling down tall buildings in the dead of night.
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