Top 5 Movie Soundtracks (by Claire)

Movies are where you start the life long process of hearing a song and wanting to hunt it down; soundtracks are the first space where you get a sense of music used to develop a theme and convey a style. I don’t remember much about seeing Matilda as a kid, but I know I hummed “Send Me on Way” by Rusted Root for years because of it. I’ve been exposed to incredible music through soundtracks where whole genres were split open, tracks were compiled to create mini-masterclasses on everything from bluegrass to ska, and powerful songs were lodged in my head.

Goodfellas (above: “Playboy,” by The Marvelettes)

Goodfellas is composed of giant swathes of music, each one precisely and impeccably used. Toe-tapping Motown girl groups show up in droves: The Crystals, The Chantals, The Shangri-Las, The Ronettes, and The Marvelettes. Classic boy bands are laced throughout the film’s first half: The Moonglows, The Harptones, The Cadillacs, and The Drifters. Table side shows and romantic moments feature slick 50s crooners: Johny Mathis, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Darren, Jack Jones. And that’s not the half of it, that’s not a quarter. If you talk about the music in Goodfellas with even the most devout fan, they won’t point to those bands. They’ll tell you the most pressing soundtrack moment was Henry Hill trying to outrun a plane and fate with a hodgepodge of solid rock unfurling in the background, his mounting paranoia reflected in the music’s impact on your now racing heart.

The first time I watched Goodfellas was with a group of people who had seen the movie about 100 times. They got together twice a year to watch it in full while swilling cheap wine and playing the Goodfellas drinking game. A guy I barely knew leaned over and told me “Goodfellas is a mini musical education.” Then he yelled out the names of the artists before each song played. He was obnoxious, and he was right. I can still hear him bellowing “THE SHANGRI-LAS!” moments before the first notes of “Leader of the Pack.”

Magnolia (above: “Save Me,” by Aimee Mann)

Magnolia introduced me to the mighty Aimee Mann. The soundtrack is composed almost entirely of Mann songs, including tracks that appeared on her previous album I’m With Stupid and on her later album (and one of my Top 10 albums ever) Bachelor No. 2, or, the Last Remains of the Dodo. The tone to the soundtrack is wistful and a little dark, a combination that’s best exemplified in the stand out track “Save Me.” The soundtrack also features a few lost SuperTramp gems (when Gym Class Heroes’ “Cupids Chokehold” exploded and none of my friends caught the reference, this album was my key to temporary smugness) and a killer cover of Harry Nilson’s oldies-radio-standard  “One” performed by Aimee Mann.

High Fidelity (above: “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder)

The soundtrack for High Fidelity was so powerful that when I read the book, long after having seen the movie, Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) immediately lodged itself in my brain as I finished the last page. It’s the song that wraps up the film and plays through the credits. High Fidelity boasts some of the only movie credits I’ve ever seen, and I owe that to Stevie Wonder, whose song holds you in the throes of the movie for a just a few minutes longer, even though all you’re watching are scrolling names. There’s so much good music here it’s hard to sift through it—there’s Lisa Bonet redeeming Peter Frampton with her cover of “Baby I Love Your Way,” there’s Rob’s record store mind manipulation accomplished through a well-timed Beta Band song, there’s the rich discovery that Jack Black is an amazing singer as he belts “Let’s Get It On.” There’s also the quiet loveliness of Dylan’s obscure “Most of the Time,” which I believe could sway a Dylan hater.

O Brother Where Art Thou (above: “I’ll Fly Away,” sung by Alison Kraus and Gillian Welch)

I had no idea I liked bluegrass and old school country music until I heard the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Until then, in my ignorant mind, country music belonged to Shania Twain and Garth Brooks. It was twangy mediocre pop, full of ten gallon hats and bad politics, and I wasn’t having any of it. And if I had stuck with that, I would have missed so much. I would have missed Emmylou Harris and angel-voiced Alison Kraus, I would have missed Gillian Welch and Ralph Stanley. I would have missed everything with a banjo, every last thing. And all this music led me to Roseanne Cash, The Carter Family, Lucinda Williams, college Americana music classes, rowdy bluegrass shows at divey old theatres in my first college town. So thank you T-Bone Burnett for lifting me out of my musical ignorance. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time, or the last.

Clueless (above: “Shake Some Action,” by Cracker)

The Clueless soundtrack (and movie) was my way of peeking into teenage life. It was the music pouring out of the poster covered bedroom of the big sister I didn’t have, and whose lip gloss I totally would have stolen. It’s chock full of deliciously 90s not-quite-classics by artists like the Beastie Boys, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Coolio. Now I’m way out of my teens, and that imaginary big sister is probably a lawyer in Buffalo with unstealable lip gloss, but even after all this time the album still sounds fresh. A little dated, sure (remember 90s ska, guys?), but fun and defiant, like something you could listen to turned up loud in the car or turned up loud while crying over a boy. It gives me a flicker of adolescent nostalgia, but not the cringey kind I get from music I actually listened to as an adolescent.

Top 5 Album Closers

Claire: We’re closing out our month long amble down record collection lane with album closers. Joshua and I had a long discussion about this post after I admitted that post by post, it’s come to my attention that I skip out on the end of most albums. Even some of my favorite albums contain mysterious final tracks that I’ve never reached. Why? Boredom sometimes, but more often it feels like the rhythm and narrative of the album got lost in the last few tracks, and after the penultimate and pre-penultimate, I can’t sit through another assault on my mini musical experience. Leave your favorite album closers, and closer criteria, in the comments! Maybe this post and your suggestions can end my stint as an album closer novice.

“The Big Country,” by the Talking Heads on Talking Heads 77

The Big Country is the epitomy of a proper album send-off. After a musical smorgasbord, this track winds you down, but not too much, not too fast. Perfectly paced, and still in pace with the album as a whole, with a solid last track length. If I’ve learned anything from our month of album posts, it’s that you never really want to leave a Talking Heads album. Once it’s on, once it gets going, it’s hard to give it up, hard to let it end. The Big Country is so satisfying it’s downright quenching.  And when Talking Heads 77 is done, you’ll probably replay the album (I know, you can’t help it) but if for some reason you couldn’t listen through again—if there was a tornado or some kind of martian landing— you could walk away and be okay. Until you remember Stop Making Sense, and then wipe out your schedule and cozy up to David Byrne, cause you’re a goner.

 “Jackson,” by Lucinda Williams on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Around the time I turned 16, my family spent a week in St. Cloud Minnesota, the town where I was born. We stayed with my parents’ friend Julie’s house, where we shucked corn in the backyard, ate mole off of plates perched on our laps, and flailed our open, stinging palms through the air, swatting mosquitos. It’s strange to say three cities later,  but everyone seemed so much more alive in Minnasota. My dad was on the radio, bonfires sprung up and filled with my parents’ college friends, and my sister and I ran free. I tasted my first beer that week (and developed a lifelong hatred of Leinenkugels), got my ears pierced, and spent the morning of my 16th birthday walking right down the center of an endless, empty road. I picked up this album at a record store called The Electric Fetus and listened to it relentlessly.

There’s a great line in Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, about listening to “I Will Always Love You” over and over again, and crying because she had never experienced that kind of love. During that week in St. Cloud, I felt ready to grow up and be tumultous, adventurous, and achingly heartbroken, as soon as I could, and “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” was my window into a life I didn’t have yet, but could reach out and almost touch.

“Save Me,” by Aimee Mann on Bachelor No. 2 or the Last Remains of the Dodo

I was in the throes of a bad breakup, and bingeing on sad girl music (…like Fergie) and a newly reacquired cigarette habit, when I got introduced to Bachelor No. 2. I remember that summer as being rainy and constantly dark, though looking back it was so sunny that I came home daily with a pink, scabby sunburn. And I also remember this album being a pitch-perfect ode to heartbreak, so personalized Mann may as well have laced my name through the choruses. But it’s not, not really. It’s heartbreak and growing up and being so strange inside that new love, someday, feels unlikely. I think this is where I ended up five years after I had exhausted Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, when I really was heartbroken and a little more grown up, and it was a lot less delicious than I had imagined.

“One Man Guy,” by Loudon Wainwright on BBC Sessions

Loudon Wainwright III is the world’s saddest man. If there were a “Sad, old guy singing sad songs” version of the Hunger Games, he would win in a heartbeat. He would get a walloping score from the Gamemakers, based on a freestyle ode to his lost loves and distant children. He would pull out a guitar and beat Leonard Cohen death, then melt everyone into a depressive heap with his pretty, lowkey songs, rife with death and loss and major life mistakes. (Oh my glob I want to cast the Sad Old Guy Hunger Games. What are we thinking, guys? Neil Young, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, wild card from District Experimental, Brian Eno…) (I’m reading the Hunger Games and they’re actually haunting my dreams. And this post, apparently.)

“One Man Guy” is an apt ending to a live-ish album: Loudon in concert is a carnival of kooky facial expressions, quips, and goofy smiles, all working together to cleverly mask some of the wrenching sadness in his songs. This song is an exploration of his lodged-in-his-bones-loneliness, and a quick peek behind his live performance mask.

“Murder of One,” by the Counting Crows on August and Everything After

Murder of One is a great big “things are going to change” song. It’s also solid internal montage music: If you need to imagine that things will change, for the better, in a quick, several scene cuts kind of way (instead of in the usual slow, up and down, un-soundtracked way that life works) this is your song. A nice, almost upbeat ending to a brooding, emotional rollercoaster of an album.

Honorable Mentions

“Rock Me to Sleep,” by Jill Sobule on Pink Pearl: Pink Pearl is the worst kind of album: Heartbreakingly sad, and equally catchy. It’s a lovely hummable type of torture, full of failed heroes and cruel lovers and Mary Kay Latourneau. “Rock Me to Sleep” is a pitch-perfect send off—a song about unbearable loneliness masquerading as a lullabye.

“Stumbling Through the Dark,” by The Jayhawks on Rainy Day Music: Another con—the opening sounds lighthearted and playful, but listen to the lyrics for a second and it’s another lovely ramble on sadness and confusion.

“Montana,” by Frank Zappa on Over-Nite SensationWeird and fun, like this whole album. Makes me miss the “I might be moving to Montana soon/ To raise me up a crop of dental floss” pin I made in high school. It had a green field on it with tiny boxes of dental floss growing out of the ground.

Joshua’s List:

“Lawyers, Guns, and Money” by Warren Zevon, on Excitable Boy

The first line is so good: “I went home with a waitress…the way I always do.” It begins with a count-off. It’s loud, crass, and mean. It’s the perfect way to end Excitable Boy. Oh, and the music is pretty damn cool too. I love big guitars, both as a wall of sound and actual physically big guitars. And I can only assume this song has both.

“Sad Songs and Waltzes” by Cake, on Fashion Nugget

I may have mentioned this song before, but as Cake is one of my favorite bands they’re going to get a lot of mentions. And they actually don’t have very many good album closers, at least none I’d be willing to put on this list. Except for this song, of course. It’s a great cover of a Willie Nelson song, and it fits in perfectly with the whole jilted lover theme they have running through the album. Plus, it’s a nice slow way to end the album, which is my favorite way to end an album. And it’s a ¾ waltz! Who doesn’t like a waltz?

“Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, on O.C.M.S

Let me preface this song with telling you that I am not a big fan of this band. The album this is on is not very good and the only other standout on the album is a song called “Big Time in the Jungle.” But this is quite possibly the best campfire sing-along song of all time. When I was at St. Mary’s College, it seemed like every single person knew the lyrics to this song and everyone who played guitar knew the key changes. So yeah, it wraps up a bad album, but it does it in one of the happiest ways ever.

“Sons & Daughters” by The Decemberists, on The Crane Wife

I’ve seen The Decemberists three times now, and twice they’ve ended their encores with this song. It’s big, it’s happy, and it’s a sing-along! (Ok, so sing-alongs are a running theme this week.) Every time I hear this song it puts a big smile on my face. It’s the perfect way to end The Crane Wife, which I feel is ostensibly a “winter” album, with the spring peeking out of its hidey hole and giving us hope after a long, dark winter.

“All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints” by Paul Simon, on Graceland

So yeah, I love this album. It’s on three of the four lists we have about albums. But goddamn, this is an amazingly fun song. It’s singy, it’s danceable, it’s balling. Also, props to the many mentions of watermelon. I totally want some after listening to this song.

Honorable Mentions:

“The Hazards of Love 4: The Drowned” by The Decemberists, on The Hazards of Love: Only bumped because of previous mentions and a Decemberists song already on the main list. Otherwise, one of my favorite album closers.

“Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang” by John Lee Hooker, on Live at Café Au-Go-Go: His signature song, and one of the best versions available.

“I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder, on Talking Book: Gets a big positive for closing out the movie version of High Fidelity. But it’s also a crazy good song. Also, the outro is really, really, really funky.

Top 5 Track 6s

Joshua: I was talking to my friend Jeff King a few weeks ago about this awesome blog and I mentioned that this month we were doing album-based lists. (No doubt you’ve read our first such list.) He mentioned that he has always thought that, as a general rule, track six on any given album has to be good. In his words, it has to be a linchpin to hold the album together, the track that makes sure you listen to the second half of the album. We here at Charm City Jukebox agree, and finding the subject so engaging, decided to write our own track six lists. And look for Jeff’s post on Friday!

JOSHUA’s List:

“Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads, on Stop Making Sense

I’m of the belief this version of this song is the best single thing the Talking Heads has ever done, so I may be a little biased when including this into a list of track 6’s. But for serious. I mean, for realsies , when we talk of “game-changing” tracks on an album, this is the definition. It takes a good album and makes it into something truly special. This track nears live performance perfection simply because every member of the band is firing on all twelve cylinders (the Talking Heads obviously have a huge engine.)  and manages to mesh in a way most bands could only dream of.

“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, on Talking Book

I busted out all of my vinyl this week to create my list, as I felt just looking through my iTunes wouldn’t cut it this time. To my surprise and utter delight, this song is track six off of Talking Book, one of my personal favorite Wonder albums. It may be one of his most popular songs, but it’s freaking amazing. The horn lines alone make the whole album worth listening to over and over. Plus, how often do you get a pop song with a clavinet in the starring role?

“Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, on Physical Graffiti

Ok, so I may have been a little harsh on this song in a previous post. But let’s be honest with ourselves here: The second side of Physical Graffiti might be the best side of a rock album ever pressed. And it’s wrapped up with one of the best rock opuses (opii? opusss? I got no clue.) ever written. It’s a shot across the bow for Zeppelin fans, signaling the apex of Zeppelin’s musical talent….Mostly because this album is followed by the god-awful In Through the Out Door and then John Bonham’s death.

“Born of a Broken Man” by Rage Against the Machine, on Battle of Los Angeles

A change for the album, as it starts with just one guitar with very few effects and no distortion. Then it crashes into the hook, a violently distorted syncopated line laden with string strums and badassness. It’s easily the most introspective song on the album, the message of the song being aided greatly by the effects laid upon the drum sounds, which sound as though they’re being played underwater two towns over. Many people I’ve talked to about this album seem to think this is the weakest song on the album, but I can’t disagree more vehemently. I think maybe it’s disliked because it’s simply tough to listen to. It’s not easy on the ears or the conscience.

“Fuck Her Gently” by Tenacious D, on Tenacious D

I’m so glad this was a track six. When I pulled out my vinyl copy of this album (yes, jackass, I do have a copy of this album on vinyl. It was a wonderfully thoughtful gift from an ex-girlfriend and I play it all the time. Deal with it.) I was delighted to see it in the six-slot because I get to talk about the song I played on guitar probably more often than any other song combined (besides maybe “Tribute”). It’s hilarious and infectious. If you don’t mind profanity, it’s the song for you. Plus, Jack Black has one of the most precise voices in music, so it’s a vocal treat. And, remember fellas, it’s important to ball your lady discreetly when she wants it.


“Loco de Amor,” by David Byrne, on Rei Momo

Rei Momo is a magical album and like David Byrne himself, it’s aged scary well (Seriously—throw some hair dye and a giant suit at the guy and you’ve got “Stop Making Sense.” And that was 28 years ago.) It’s fun swirling genre-spanning David Bryne madness, and lacks the “attempting esoteric but landing at borderline Lite FM” quality of some of Byrne’s later solo efforts (See “Like Humans Do”). After the first track you’ll know you’re in it for the long haul with this album, and “Loco De Amor” is just more proof, albeit bright happy get-up-and-dance-around-your-office proof.

 “Pavlov’s Bell,” by Aimee Mann, on Lost in Space

I’ve learned a really important thing from writing for this blog: I have no idea what any of Aimee Mann’s songs are about. I’ve been listening to her relentlessly for years, bopping my head and hitting replay, muttering her very quotable refrains to myself, relating. And then I started reading her lyrics, which have a Dream Songs level of “here are some images and maybe a theme and a sharp left turn and BAM” quality to them that’s hidden in her charming voice and solid pop predilictions. So here’s a song, I think it’s about drug addiction, or maybe having an affair, but in the end like much of Mann’s work, it’s stuck-in-your-head for days good, so who cares?

“Fu-Gee-La,” by The Fugees, on The Score

Classic Fugees. Tightly packed raps, and Lauryn Hill’s voice drizzled through the refrain like warm honey. If you hit play on this one, expect to spend the next several hours listening to the Fugees.  In two days when you’ve done a full circle through the Fugees and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and you’re feeling blue, share a moment with Talib and get “Ms. Hill” stuck in your head. He gets it.

“So It Goes,” by Nick Lowe, on Jesus of Cool 

A great song from an underrated classic. When I saw Nick Lowe two years ago, all the hipster girls wore cut off Day Glo shirts that read Pure Pop for Now People, the revised US title for Jesus of Cool. I always preferred the title Jesus of Cool, and not just because it’s the original title of the album, and not in a “I know things, girls in Day Glo shirts, I know Lowe things” way, but just because Pure Pop for Now People reeks of New Wave wordplay. Nothing against New Wave (you all know I’m blasting Flock of Seagulls RIGHT NOW) but I see Nick Lowe as something more. A shining example of what pop music could be and usually isn’t. The Jesus of Cool, perhaps?

“I Just Want to Make Love to You,” by Etta James, on At Last!

I was so excited to find out that this song was a Track 6. At Last! is a fascinating album. It was Etta James’ first album of 33 (Live and studio—throw in compilations and it practically doubles), yet almost all of her most iconic songs are on it: I Just Want to Make Love to You, At Last, Sunday Kind of Love. This is one of my all time favorite songs. From the horns at the beginning, to James’ voice that moves from gruff to sweet and back again, to the straight forward seductiveness of the lyrics—it’s another Etta James gem from the very first Etta James masterpiece.

Top 5 Songs for the Grown and Sexy

Claire: Have you ever heard the term “grown and sexy”? It’s a radio thing, and it usually shows up before a solid block of smooth, slow jams, timed somewhere south of 10:00pm. These are the songs for when love songs, alternative love songs, and terrible love songs just won’t do. Here are our Top 5 songs for the grown and sexy set. They range from classic to modern, sultry to sweet, and sometimes downright wholesome (I’m looking at you Bootsy Collins). So sit back, relax, enjoy, and you’re welcome.


“Say Yes,” Floetry

A slow, sultry number featuring two of hip hop’s unsung vocal superstars. Assertive without being aggressive, sexual without being vulgar, vivid without being explicit. Once you turn this song on, it will magically build you a fireplace and set out a bearskin rug. It’s amazing. Try it.

“I’d Rather Be With You,” Bootsy Collins

Funky, slow, trademark Bootsy. Even though the beat has a boudoir feel to it, the lyrics are downright wholesome. If this song clicks with you, check out “Munchies for Your Love,” another sweet yet sexy number by Bootsy.

“Finest Lovin Man in Town,” Bonnie Raitt

Ms. Raitt brings the raunch, and that warm honey voice that waivers between sweet and soulful. Bluesy, direct, and studded with relationship wisdom and harmonica riffs. This is very much an early evening, getting ready to get the night started song.

“Loving Cup,” The Rolling Stones

I like the pace of this song, the way it builds and picks up half way through. It’s engaging, earnest in a very particular way (a funny blend of assertiveness and pleading that only a musician trying to get laid could pull off). I’ll get hate mail from my generation for this, but I’ll say it: Jagger’s voice is sexy. Recent songs that celebrate guys who look like Jagger, or dance like Jagger, confuse me. I prefer him strictly in musical form, no gangly dance steps or trout mouthed pursing allowed.

“I Just Want to Make Love to You,” Etta James

The horns in the first few notes, and the way Etta hits that first note, then goes soft and breathey a few lines later? Magic. A song that says “Honey, don’t even go to work. Forget the laundry.  Your priorities are limited to one room and one room only, k?” Which is expressed best when Etta wails “Ooh all I want to do all I want to do is cook your bread/Just to make sure you’re well fed.” She doesn’t have time to bake it, but damnit, she’ll cook it…just get back in that bedroom.

Honorable Mentions

“I’m His Girl,” Friends: Sultry with feminist overtones. Respectful relationship advice meets Brooklyn funk.

“Lets Get It On,” Marvin Gaye: Too on the nose, but duh.

“Satisfaction,” John Legend: A sexy, angry song about a relationship falling apart. Legend has created a theme song for post-fight or post-break-up sex.

JOSHUA’s List:

“Love and Happiness” by Al Green

Oh, man. The way this song starts is enough to put anyone in the mood. Sparse guitar and Al Green in falsetto and THEN THE ORGAN KICKS IN? Jesus. If you aren’t wet/hard after the organ kicks in, it’s not happening with the person you’re with. Al Green is the perfect way to get anyone in the mood. It’s not quite baby-making music, but it’s certainly great getting-in-the-mood music.

“Pusherman” by Curtis Mayfield

Things are getting busier here, both musically and sexually. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time around music and musicians, but roto-toms are a sure way to get anyone aroused. It’s like the anti-steel drum, the buzz killer 60 years running. Also, falsetto seems to be a running theme. What is it about black men singing in falsetto that’s wildly arousing? It really, really doesn’t work the other way around. Just listen to Dave Matthews for two minutes and tell me why.

“Maybe Your Baby” by Stevie Wonder

I had wanted to save this until the last song, but like everything else, good things don’t last. 10 minutes in heaven is better than 9 minutes in heaven. But this track is dirty groove, straight nasty. And it doesn’t help that he’s singing about a girl cheating on him. It’s dirty wrong sexual acts set to a crazy groove that makes you just want to look at your partner and give it to him/her in the way you always wanted to but thought just wasn’t cool but he/she always wanted but didn’t know how to broach the subject. Do’s: put on when you’re both drunk and rather uninhibited or when you know your partner’s a freak and want to awake that side. Don’ts: funeral sex.

“Bonita Applebum” by A Tribe Called Quest

We’ve hit the winding down section here. You’ve had great fun tonight. Light up a cigarette and enjoy the afterglow.

“Use Me” by Bill Withers

You may be asking yourself why this is here. It’s very upbeat and obviously you’ve gotten through the sexual encounter (the average time for sexual intercourse is, unfortunately, 2-5 minutes). But maybe you’ve smoked that cigarette and you look over at your partner and decide it’s time for round two. What better way to lead back into boning than Bill Withers cranking out the jams? He does it. And you’re about to do it again.

Honorable Mentions:

“Spooky” by Dusty Springfield: A great way to lead into sex. You drop the needle on this track and look over at your partner and both of you will know what’s going on.

“Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock: Oof. Not for the faint of heart. Or ab muscle. This song is 15+ minutes and contains multiple tempo changes. It’s doable. But you just gotta be in it for the long haul and be down with funk-jazz fusion. Trust me, it doesn’t work otherwise.

“Criminal” by Fiona Apple: Oh, you’re a dirty motherfucker. Congrats. This track is perfect for you. It has a beat you can get down to and it conjures up the image of an 18 year old Fiona Apple writhing on the floor. Great for angry breakup sex.


Top 5 Worst Love Songs

Claire: Welcome to Week 2 of our February love song extravaganza. We’ve done Top 5 Love Songs, had our first ever guest post with Top 5 Alternative Love Songs, and now it’s time for my personal favorite, Top 5 Worst Love Songs (or what not to woo anyone with, ever). Get ready for a few more weeks of love, lust, loss, Lionel Richie, and other musical goodies brought to you by the letter L.

CLAIRE’s List:

“She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones

An upbeat, misogynistic number by America’s most revered lounge lizard (Wayne Newton, it’s over. You heard it here first.), Tom Jones. This, like much of Jones’ body of work, sounds like it was written for the soundtrack of an early 80s romantic comedy. Here’s the scene: Hot chick in day-glo shoulder pads enters the restaurant in slo-mo (and you know that restaurant has a salad bar and oddly placed palm tree like plants, cause shit is CLASSY). Jaws drop, weirdly tan guy in a suit (read: Tom Jones) who’s watching her enter leans back approvingly and nods (That’ll do, shoulder pads. That’ll do.)

Lets take a look at a couple choice moments from this song:

  • She’s never in the way” and “I can leave her on her own, know that she’s okay alone, and there’s no messin'” : These lines sound like they should be followed with a chorus of “She’s a toddler”
  • And I don’t abuse her!”: He says this twice, guys. Congratulations?
  • Woah woah woah” and “Na na na”: You get ONE. One sound. Get it together, Jones.

“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship

Mannequin is a touching love story about a man who can’t handle relationships with humans so he gets it on with a mannequin and nobody thinks that’s weird. It features Hollywood power players “That-guy-who-did-not-deserve-Molly-Ringwald-in-Pretty-in-Pink” and “That-lady-from-SATC-who-said- ‘Lawrence of My Labia’-and-ruined-both-the-movies-and-Arabia-for -me, forever.” Damnit Kim Cattrell. This is the creepy theme song for their “man meets and marries doll” love story. I first heard it at the “Delocated Variety Hour” show a few weeks ago with Ben Gibbard singing into a voice modulater while watching Jon Glaser go to town on a mannequin. So it was pretty magical.

“Every Breath You Take,” by The Police

A love song that says “Stalking is neat!” and “Sting is gonna getcha!” Come on everyone. Stop playing this at your wedding, stop using it on shows and in movies when characters finally fall in love, just stop it. No. Listen to the lyrics just one time and you’ll know that a song about a heartbroken dude who is watching you sleep and breathe is not romantic. It’s scary as hell…just like Sting.

“I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meatloaf

Full disclosure: Much to my parents’ chagrin, I loved this song when I was a kid. But that was just because the video is awesome and it’s live action Beauty and the Beast and explosions! Explosions! Anyway. Basically, Meatloaf will do anything for love, but he won’t do a bunch of stuff that nobody would want him to do anyway. I swear at one point it quotes graffiti I read on a bathroom wall in high school, (“Some days I just pray to the god of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll”). And I know Meat Loaf came first, but trust me: Fourteen year old boys with sharpies were writing similar sentiments in bathroom stalls way before the early ‘00s. They were also saying earnest, hormone-addled things like “But I’ll never forgive myself if we don’t go all the way, tonight” since cave-boy first invited cave-girl to come over and make out in his basement. Meatloaf, you’re too old for this. Do all the stuff you said you would do and leave it at that.

“I Want it that Way” by the Backstreet Boys

In 1998, the Backstreet Boys decided that they were so important that they no longer had to use sentence structures or themes or any basic songwriting staples. They weren’t excelling on these points before, and they were making Scrooge McDuck levels of cash, so at a band meeting one day, the awkwardly old one said “Hey guys, lets just say words and dance.” And the non-threatening to girls one said “Why don’t the rest of you have to have ponytails? It’s 1998. This is not a thing anymore” And the one in the hat said “We can just say the words ‘heart’ and ‘you’ a lot so preteen girls get confused and think a) we’re singing to them and b) we’re super deep?” And really Christian guy and Nick Carter agreed, and it was so. Here’s a link to the lyrics. Enjoy.

JOSHUA’s List:

“Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band

This is one of those songs that falls under straight up creepy, akin to “Every Breath You Take.” It’s masked, however, by a very beautiful and relatively hard to play chord progression and Matthews signature wilting voice. But he’s essentially talking about stalking the girl he’s in love with and admitting to having wet dreams about her! What did you think “come into you / in a boy’s dream” meant? Maybe if he had spelled it “cum” or “skeet” we all wouldn’t have been suckered into thinking this is song is pretty and sexy. I actually like that. The next time a pretty woman asks me to play this song (it’s always the really pretty ones who like this song [often blond]) I’m totally replacing “come” with “skeet” and we’ll see if that changes how she hears the song. Or if she slaps me in the face.

“Baby, I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton

Oh man, this is a boring song. He talks about different types of light for like 6 verses then follows each up with a very nonsensical chorus. To what way does he refer? The way she does what? Because, Mr. Frampton, the way you’ve done this song is boring, straight down to the chord progression. And Rob Gordon was wrong, even Lisa Bonet couldn’t save this one.

“I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder

Speaking of High Fidelity, the boys in the shop had it right with this one. No one wants this song…which is basically a calendar. He boldly takes us through each holiday month by month and reminds us, in a precursor to Rebecca Black, that January is followed by February and March is after that. And the worst part? Stevie Wonder is a musical genius and  yet this song sounds like it was knocked up in ten minutes on a Casio keyboard with multiple MIDI sounds and a drum machine and a robot voice. Talk about phoning it in, Li’l Stevie.

“Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton

All I want to say about this song is it would far more interesting if he had answered truthfully and said, “No, honey, you look like you’ve gained a bit of weight.”

“Your Kiss is On My List” by Hall and Oates

Oh, Hall and Oates. Does anyone really want to get a love song sung to them b a creepy dude with a 70’s pornstar mustache?  Or does this answer that question?

Top 5 Bad Songs by Good Artists (claire & joshua)

Claire’s List:

Good artist: Liz Phair

Bad song: Why Can’t I?

In 2004, Liz Phair decided to replace her beloved bad girl indie image with a toothy, crooning, Top 40 makeover. In the grand scheme of this “I was created for the opening credits of a Kate Hudson movie” genre of pop, Why Can’t I is not a horrible song. But from the woman who wrote Exile from Guyville, from the voice that sang Polyester Bride and Shitloads of Money on repeat in my bedroom during a two year long middle-school whitechocolatespaceegg bender? It’s a disappointment on par with the weird “I Love the 90s” appearances she made where she listed each year’s top Fuck and Run guys. Ick. 


Good artist: Loudon Wainwright III

Bad song: I Wish I Was A Lesbian

Loudon Wainwright is funny. He has the goofy grin and the jerky movements, he has the blinking twitchy schstick, he was Katherine Heigl’s kooky gynecologist (Knocked Up), mentored every comedian you’ve liked over the past eight years (Undeclared), hell, the man was on MASH (…MASH). I like his funny songs. The one where they all do acid? Priceless. He Says She Says? A personal, parallelogram filled favorite. I Wish I Was A Lesbian? An overplayed, over twangy, not even particularly funny bit of AM DJ trash. 

Good artist: Richard Thompson

Bad Song: Cold Kisses

I like creepy, haunting Richard Thompson. But this is just creepy. Richard Thompson, I want you to misunderstand and talk about Bathsheba and plead for what’s already yours! Not play a gross guy game of underwear rifling and dick-comparing.  


Good artist: Elvis Costello

Bad song: Cover of “What the World Needs Now” with Burt Bacharach

Lounge Lizard madness, from one of the world’s greatest singer/songwriters. I’m sure this made a lovely first dance song for all the weddings no one wanted to go to that year (“Did they just do a rap version of Corinthians? Why are the bridesmaids wearing sailor hats? DAMNIT, IS THAT ELVIS COSTELLO AND BURT F**KING BACHARACH?!”)

Good artist: Bob Dylan

Bad song: Man Gave Names to All the Animals

After albums like Blonde on Blonde, and Blood on the Tracks, Dylan mixed it up by becoming a born again Christian and releasing the early folk version of Veggie Tales. This is really all I have to say:

He saw an animal up on a hill

Chewing up so much grass until she was filled

He saw milk coming out but he didn’t know how

“Ah, think I’ll call it a cow”.”

Joshua’s List

Good artist: Eric Clapton

Bad song: I Shot the Sheriff

Why do white people have such an obsession with covering reggae music? It never seems to work. And this time it fails miserably. The song isn’t that great to begin with and this is like the bubblegum-made-with-Splenda version….Yeah.

Good artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Bad song: Deep Kick

The whole album this is on, One Hot Minute, is awful. And this song is heinous. It’s like John Prine meets Donovan meets Flea waking up from a bad booze, speed, and heroin hangover. This band was based on speed rock funk. Anything under 80 bpm just seems weird and this is truly bizarre. I just want to ask everyone involved what they were thinking, all the way down to the mixing board tech. Awful. 

Good artist: Led Zeppelin

Bad song: Carouselambra

As good as the two previous albums (House of the Holy and Physical Graffiti) are, that’s how bad this song and the album it’s on is (and the grammar of this sentence). If that made no sense, that’s fine, because that’s exactly how I feel about this song. Why is there like 20 minutes of synth playing? Why does it alternate between fast and slow parts? What the hell were they smoking that made them write and record this song? Baffling.

Good artist: Michael Jackson

Bad song: You Are Not Alone

The song is bad. It’s Michael Jackson meets Michael Bolton. And the video just makes it even worse. A newly white and disfigured Michael sings to a very pale and odd looking Lisa Marie Presley. And they’re both naked! What. The. F**K. 

Good artists: Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney

Bad song: Ebony and Ivory

I saved the worst for last. Stevie and Paul both have some of the greatest music ever recorded, but this gets close to the worst song ever recorded. It’s not “Friday” or “Party All The Time” bad, but it’s right under it. It’s patronizing to both the artists and the fans. And simply putrid to listen to. I don’t know even know how to talk about this song without the bile rising in the back of the throat. That sounds like hyperbole, but I just spit up a little listening to the refrain. I mean, does anyone like this song? Anyone out there in blagosphere even remotely like this song? I’m willing to bet serious money that no one has ever liked this song, including Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

Honorable Mentions:

  • BB King and Heavy D – Keep It Coming: Another entry in the Worst Duets contest.
  • Cake – Dime: It’s no secret that I love Cake. I routinely blast them when I’m driving. But this song is bad. The worst part is the refrain, where John McCrea lands the word “shine” for nearly 3 measures.
  • Rage Against the Machine – Anything off the album Renegades: It’s no small wonder that they broke up after this album. The only passable song is the cover of “Maggie’s Farm,” but that’s only because it’s such a good song to begin with. The worst part is that the song selection is fantastic, it’s just the execution that is terrible.