Monday, May 28, 2012

The Science of Bad Music

We were sitting around bullshitting at the bar the other day and, as usual, the topic of music came up. And frankly, these days, most of it is the equivalent of auditory Ex-Lax. "How can he say that?" you ask, when we live in an era where staggering musical prodigies the likes of Katy Perry and Kanye West rule the airwaves? Well, here's our breakdown of why modern pop music is funkier than a freshly-baked dog turd.

Great Music, Terrible Lyrics

There are a fair amount of musical millionaires who are actually damn good musicians, but their lyrics may well have been written by inbred chimpanzees. The first band that comes to mind is one I actually like: Linkin Park. Their genre-blending synth-rock-rap is well composed and has evolved decently over the years, but for the most part, lyrically, these guys are knuckleheads. They've brought us such brilliant verses as, "Clutching my cure I tightly lock the door, I try to catch my breath again, I hurt much more than anytime before."

Still don't believe me? Make a drinking game out of it. Every time they say the words "I, me, or you" take a shot. You'll be dead in half a song.

Great Lyrics, Terrible Music

Somehow even worse than that is great lyrics with terrible music. He's that Indie rocker who can write masterful prose but plays music that sounds like a bunch of rabid cats raping each other in a back alley.

His album is 75 minutes long and has led to more suicides than bullying.

The Catchy Hook (that doesn't really mean anything)

Now we don't want to sound like the old whippersnappers hating on modern music, but let's face it, there's a ton of songs that rely on nothing more than a catchy hook with a chorus full of empty words. You know what I'm talking about. The same 4 notes playing over and over again, on repeat, turning a song into nothing more than a 3 and a half minute long chorus.

Like this abortion of a song that's been strangling the radio airwaves for an eternity now.

It's terrible, yes, but it's so easy to get stuck in your head... which is something that we're not dismissing for our own musical endeavors.

An upgrade from the HitMaker 2000 which has 5 keys (so unnecessary!).

The Gimmick

Let's face it, whether they're talented or not, a lot of artists these days rely upon corny gimmicks to sell their image. Probably the most notable of these is Lady Gaga, who routinely shops for her wardrobe at modern art galleries and meat-packing plants.

Yes, Gaga's main schtick is tacky wardrobe. And I used to respect her for it. Hell, I'll even admit to owning and enjoying her first album. However, I haven't even moderately enjoyed anything of hers since. It's all crap. But hey, who needs to write a high quality song anymore when you pander exclusively to the gay community? Sure, we wholeheartedly support gay rights, but what we don't support is lazy songwriting just because something you believed in became a success and you used that to turn a positive message into a gimmicky, half-assed album.


Auto-tune sucks. It just does. Chances are, if you're a singer and you use auto-tune, you probably shouldn't be singing. Because you're not. Thanks to this wonderful little technological advancement any old schmuck can have his voice transformed into that of an operatically inclined robot. Hey, if it works for Kanye West, who's to say you can't be the next big rap star, Mr. Tracheotomy?

Sex Sells

Sometimes you don't need musical talent. Sometimes you just need a gigantic pair of boobs, a pretty face, and a skimpy bikini, which is totally comparable to strong vocal cords and general musical ability.

Speaking of sex, sexual lyrics sell albums like you wouldn't believe. Look at Rihanna. Every song she's made in the past 2 years is about how much she loves the caulk. And while we've got nothing against a sexually empowered woman, I don't know if any of her lyrics really qualify as "empowering", unless you're an avid Sesame Street watcher and you need dumbed down explanations of how basic sexual functions work.

I'm sure glad Rihanna explains in graphic detail what she means in her songs, otherwise I might have been too dense to understand what she means by a man wanting to shove his face into her sweet cake and licking it profusely while she blows out his thick, dripping candle.

Remedial Vocabulary -
I read last week that the average American reads at a ninth-grade level. I'm assuming that the corresponding vocabulary isn't a whole lot higher than that. But does that mean that music has to be dumbing it down for the masses, too? More and more we're seeing music saturated with terrible grammar, coming from musicians that have a perfectly competent vocabulary. Ask yourself the question: would proper grammar really make a song all that terrible?

Skreezy graduated from the school of hard knocks, but he also graduated Magna Cum Laude from a prestigious New England college as an English Major, which his fans don't need to know.

Now, we're not trying to make you feel bad for liking Justin Bieber or the Skreezies of the world. But if you do, you probably should. Admittedly, music is subjectively appealing, and we've all got our guilty pleasures. In fact, Bryan is a huge fan of traditional Afghani folk warbling set to break-beats. So, take our opinions for what they're worth.

What do you think constitutes bad music?

Cheers and stay classy, friends,

Beer: Modelo Especial
Music: Weird Al Yankovic


  1. All of the above. That's why I do a post of 70s music every week.

  2. Totally agree. One of my Fav Examples: 1975, Led Zep lyrics: "If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you, when mountains crumble to the sea, there would still be you and me, kind woman.."

    2012, Niki Minaj lyrics: "You a stupid ho, stupid ho, stupid ho, yeah, you a stupid ho."

    That kind of brilliance only comes around once in a lifetime..

  3. Yeah have to agree, it's like they dress up in these God awful outfits trying to get attention and then just phone it in, hell a phone voice would prob do a better job.

  4. hahaha. 1000 likes to this post.
    Kanye West- seriously I dont know is he an artist? I love that 2-pack Shakur even his voice would sound better than this guy.
    Rihanna needs 100 Chris Brown to turn her into pulp. And 1000 more for her Battleship crap.

    "His album is 75 minutes long and has led to more suicides than bullying."
    You know what? We should dress up all these guys bad earwormer in Lady Gaga's meat dress and let them parade in zoo. And release their screaming video, that would sound a lot better than average music they give and their screaming for life would sound better than their lyrics.

  5. That video, "I just met you" is worse than the worst - "Sitting in the back seat, sitting in the front seat, which seat shall I take"

    You ruined my morning Bryan and Brandon, I wish I knew where you lived, I could take revenge stand all day playing this song on boombox.

  6. I had never heard of that song before but now because of you horrible pair of gits I can't get it out of my fecking head, I 've just painted a zombie pink!
    It's cracker kicking time.....

  7. Dissing Lady Gaga? *gasp* You're dead to me now. DEAD.

  8. I only just found out about Justin Beiber a few months ago. I am always out of the loop when it comes to new music. I guess that's what I get when my car stereo doesn't work, I don't own an iPod, and when friends makes me listen to bands they like, which sound like two cats humping.

  9. I can usually look past the lyrics if the music itself rocks. Take Slayer for instance. I like the music but I really have no desire to wear a dead skin mask or dance with the dead in my dreams and listen to the hallow screams.

    Oh and I recommend that Lady Gaga refrains from visiting a dog pound or a zoo. She is walking dinner in that meat costume!

  10. I don't know enough to really comment - but your post cracked me up all the same. This line: "funkier than a freshly-baked dog turd." is so good! I don't know if its your own - or if it's a standard phrase that I've only just come across - but I love it.

    However, my favourite segment here was the one on Rihanna... it was so funny that I'm still laughing at it.

    Of Western music all I really know are The Beatles. I do like some of Dire Straights though.

    Another fun post, thanks!

  11. I just wish I could make some sense out of the garbled lyrics. And I certainly don't like the songs that are nothing but screamin'. Loud is fine but screaming?

  12. Can you hear the lyrics? Most of the time they're so obscured it's hard to understand. Besides, I mostly use it for background noise. Pop music has always been terrible and simplistic. Remember, the Beatles got popular on the lyrical powerhouse that is "I wanna hold your hand".
    That Skreezy joke reminds me of Rick Ross who pretends to be a gangster but is the furthest thing from. And if there were a news story about Rihanna "wearing something classy and understated," I'd probably spontaneously crap myself from shock.
    There's music being made today that's really great, it's just harder to find now with the slow death of radio. And where are you watching music videos?

  13. This is actually pretty much everything that IS wrong with music these days. I think that catchiness is probably one of the worst though. Most chart topping songs these days have maybe 20 words in total. It's almost all mindless repetition.

  14. Considering my husband tells me on the daily that my musical tastes run from gooey pop to hipster heaven I'm maybe not the most qualified to give my opinions. However, I can't stand the Biebs. I just... I just can't stand him or his music. The other music that I seriously just can't abide by is the hard rock screamo crap. I just can't handle it. And I'm not counting Linkin Park in that, they are pretty fab.

  15. Bad Music: "How can he say that?" you ask, when we live in an era where staggering musical prodigies the likes of Katy Perry and Kanye West rule the airwaves?

    Therein lies the problem. You could've ended the post right there... The rest was just gravy. Really bad music gravy.

  16. Whoa! Seems you hit a lot of nails right on their little pointed heads. Freshly baked dog turds indeed.

  17. Auto-Tune is the worst musical development since the drum machine. (Drums are to be beaten, not programmed.) It makes talent completely unnecessary. It's gimmicks like this that make me want to listen only to instrumentals.

  18. Oh gawwwwwwd, I am so sick and tired of that call me maybe crap sullying up the air waves. And thank you for ending it all with a little weird al bump. :D

  19. Wow! This post is what is wrong with music today, you guys hit the nail on the head! Give me some Led Zepplin or Alice in Chains, or pretty much anything that isn't bubble gum.

  20. This should be required reading in school.

  21. Bad music for me = Enrique Iglesias. He's the male equivalent of singers with big boobs and no voice. Meaning he's an attractive man, yes, BUT THE GUY CAN'T SING.

    And now I've got that stupid chorus hook stuck in my head without knowing what the song it. Curses!

    -Barb the French Bean

  22. Ha! I think you're spot on. And I still love gaga but...I get the pandering thing. I really do. You nailed that one. Also, anything by nicki minaj is just stupid. Even if it is super catchy.

    I'm like an old lady when listening to music... "WHY IS THERE SO MUCH NOISE IN the BACKGROUND?!!? WHAT IS THIS?!?!"

  23. I think bad music for me is where the artist has just kind of given up. There's no complexity to the music, there's no thought into the words, it's all about spitting out a formula to win over numbers instead of showing any real talent or passion. Music is about passion for different things, not formulas. I totally get the old lady comment Gia made. I really don't get music today, it just seems so souless.

  24. I agree. Music has basically been reduced to catchy tunes and just about zero substance. I love Linkin Park, though. And Weird Al. :)

  25. Music is probably the most subjective form of media out there. I've seen many people who loathe "mainstream" music yet the ones they like I've seen them post on sites sounds like a new age soundtrack for an elevator. For me I just usually turn on pandora radio and thumb down everything I'm tired of or don't like.

  26. Man, I know so absolutely little about anything on the radio these days. I just don't listen to it. I've tried at various times, but I can't manage to last more than three or four songs (which takes, you know, like, an hour with all the commercials) before I just turn it off before it has a chance to rot my brain.
    Which is not to say that there haven't been a few songs here and there to catch my attention, but as a collective whole, it's garbage. I'm not sure if there's been anything significant enough in the last 10 years that if you chucked it all that anyone would notice anything missing.

  27. Hey you BAD B BOYS ~
    That was funny stuffs, dudes! And I like that you were tackling a real issue in our society today with your trademarked style of humor.

    >> . . . What do you think constitutes bad music?

    Well, I hate coming off sounding like the old geezer I am, but today’s music, for the most part, is just the same regurgitated garbage being resold to the naïve and the tasteless.

    A friend of mine runs the blog DiscConnected and he has a CD collection that numbers in the neighborhood of 18,000 discs – no kidding! Most of it Rock/Pop.

    One of the things that DiscConnected and I have agreed on is that in our day (the ‘70s & ‘80s) Pop music encompassed a huge spectrum of styles. Think about it: you had Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Mellow Rock, Country Rock, Progressive Rock, Folk Rock, Blues Rock, Jazz/Rock Fusion, and so on, all sharing the airwaves at the same time. We have lamented the fact that today there seems to be only about 3 styles of music: Rap, Metal, and Lady GagGag-like retread Disco Dance pap. (Maybe you could add in that type of music that I would describe as “Commercial Soul Ballad Crooning”.)

    But in early 1978, for example, you could turn on a Top 40 radio station and in one hour hear songs by such varied artists as Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, Paul McCartney and Wings, the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Frankie Valli, Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, Darryl Hall & John Oates, Marvin Gaye, and Glen Campbell.

    I’m not necessarily saying I like all those performers (because I don’t), but I’m just pointing out the incredible amount of musical diversity that was once available to anyone tuning into one Top 40 radio station in one year.

    It sure ain’t like that now. You had better love Heavy Metal, Rap, or Disco pap, otherwise there’s not much on contemporary musical radio stations for you.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

  28. Amen! And yup, thanks to Katy Perry, my 9 year-old granddaughter wants to know what a menage a trois is.

  29. See, this terrible has to exist, and people HAVE to like it at some point in order to understand that there's such a thing as excellent music out there. I pretty much agree.. with everything. Just lyrics aren't that important to me. I mean, if it's rap or pop, it's VERY important. There's so many other genres though.

  30. Hey now... For every brain dead song out there, there's still going to be a real thinker that makes you realize it's not all going to hell in a handbasket.

    I think Nicki Minaj's "Stupid Ho" is n many ways our generation's "Stairway to Heaven" or "Hey Jude."

    I mean, can't you hear Leonard Cohen sing-speaking those lyrics? "You a stupid ho / You, you a stupid ho"?

  31. I respectfully ask that you guys take that picture of me in the bikini down, I thought we agreed on the purple bikini, not the pink bikini =(

    I played the stupid "Call me, maybe, baby, blah, blah, blah, desperate girl" song and my tween daughter came running in (crap here she is again asking me how come I don't like that song) anyway, as soon as tween daughter came in, she had to leave due to a bloody nose. No, I didn't punch her - I think the whining of the song caused it....

  32. Good music is any music I put on in the background ... and helps get me laid!!!

    The Musik Playa

  33. I have to be honest, lyrics really take a backseat for me. I know it should be the other way around but I how the music makes me feel. Sometimes I just listen to the radio to see what new songs are out there and then proceed to search for the tracks.

  34. Ever since Timbaland said the phrase "the way I are," I pretty much just gave up on music.

  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. There was a spate of female singer/songwriters here in Oz where they would sing in a whisper in an attempt to sound more poignant and innocent. The songs are not anymore meaningful than Katey Perry and at least she is happy enough to get her rack out.

    I clearly remember the moment when I realised my parents were right. Pop music is always the same.

    It haunts me to this day

  37. Interesting article from the Australian national broadcaster website.|BadMusicKilledTheIndustry_GPP|abc

  38. Oh, I can't STAND lady gaga!!!! Totally agree on all of these, although I do have a poster of Britney Spears hanging on my ceiling above my bed. Don't judge me..

    and how catchy is Rihanna's new song, Birthday Cake? Cake, Cake, Cake, Cake... lol

  39. >> . . . "I clearly remember the moment when I realised my parents were right."
    ~ Rusty

    Oh, I want to dog-pile on to Rusty's comment. Even at the ripe old age of 52, I can clearly recall my parents yelling at me to "Turn it down!"

    What was I cranking up? Well, Styx, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, shit like that.

    They were always trying to turn me on to bullshit music like Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Jimmy Dorsey, etc. In other words, crap that had "no electric guitar!"

    Imagine my surprise to find a couple decades later that I would sell 100 Rolling Stone songs to acquire 1 Bossa Nova song by Stan Getz!

    Listen to your parents, people (unless they have tattoos).

    ~ Stephen
    'Loyal American Underground'

  40. I avoid pop music like I avoid boils on a penis. If you get any of that shit on you, it'll change your life and not for the better.

  41. I got hit with the "Call me Maybe" line. Was pretty embarrassing.
    We'll never give in to the flu of pop music. I hold my metal closer to my heart than ever before.

  42. There's still bad music out there and it isn't confined to commercial radio. Just tune into any college radio station and some point you'll hear a ten minute track solely devoted to three notes called "a dub mix".

  43. You basically covered all the things that are wrong with music today. There is one thing I would like to add, though. A pet peeve of mine is when a musician tries to combine horrible sounds in an attempt to "break grounds." I mean, try to experiment and all, but when you produce something that sounds like hot garbage, leave it off the record and in the sock drawer.

  44. Ha! I was just arguing with my mom why Lady GaGa is better than Carrie Underwood because she wears meat dresses and isn't boring. I don't think I convinced her. Something about "meat dresses doesn't mean she has a good voice...blah blah blah...." I wasn't listening. I couldn't hear her over whatever Auto Tune album I was listening too.

  45. I've always disliked linkin park, aka the the creed of rock rap.

  46. I am so glad that I have Pandora where I can choose the music that is played on the "radio". I like a wide variety of music as you know, but I cannot stand the majority of what is considered popular music, it is boring, lacking talent, dumbed down drivel. It makes my blood boil just thinking about the way "artists" (and I use that word lightly) today basically just re-hash the music of my youth and once they are done with that, they re-hash the music of my parents generation. There is very little that is original these days and that is truly sad. So I shall continue to stay in my little bubble of good music and hope that one day something new will come along.

  47. GREAT POST! I've noticed I keep having the same conversation with people about how today's music sucks. I listen to some of it, sure, but I guarantee you I'll forget it by the time 2013 gets here.

    Today's music has no staying power. It's all repetitive. Money, ho's, cheaters, etc. I wasn't around for round 1 but Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Elvis - those artists are decades old, deceased or are missing key members and yet they're loved generation after generation. That was real music. It's sad (pathetic?) that no one in the last 5-10 years will be remembered like that in the next 10.

  48. I think anything that sounds like it was made using a cookie cutter constitutes as bad music, which is why I disagreed with your first point of "bad lyrics good music." Meaning, you can use the whole 7-note system with the most creative embellishments, but still sound bland because you've been using that same I-IV-V-I progression. I don't know. As a classical musician, I learned to identify exactly how varied chord progressions are, which is why I learned how to hate music in general (no I don't like Mozart and Beethoven). There ARE a few gems I relish, but ah nobody ever agrees with me.

  49. For me bad music is anything where the commercial concerns of a record label takes priority over what the artist wants. When taken to the extreme this is your typical boy just to make money.

  50. Ack- That Carly Rae song is a ginormous ear worm! My near thirteen year old can't get away from it.

    You know, looking at the two of you in your comfortable chairs, and interestingly decorated walls, beers in hand, I think you should consider your own talk show. Either that, or start your own band.

    Now, for the love of God, get yourselves off the local stations and head over to Sirius. Or something like that. Poor guys. I feel for ya. ;)

  51. Ho-ly-crap, I don't know what is worse - that you guys hit up every single trope with what EXACTLY is wrong with modern-day music or that I can't think up of anything worse than what you just brought up.

    You know what I mean, dammit! This is important, if I don't communicate it properly I'll be a hoodrat for the rest of my life. D:


  52. You got me at "man milk in my tummy". So tired of Rihanna singing the same loop over and over again in every single damn song.

    Agree with all of the above. Also: bands in which the male members look and sound like a bunch of wet fetuses.

  53. Great post and use of illustrations. Loved it! I owe you an apology, but you've been tagged and tasked on my latest blog and would love for you to play along at

  54. I like Katie Perry. But I also like a lot of other genres too.
    My ipod on shuffle can be pretty random.
    Confess that most of the time I have no idea of song titles or artists. I just know whether I like it or not

  55. I was totally going to become a rapper. But I don't save enough rambling voicemails or say my own name enough in songs.

  56. Lyrics are important to me. My husband is the opposite. One of the groups he likes is Pearl Jam. They bug me, because I can't understand the lyrics!
    One of my fav old groups that I always thought had good lyrics is REO Speedwagon. I like the Stones and Mick Jagger, just because Mick brings so much energy to the stage, and I like some of the lyrics. (Wild Horses comes to mind)
    I like Kid Rock and Buckcherry. Josh Todd of Buckcherry interests me, he's older, an avid reader, a much deeper person than he appears. He wrote a song about the boy from the book "A Child Called It". Some of his lyrics are kinda lame though, my favorite song of his is "Sorry". I like some country artists, too.

  57. Best line: "This porno has some good music". So true!