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Taking sides: Can one horrible song ruin a near-perfect album?


James Murphy has made another great album - with one glaring exception. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

LCD Soundsystem's fine new album "This is Happening" isn't due out until Tuesday, but it began circulating around the Internet a few weeks back. It wasn't leak-proof, but it sounded almost bullet-proof -- save for lead single "Drunk Girls." Yeesh! Horrible tune! New York Magazine, you can't seriously be calling it a contender for song-of-the-summer! Shock! Horror!

Sadly, LCD maestro James Murphy has presented us with a conundrum that has plagued pop music for generations: The masterstroke with an asterisk, that oh-so very excellent album with that one godawful song.

In our weekly Taking sides column, Click Track's contributors picked near-perfect albums where one bad apple nearly spoiled the proverbial bunch. Read our picks after the jump and share your personal deal-breaking album tracks in the comments.

Chris Richards: I was one of the few people in my social (and professional) circle to champion Kanye West's "808s & Heartbreak" as the best album of 2008 (and later, one of the best albums of the decade). My friends were quick to let me have it: "But dude, what about 'Robocop?'" Yes, "Robocop" is incredibly whack, but not as whack as the Clash's "Jimmy Jazz" from "London Calling." It's an epic buzzkill of a song that has vexed me since childhood and will irk me 'til my dying day.

Sarah Godfrey: Jay-Z's "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1" is stellar album from start to finish, save for one speed bump: "(Always Be My) Sunshine." Putting Jay, Foxy Brown and Babyface together on one track is a great idea in theory, but the result is a horrible, overly slick pop tune that feels completely out of place. The song also manages to ruin both a great Fearless Four (by way of Kraftwerk) sample and a fantastic Alexander O'Neal hook -- no small feat.

David Malitz: Lots of people claim that "Blonde on Blonde" to be Bob Dylan's greatest album. It's not, ("Bringing It All Back Home," FTW), and one of the main reasons why is that it starts with one of the worst songs in the Dylan catalogue, "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35." Great title, absurdly stupid song. Don't care if it was controversial when it came out because of the "everybody must get stoned!" line. Still makes me cringe. The whole thing feels like a bad joke, which is probably exactly what he wanted, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Allison Stewart: REM's "Crush With Eyeliner" off "Monster" comes to mind. I remember back in the early '90s, when REM could literally do no wrong -- they were like the Johnny Depp of bands. They were coming off one of the best albums of all time ("Automatic for the People") when they released "Monster." Its first track, "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?,"was weird but not alarming. The next song was "Crush With Eyeliner," a full-out glam-rocker that was like nothing they'd done before -- and not in a good way. It was a dramatic, awkward shift in style for them; the sort of song that made you think, "Uh oh." 

The rest of the album wasn't bad, but that track was the first signal that the band was headed into the weeds, and they really haven't  found their way out since. So I guess it's not so much a case of one song ruining an otherwise perfect album, more like one song ruining an otherwise perfect career.


By Chris Richards  |  May 13, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  Taking sides  | Tags: Bob Dylan, Jay-Z, Kanye West, LCD Soundsystem, R.E.M., The Clash  
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Next: Clicky shuffle: Random songs for Friday morning

Comments

M83 pretty much wins this category, the last couple of albums which both in theory are very very good, have been ruined for me by terrible terrible female spoken word vocals on a few tracks.

I love Monster, and "Crush with Eyeliner" for that mater, but you could single out every song on the album as problematic. It's a deeply flawed album all around, but that's part of it's charm. It sold like hotcakes before people realized that it was a really weird record.


Jimmy Jazz Jazz Jazz Jazz. Jay-ay-zed-zed ... etc

Posted by: M__N | May 13, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Allison and I need to have a chat about "Crush With Eyeliner" - I love that song!

Posted by: DavidMalitz | May 13, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

The first one that sprung to my mind was "Les Boys" from Dire Straits Making Movies. The bad news is that it's a weird, droning slice of Cabaret style debauched ennui. The good news is that it's the last song on the album/CD, so you never really have to listen to it.

Posted by: drcorndog | May 13, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

One could argue that one person's favorite tune is another's worst ever, but there is no way that you can disparage the classic Rainy Day Women #12 and 35. I'm guessing that the reviewer is too young to have been there when this song came out. The song works on many levels, including the stoned perspective. It's a honky tonk roadhouse tune, a street people's tune, a Salvation Army tune! It's Damon Runyan meets Timothy Leary. As the Post likes to say "If you don't get it, you don't get it".

Posted by: GrandstandAnalyst | May 13, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

One song can't ruin an entire album.

Posted by: agl132 | May 13, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Most albums, even my favorites, have songs that I regularly skip, though they're not always awful.

If I had to pick the worst offender: "Whichever Way the Wind Blows" from Bob Mould's Workbook. Fortunately it's the last track, and Dreaming I Am makes a great closer.

Runners-up include:
Ignoreland - REM - AFTP
Don't Stop - Stone Roses s/t debut
Youth Worshiper - The Church - Heyday

Posted by: Miles_Standish_Proud | May 13, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Just off the top of my head, Usher's "Confessions" is one of my favorite pop albums of the past few years. I love it start to finish, with the exception of that godawful "Yeah!" that everyone else seems/seemed to love.

A song like that doesn't quite ruin the album, but it sure leaves a stain.

Posted by: gmburris | May 14, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Don't Stop is great. is it a cocky thing to put on an album? Yes. But I still find it rather charming.

I think the sad thing about Stone Roses is that the quality of their work both before and after the self-titled album is pretty poor.

Posted by: M__N | May 14, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Don't know where Mr. Richards is coming from at all with regard to Jimmy Jazz. I really don't.

Posted by: jpw0527 | May 16, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Epic buzzkill? Don't know where Mr. Richards is coming from with regard to Jimmy Jazz from London Calling. I really don't.

Posted by: jpw0527 | May 16, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Have to agree on Jimmy Jazz. London Calling is my favorite album of all time, but I truly hate that song.

Posted by: Schneid1 | May 17, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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