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