If you think a music act sucks, few feelings are more satisfying than when they finally go away. No longer will you be bombarded by horrible sounds that you can easily avoid with just the tiniest bit of effort! Never again will anybody without sufficient talent make money in the recording industry! Huzzah!
That is, until they come back.
But here’s the interesting thing — for every dozen Smashmouths who make the exact same crappy sounds they did when they left years ago, there are those who see 15:01 on the clock and respond by evolving into real musicians, with eclectic styles and skill and things to say. Don’t those people deserve our respect and, at long last, out money?
Yeah, we know, that’s a silly question. We all know that the first impression is the only one that counts. Rebecca Black could come back in 2020 as a classical pianist on par with Beethoven himself, and people would still see her as “the ‘Friday’ girl.” Likewise, these also-rans are way better now than they were then, but because “then” entered our brains before “now,” “then” still reigns supreme. So sorry, “now.”
Regardless of hidden inner talents, we as a public know Korn for exactly one thing: they’re the reason nu-metal exists. It would have been less offensive to humanity if each member had killed a puppy on stage one night.
Loud, angry for no reason, sadly misogynistic, annoying clicky bass that sounded like the beads on the band’s gigantic braids were whapping against the mic stand, prone to “rapping” even though a baby in Prozac could’ve done a better job of it: that was Korn. They were certainly better than Limp Bizkit, mainly because everybody was, but they weren’t Rage Against The Machine either. And no amount of bagpipe solos could change that reality.
As far as radio and the mainstream public is concerned, Korn is still “Freak On a Leash,” and hasn’t put out anything worthwhile since 1999 or so. Well, not only have they been touring and recording pretty much non-stop since then, they’re actually better than ever. Not so anybody noticed, of course.
In 2005, they lost one of their guitarists to Christianity, because balancing one’s love of Jesus with one’s duty to perform songs called “Faget” and “Ball Tongue” is a harder task than many assume. In response to this loss, Korn became almost a completely new band, with a new electronic sound, actual singing, virtually no clicky bass, and actual melody. Christ, the remaining guitarist even solos now, something the nu-metal world classically despised. He sometimes does this while accompanied by gentle piano, something the nu-metal world REALLY classically despised.
The once-clicky bassist is even putting out a solo instrumental album, proving he actually figured out how to play his instrument in a way that makes it sound like an instrument, and not a swarm of pissed-off crickets.
Yes, they still sing about depressing stuff, because it’s Korn and some things never change. But now it’s the weathered depression of an older generation who’ve been through a lot of crap in their lives, instead of over-the-top kvetching from stupid young men pissed off because some heckler called them gay 25 years ago.
Among the glut of ‘90s girl pop was 15-year-old Mandy Moore, whose hit song “Candy” was basically “Friday” before “Friday.” It was wink-wink sexual, almost certainly about drugs (“body’s in withdrawal every time that you take it from me” cannot possibly mean anything else,) and didn’t result in any more hits, probably because everything else on that album was even worse.
She has since disowned that time in her career, much like everyone else has. But pretending one was never a teeny bop pop act is pretty par for the course, right? Well, instead of her second act consisting of her going bonkers, overexposing herself, and replacing her bone marrow with drug residue, she went out and became Joni Mitchell instead.
Nope, that wasn’t a joke. Cute little Mandy Moore is a folk singer, and a damn good one at that. In 2003, she released an album of covers of songs from groups like Cat Stevens, Carole King, Carly Simon, and Mitchell — y’know, girly pop. She has since released several albums of finely-crafted folk rock, has drawn many a comparison to the singer-songwriters above, and has proven everyone wrong who said she was just a silly pop tart.
Granted, nobody really cares and her albums never chart, since all we see is the “Candy” girl all growed up. Clearly though, she doesn’t care that we don’t care. She voiced Rapunzel in Tangled, after all; those royalties will pay her bills for the next several centuries, at least.
Hanson’s brand of mid-’90s silly bubblegum pop was so pervasive that people today, seventeen years later, still insist on making jokes about “MMMBop” and how the band’s hair made them look like cute little girls. This included the youngest member, who was like 12 when the band hit big. In essence, people were (and still are) making “pretty girl” jokes about a 12-year-old boy. Hell is going to be so damn crowded in a few decades.
In 2004, long after the mainstream world got sick of asking what in the holy hell an MMMBop even was, they went indie after their record label kept rejecting their increasingly mature material. They’ve since released multiple albums of sophisticated, piano-driven, classic rock-sounding tunes, complete with beautiful harmonies and actual words to the choruses.
How the hell did they pull that off? Well, turns out they were actual musicians all along. They’d been playing together for close to a decade, and their brains had finally caught up with their ability to construct chords. They weren’t toddlers anymore, and wanted to prove that to the world.
The only reason they haven’t done so is because the world has collectively shrugged its shoulders and gone “feh” at the whole thing. It appears that, to much of society, Hanson only works when people can fling pedo jokes at them. When they grow up, get serious, and do the Black Crowes better than the Black Crowes, the world moves on to something else. Probably a joke about Justin Bieber being a girl, since those are always fresh and original.
Sum 41, at their peak, made absolutely no sense. They sang about how they were influenced by heavy metal and that they loved Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, yet their music was the most annoying combination of frat boy-era Beastie Boys and Blink-182 imaginable. And yes, they rapped, because everyone had to in the ‘90s. How Clinton made it his whole Presidency without busting any rhymes is completely beyond us.
Once the public made it fairly clear that one album by a bunch of snot-nosers who “laugh when old people fall” was enough thankyouverymuch, the truth came out: they WERE influenced by heavy metal. It started with their second album, which was suddenly not Beasties or Blink-sounding at all, but rather more in line with harder-edged melodic metal. The kind big people play.
Then, in 2003, they made an appearance on MTV Icon: Metallica, where they opened the show with a medley of Metallica songs that might well have been the best performance of the night. They were even better than Metallica, since Lars and company insisted on trolling us with a track from St. Anger, an album that only works when pitched up until James Hetfield starts sounding like the star of the hit new Saturday morning children’s show Cartman and the Chipmunks.
Since then, Sum-41 has released several awesome albums, proving themselves to be really good at this whole alternative-metal-mixed-with-punk deal. And yet their most successful run, and the only one most people seem to care about, is the dumb-assed teenager schlock they put out just to say they put something out. This included an album called All Killer, No Filler, which was almost entirely filler.
Perhaps you don’t recognize that name. How about if we add “the living member of Milli Vanilli”? Now does it ring a bell?
We all know why Vanilli’s star plummeted; the post lip-syncing backlash got so bad that Rob Pilatus, the other member of the disgraced group, killed himself in 1998. After that, Fab decided to get serious about learning to actually sing — not that anybody gave a damn, since he was a fraud and all. Of course, the public also didn’t care about the band who actually sang Milli Vanilli’s songs, because they were middle-aged and frumpy. It’s almost like the public has no clue what they want or something.
Fab released an album in 2003, called Love Revolution. He wrote, produced, and sang every song, and in the age of the Internet, he would quickly be exposed if he did not. By this point, it’s safe to say he’s legit. Even if the album wasn’t that good, it still would have been a marked improvement over his previous artistic output: “…”
But from the bits and pieces we could find (it was a self-released album that flopped and appears to be out-of-print,) Fab actually made himself a damn fine record. His voice isn’t bad at all, his arrangements use real instrumentation versus annoying ‘80s synth, and “It’s Your Life,” his tribute to Rob, sounds extremely heartfelt.
He’s attempting another comeback now, with a new single that sounds like something Usher would make, which is not a bad comparison at all. It’s better than his previous comparisons to “actor in a silent movie” anyway. He truly seems ready to move on; even his website bio amazingly ignores the lip-syncing scandal, not even treating it like a random hiccup in an otherwise legendary career. It’s more like an irritating booger that you silently scoop out and then stealthily stick underneath a park bench in the hopes nobody saw you do it. That’s how Fab sees the most infamous moment of his life…
Sadly, even though he’s finally learned how to make music, and seem ready at last to move on from “girl you know it’s girl you know it’s girl you know it’s …” good luck finding a crowd to give a rip. Because if there’s one thing this article has taught us, it’s that human potential peaks the second more than five people pay attention to you. Everything you do afterwards, even if it’s awesome and pure genius, automatically pales in comparison.
Jason Iannone writes columns for Cracked and Man Cave Daily, and worries that he might have violated international law by claiming some things are better now than in the past. Check him out on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and be the first to learn if he ever gets arrested for this heinous crime.
Great music is all well and good, but what about horribly useless crap? Jason has you covered there too, with a takedown of the worst celebrity children’s albums in history.