Here’s something that really needed to be invented: A.V. Club came up a feature called “Hatesong,” where they get musicians and celebrities to discuss the song they hate most, and why. Go read a few; it’s lots of fun.
I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’ve got a short list of popular songs that make my bowels clench, and I would earnestly love to bring one to their attention.
And then I realized: Hey, I’ve got a blog. Why not just do it myself? So now I’m going to tell you all about my terrible journey with Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me.”
I don’t think I have to defend the idea that the song is bad. I assume reasonable people can agree that it’s lyrically and musically uncreative; just plain insipid tripe. Unfortunately, the song’s popularity shows that reasonable people are in short supply.
If you’re one of the many who are presently spewing bits of half-chewed food on your screen shouting, “But why don’t you like it? It’s good!” ask yourself: would a good song really need such an absurdly overdone infusion of crowd adoration noise? What was going through their heads? “No!” I can hear them saying to their hapless, drug-addled producer. “You can’t turn down the crowd noise! You have to make it louder! We have to make the asinine drumbeat that accompanies it last much, much longer so there can be more noisy screaming! If we don’t beat them mercilessly with the sounds of crowd adoration, they might realize we suck! We have to fool them into thinking they like us! Cram in more crowd noise! Use a trash compactor if necessary!”
(The same technique was used to ruin that one Frampton song, which is actually a good song, but I’m forced to hate it because he fell prey to the same stupid insecurities. Cheap Trick richly deserved to feel that insecure, but Frampton didn’t.)
Songs this bad don’t happen by accident. They are necessitated by the nature of the universe. By that I mean: we live in a universe that has produced a very bad, substance-free, substance-abusing band called Cheap Trick, and bad songs are the inevitable outcome. And how would I know this? Because I have had the misfortune to see them live.
I didn’t do it on purpose. I remember the day well; I was given a pair of tickets to see an actual worthwhile band called Cake. I remember the moment I drove up to the theater and saw the marquee, my knuckles turning white on the steering wheel when I saw that the opening acts included Cheap Trick.
There was also a country singer called Charlie Louvin on the playbill who was entirely unknown to the audience. That may mean the organizers were booking pretty much whatever they could find that night. Cake showed Charlie Louvin a lot of love, which I admired them for. And they showed the crowd a lot of disdain, which I shared, because the crowd made Cheap Trick feel welcome. Cake, appropriately, did not dignify Cheap Trick with even the most trifling acknowledgment.
As to Cheap Trick themselves: Man, were they ever bad. I assume I need not dwell on the fact that they made up for their lack of talent with obnoxiously high decibel levels. They’ve been famous for this for decades now.
What I did not anticipate was their shabby theatrics. The problem is that they actually pretend to have substance. One way they do this is to spend a lot of time boasting and carrying on about how rare and special their guitars are. The lead guitarist at one point came out parading around with a 5-neck guitar. The damn thing was as tall as he was, and he looked as if he felt quite ennobled by it. He played it for only one song. Needless to say, he only ever touched one of the necks. The thing would have been more useful turned sideways and jammed into his lawn as a picket fence.
Then they spent some time bragging about their bass player’s rare, special, invaluable 12-string bass guitar. No effort was wasted in educating us about how awesome he was for owning that guitar.
Naturally, he brought it out for only a single song. And, because it was a typical Cheap Trick song, he played the same three notes all the way through. They were probably all on the same string.
So can we please all open our eyes to what a lousy band Cheap Trick is? Can we remember that Cheap Trick is the inspiration for the climactic joke in “This Is Spinal Tap,” about an awful band making it big in Japan?
Make the world a better place, and treat “I Want You To Want Me” with the scorn it deserves.