40 • Anthony Kiedis
The Buddhist in the frat house.
If Jim Morrison had done yoga and strutted onstage with a sock on his dick, he’d have been the Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman. While Kiedis is often facile (“American equality has always been sour/An attitude I would like to devour”), he’s also lapsed into downright evil: “Fuck ’em just to see the look on their face.”
Worst lyric: “Psychic spies from China/Try to steal your mind’s elation/Little girls from Sweden/Dream of silver screen quotations/And if you want these kind of dreams/It’s Californication” (“Californication”)
Bonus Worser lyric: “Intercourse with a porpoise/Is a dream for me/Hell-bent on inventing/A new species/Bust my britches/Bless my soul/I’m a freak of nature/Walking totem pole” (“Nobody Weird Like Me”)
39 • Billy Corgan
The suspicion that Corgan believes himself a poet was confirmed in 2004 when a collection of his atrocious verse, Blinking With Fists: Poems, was published. Whether with the Smashing Pumpkins, Zwan or solo, Corgan traffics in the overwrought intellectual despair of a spurned teenage diarist. On “Cupid de Locke” he uses the words hath and ye entirely seriously. That he delivers them in a grating, nasal whine doesn’t help, either.
Worst lyric: “’Cause you’re all whores and I’m a fag/And I’ve got no mother and I’ve got no dad/To save me the wasted, save me from myself/I lie just to be real and I’d die just to feel” (Smashing Pumpkins, “Tales of a Scorched Earth”)
38 • Paul McCartney
Still not confined to “Yesterday”: the Wimpy Beatle’s sodden oeuvre.
Apparently born with neither self-examination nor introspection genes, McCartney is the king of cloying and superficial rock lyrics. Less obvious while John Lennon was around to add acid edge to his mimsy musings, this became a big problem as soon as McCartney went solo—where he descended into weedhead whimsy and sentimental cotton candy like “La la la la la la lovely Linda/With the lovely flowers in her hair.”
Worst lyric: “Ebony and ivory/Live together in perfect harmony/Side by side on my piano keyboard/Oh, Lord, why don’t we” (Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, “Ebony and Ivory”)
37 • Bryan Adams
“Summer of ’69.” Heh-heh! Get it? 69!!!
This British Columbian’s lyrics embody all the worst things about his native Great White North: They’re syrupy as a maple tree, whiter than an Edmonton Oilers home stand, more generic than Canadian prescription drugs and full of more hoary metaphors than this sentence. “Now, now,” protested a (fictional) official in the South Park movie, “the Canadian government has apologized for Bryan Adams on several occasions!” If only.
Worst lyric: “She’s black coffee, little bit of cream/Sweet brown sugar, my midnight dream/Black pearl, my kinda girl/Just the kind of thing to rock my world” (“Black Pearl”)
36 • Common
Never trust a rapper in a sweater-vest.
Common wasn’t above dissing Ice Cube on “The Bitch in Yoo” (“I heard a ho say you her favorite rapper/So I had to slap her”), but don’t be fooled—he’s also a self-righteous hippie. The principled rhymer’s earnest neo-soul thoughts touch on abortion (“Turning this woman’s womb into a tomb”), social injustice and his own vegetarianism.
Worst lyric: “I’m your worst nightmare squared/That’s double for niggas who ain’t mathematically aware” (“Making a Name for Ourselves”)
35 • Dashboard Confessional
Self-flagellating teen spokesman for sadness.
Most of us chuck our eighth-grade diaries; Chris Carrabba sings his. To legions of adoring fans, this former special-ed teacher’s vein-opening anthems about love and heartbreak are emo gospel. To the other 99 percent of the world, they’re crybaby doggerel. In concert, Carrabba will sometimes step back from the mic, letting his worshipping throng take over. Devotees call it a thrilling, impassioned moment of fan/star symbiosis. We say, even he’s too embarrassed to sing some of that stuff.
Worst lyric: “The hint of these new tears are sharp/I try to choke them back, but it’s useless/I am useless against them/They are beating me with ease” (“The Sharp Hint of New Tears”)
34 • Henry Rollins
Ever since hardcore pioneers Black Flag broke up, this self-styled Renaissance man has produced material that is unremittingly intense and silly. He claims to write only when he’s unhappy, as is made plain by tracks such as “Burned Beyond Recognition” and “Gun in Mouth Blues”; other men would just try and meet more girls.
Worst lyric: “I want to disconnect myself/Pull my brain stem out and unplug myself” (Rollins Band, “Disconnect”)
33 • Diddy
Hip-hop is really about the delivery, anyway.
“Don’t worry if I write rhymes; I write checks,” he famously bragged; sadly, Diddy sometimes insists on writing rhymes, too. He sometimes relies on ghostwriters, saddling his hires with the challenge of authoring lines corny enough to sound plausible clunking off the tongue of a guy whose own couplets define hip-hop corniness. To his credit, Puff’s comic obliviousness to his vocal and musical limitations remains almost subversive in its capacity to infuriate hip-hop purists.
Worst lyric: “Come here girl/Let me creep in your world/Let me see the backside of your moon/No Vickies only La Perl-a/Let me take you to Indonesia” (“Diddy Rock”)
32 • Matisyahu
If this is a lengthy Andy Samberg skit, please stop—we get it.
A Hasidic Jew from suburban New York who performs roots-reggae in orthodox garb and got his start at open-mic nights. What could go wrong? Oy gevalt! Most reggae singers have ganja as an excuse for hazy lyrics about Zion and Babylon. Bodily pure Matthew Miller can only blame the truth and sunlight emanating from his “humble heart.”
Worst lyric: “Me no want no sinsemilla/That would only bring me down/Burn away my brain no way, my brain is to compound/Torah food for my brain let it rain till I drown” (“King Without a Crown”)
31 • Carly Simon
Needy singer-songwriter mistakes herself for a poet.
In her early-’70s heyday, Simon was romantically linked to both Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger—which helped inspire a litany of codependent lyrics in which she cast herself as the whiny victim. While her contemporaries mined their relationship woes for insights into human behavior, Simon just moped.
Worst lyric: “You walked into the party/Like you were walking onto a yacht/Your hat strategically dipped below one eye/Your scarf it was apricot/You had one eye in the mirror/As you watched yourself gavotte” (“You’re So Vain”)
30 • Kevin Federline
Bob Dylan in Red Monkey jeans and a fitted Yankees hat.
Federline was already a successful dancer, model, actor, pro wrestler, text-messager, YouTube star and impregnator when he turned his attention to rapping, on 2006’s Playing With Fire. And by introducing themes like wealth, power, illegal-drug consumption, fame and sexual prowess to hip-hop, he radically expanded the music’s lyrical possibilities. K-Fed’s urban realism had a stark documentary quality, and his portrayals of aspirant American excess bordered on the Fitzgerald-esque. Where will he go next? Wherever his mind rolls.
Worst lyric: “In Portuguese it means ‘Bring your ass’/On the floor and move it real fast/I want to see your kitty and a little bit of titty/ Want to know where I go when I’m in your city?” (“Popozão”)
29 • Timbaland
Even worse than Diddy!
What do Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody,” Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” have in common? They’re all great songs that would be even better were it not for a certain marble-mouthed producer dropping his clunky bon mots in the background. Tim may be a genius on the mixing boards, but hand him a pen and suddenly he’s as graceful as a beluga on roller skates.
Worst lyric: “Timbaland/Don’t you know I am the man/Rock shows from here to Japan/Have people shaking, shaking my hand” (“Are You That Somebody?”)
28 • Greg Graffin
Revenge of the nerd.
The Bad Religion singer has a list of academic qualifications as long as your arm—including a master’s in geology and a biology Ph.D.—so it’s little wonder he writes exactly like a concerned student. Graffin hit the ground running in 1982 with the naive indignation of “Fuck Armageddon … This Is Hell!” (“We’re living in the denouement of the battle’s gripping awe”) and has maintained similar standards ever since.
Worst lyric: “The arid torpor of inaction will be our demise” (“Kyoto Now”)
Bonus Worser lyric: “Damn your transcendental paralysis/We can work together and make sense of this” (“The Hopeless Housewife”)
27 • Will Jennings
Break out the Kleenex: It’s the new nabob of sob.
The Oscar-winning hack whom Hollywood execs call when they want the needle on the schmaltz-o-meter to fly into the red, Jennings is the lyricist who makes Diane Warren look as sophisticated as Cole Porter. Celine Dion’s Titanic nostrum, “My Heart Will Go On,” was one of his. So was Eric Clapton’s theologically tenuous “Tears in Heaven.”
Worst lyric: “The road is long and there are mountains in our way/But we climb the stairs every day” (Joe Cocker, “Up Where We Belong”)
26 • Simon Le Bon
Luckily, everyone was distracted by the videos.
Part of Britain’s rich early-’80s crop of K-Mart Bowies, Duran Duran built a planet-size pop career on half-understanding Andy Warhol, Philip K. Dick and William Burroughs. Lyricist Le Bon specialized in a bewildering mishmash of sci-fi and pop art, apparently translated from the Japanese (“Dancing on the valentine”? “The union of the snake is on the climb”?). At least “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” seem more truthful—being about chicks, travel, yachts and stuff.
Worst lyric: “Fiery demons all dance when you walk through that door/Don’t say you’re easy on me/You’re about as easy as a nuclear war” (“Is There Something I Should Know?”)
Bonus Worser lyric: “The reflex is an only child, he’s waiting by the park/The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark” (“The Reflex”)
25 • KRS-One
Boogie Down Productions’ leader goes Oliver Stone on us.
Though initially revered as one of the first MCs to wield political messages, the hip-hop pioneer’s raps devolved quickly from shrewd antigovernment observations to crackpot tirades and bizarre diatribes against the FDA and the IRS (“In this particular system everyone’s a slave/Racist is how they want us to behave” from “Who Are the Pimps?”). “Rap needed a teacher, so I became it,” he boasted—but soon found few students willing to show up to class.
Worst lyric: “See, cows live under fear and stress/Trying to think what’s gonna happen next/Fear and stress can become a part of you/In your cells and blood, this is true” (“Beef”)
24 • Fred Durst
Be honest: It really is all about the he-said/she-said bullshit?
Most bad lyricists wreck only one genre; Limp Bizkit’s genius was choosing both rock and rap to despoil. From the former, Durst appropriated macho bravado, homophobia and callow misogyny; from the latter he took pomposity, rage and self-pity. Whether telling the kids who used to beat him up in high school to lick his famous balls or celebrating Britney Spears’s “scent,” his repulsiveness knew no bounds (or, for that matter, depths).
Worst lyric: “Bullies always putting me down/Just a little skater boy they could pick on/I learned to forgive ’em/Now I got the balls they can lick on” (“Lonely World”)
23 • Robert Plant
You have to hand it to him: Among those who’ve read The Hobbit 38 times, Plant has probably slept with the most women. If only he didn’t sing about it, too. Zeppelin’s mix of Tolkien-esque fantasy, bluesy sexism, Satanism and flower-haired hippie whimsy set an astonishingly low bar for aspiring metal gods to limbo under.
Worst lyric: “How years ago in days of old/When magic filled the air/’Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor/I met a girl so fair/But Gollum and the evil one crept up/And slipped away with her” (Led Zeppelin, “Ramble On”)
22 • Jon Bon Jovi
Emphatically not a cowboy.
Many rockers see themselves as modern-day outlaws, but Bon Jovi stretched the analogy to the breaking point with “Wanted Dead or Alive,” wherein he roams around on a “steel horse” toting a “loaded six-string” and claims that one can determine what day it is “by the bottle that you drink.” At least that showed some imagination, as elsewhere he contents himself with reheating Bruce Springsteen or—on 2000’s horrendous “Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars”—Elton John.
Worst lyric: “My heart is like an open highway/Like Frankie said, ‘I did it my way’” (“It’s My Life”)
21 • Alanis Morissette
One hand in her pocket, one hand making a peace sign. No hands free to reach for a dictionary.
Alanis nearly surpassed Bono as rock’s reigning inspiration for high school yearbook quotations when her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill sold 17 million copies. Sadly, the cigarette-flicking free spirit didn’t offer a very good example to students. She didn’t bother to look up ironic, pronounced theater “thea-tah” and spewed ontological nonsense like “I don’t want to be a bandage if the wound is not mine.” And then she found God. Thanks for nothing, India.
Worst lyric: “Do you see everything as an illusion?/But enjoy it even though you are not of it?/Are you both masculine and feminine?/Politically aware and don’t believe in capital punishment?” (“21 Things I Want in a Lover”)
20 • Ryan Ross
A Sin City kid whose pomo pretension is as thick as his eyeliner.
Curse the day that Ryan Ross discovered thesaurus.com. The guitarist and chief lyricist for Vegas emo dandies Panic! At the Disco, Ross writes like the quill and inkwell never went out of fashion, cramming his tarantellas full of baroque wordplay and breathless verbal curlicues. This might be easier to bear if they didn’t also ooze middlebrow smarty-pants-ness, with “clever” references to Wes Anderson flicks and the collected works of Chuck Palahniuk. And need we even mention that exclamation point?
Worst lyric: “And I believe this may call for a proper introduction/And well, don’t you see, I’m the narrator, and this is just the prologue?” (“The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage”)
19 • Queensÿche
The bulk of Queensrÿche’s awful oeuvre is high school poetry at its most pseudo-profound—the prog-metal band’s lone hit was guitarist Chris DeGarmo’s nonsensically titled “Silent Lucidity” (“I am smiling next to you, in silent lucidity”). Singer Geoff Tate’s most accomplished work, the 1988 concept album Operation: Mindcrime, is execrable: The plot—a villain named Dr. X brainwashes a junkie into assassinating politicians—strives for sociopolitical importance but plays like something you’d catch on the Sci Fi Channel at 3 a.m.
Worst lyric: “Unfortunate son cornered, cowering in the pit/Of circling panes of glass/That surround and reveal/The ever-present ‘It’” (“I Am I”)
bonus Worser Lyric: “Remember making love in the rain?/Strange how laughter looks like crying with no sound/Raindrops taste like tears without the pain” (“Another Rainy Night [Without You]”)
18 • Ian Anderson
Note to aspiring musicians: step away from the flute…
He played the jazz flute, looked like an unemployed medieval barber and sang as if he’d contracted rabies. But the Jethro Tull frontman wasn’t content merely seeming crazy: The puerile critiques of religion and two-dimensional character studies of societal castoffs on 1971’s Aqualung suggested a mind capable of thought at its least probing.
Worst lyric: “Sitting on a park bench/Eyeing little girls with bad intent/Snot running down his nose/Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes/Drying in the cold sun/Watching as the frilly panties run” (“Aqualung”)
17 • Jon Anderson
Lyrics so bad they almost broke up the band.
Rush had dumb lyrics written by their drummer; fellow prog-rock legends Yes had lyrics so dumb they allegedly provoked drummer Bill Bruford to quit the band. Mystically inclined lyricist Jon Anderson left school at age 15, leaving little formal education to hem in his interests in nature, space travel, Russian literature and sun worship. Anderson’s imagination was so fecund a mere footnote in a book of Hindu spiritualism inspired an entire double album, 1974’s Tales From Topographic Oceans.
Worst lyric: “A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace/And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace.” (“Close to the Edge: The Solid Time of Change”)
16 • Ben Gibbard
He almost knocked the Dashboard Confessional guy off this list.
He’s the type who’s sensitive, wears glasses, likes long conversations, winter, standing by himself at weddings and disregarding his ex-girlfriends’ restraining orders. He’s the frontman for Washington-state indie-rock softies Death Cab for Cutie, and he’s got five albums of come-ons so abstruse the ladies will barely notice him tugging on their ankles. Gibbard’s romantic meditations are so awesomely overwrought, a local news program in Utah recently used DCFC’s 2005 song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” to expose the scary culture of “emos.”
Worst lyric: “Your heart is a river that flows from your chest/Through every organ/Your brain is the dam/And I am the fish who can’t reach the core” (“Lightness”)
15 • Bernie Taupin
Would probably have sucked as a sculptor too.
Elton John almost never communicates with his lifelong lyricist. Would you want the guy who wrote “If I was a sculptor—then again, no” (“Your Song”) and “It’s quite peculiar in a funny sort of way” (“Madman Across the Water”) coming round for tea? Taupin’s many works of sublime badness include Starship’s 1985 hit “We Built This City,” a rebellious anthem about how hard it is for an aging hippie band to keep a record deal and, more recently, Lestat, a 2006 musical based on the novels of Anne Rice.
Worst lyric: “Someone always playing corporation games/Who cares—they’re always changing corporation names/We just want to dance here, someone stole the stage/They call us irresponsible, write us off the page” (“We Built This City”)
14 • Will.I.Am
Let’s get retarded, indeed.
Will.i.am is smart. The Black Eyed Peas leader reads books about wave-particle resonance and can talk at length about the monetary policy of 17th-century Portugal. So why does he rap like a fifth-grader at the world’s horniest spelling bee? “T to the A to the S-T-E-Y/Girl, you tasty”; “W-I-double-L spells pleasure.” Even Fergie knows her alphabet better than that. His rhymes, meanwhile, come off like the work of a person whose familiarity with the English language is glancing at best.
Worst lyric: “I met a girl down at the disco/She said ‘Hey, hey, hey you, let’s go’” (“My Humps”)
13 • Pete Gabriel, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins
Genesis: even worse than you think.
Albums based on Greek myths and Wuthering Heights. Spoken interludes explaining the origins of fantastical creatures. A rock opera about a Puerto Rican kid in New York killed by his dreams of freedom. Singer Peter Gabriel’s mime makeup was about the 10th most pretentious thing about the prog-iest of prog-ers. Going solo, drummer Phil Collins wrote the worst song ever about homelessness, bassist Mike Rutherford formed Mike + the Mechanics, responsible for the worst song ever about an intergalactic freedom fighter, and guitarist Steve Hackett attempted to do for Lewis Carroll what Robert Plant did for J.R.R. Tolkien. Keyboardist Tony Banks mainly did soundtrack work but is just as guilty for standing idly by while these atrocities were committed. Maybe we all are.
Worst lyric: “Now as the river dissolves in sea/So Neptune has claimed another soul/And so with gods and men/The sheep remain inside their pen/Until the shepherd leads his flock away” (“Firth of Fifth”)
12 • David Crosby
A ’60s legend who has traveled many roads, usually while high and possibly armed.
When he’s not singing sweet harmonies with Stills and Nash, getting brought up on drug- and weapons-possession charges or providing sperm to Melissa Etheridge, the walruslike folk rocker finds time to pen goofy hippie lyrics. Crosby writes about everything from existential indecision (“Almost Cut My Hair”) to wishing he could kick drugs (“Monkey and the Underdog”) to not always remembering his own name (his album If I Could Only Remember My Name).
Worst lyric: “Must be because I had the flu for Christmas/And I’m not feeling up to par/It increases my paranoia/Like looking into my mirror and seeing a police car” (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Almost Cut My Hair”)
11 • Larry Henley and Jeff Silbar
Responsible for the longest four minutes of every wedding you’ll ever attend.
Henley had been in the ’60s band the Newbeats; Silbar was a hired gun for pop and country acts. In 1982, these unholy hacks came together to write “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the Hallmark weeper that became a smash for Bette Midler. Mawkishly paying tribute to a supportive soul “cold there in my shadow,” the lyrics might be interesting if they honestly dissected the parasitic relationship at the song’s center. But then your mom would hate it.
Worst lyric: “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?/You’re everything I wish I could be/I could fly higher than an eagle/For you are the wind beneath my wings” (“Wind Beneath My Wings”)
10 • Jim Morrison
Why would a guy who looked this good shirtless want to be smart, anyway?
As a teenager, Morrison was alleged to have read a hundred books a week. Before his 1971 death in a Paris bathtub the Lizard King made pretentious-rocker history fusing French symbolism, Blake-ian romanticism and Beat shamanism into dreamlike evocations of L.A. excess. The result: poetry a drug-mad hippie would come up with if he’d never read a single book.
Worst lyric: “Breakfast where the news is read/Television children fed/Unborn living, living, dead/Bullet strikes the helmet’s head” (“The Unknown Soldier”)
09 • Donovan
LSD may be a lot fun—But not if we have to listen to entire albums made on it.
The ’60s folkie once claimed he could “write about any facet of the human condition”; sadly, Donovan chose to concentrate largely on the ones involving mermaids. The annoying hippie’s annoying hippie, Donovan traveled to India to see the Maharishi, wore robes on his record covers and released a double album for the children of Aquarius called Gift From a Flower to a Garden. Today, a man with his skill set would be hassling people for bus fare; back then, he was a pop star.
Worst lyric: “In love pool eyes float feathers after the struggle/The hopes burst and shot joy all through the mind/Sorrow more distant than a star/Multi colour run down over your body/Then the liquid passing all into all/Love is hot, truth is molten” (“Barabajagal [Love Is Hot]”)
08 • Diane Warren
The famously reclusive songwriter has never been married and doesn’t like dating. This estrangement from actual relationships may help explain her astonishing longevity as the world’s most successful author of creepily idealized cheesy love songs—from Michael Bolton’s “How Can We Be Lovers” to Brandy’s “Have You Ever?” and LeAnn Rimes’s “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.” She has enjoyed more than 100 Billboard chart hits. Unless you’re a big Cher fan, you haven’t enjoyed any of them.
Worst lyric: “Feeling your heart beating/And I’m wondering what you’re dreaming/Wondering if it’s me you’re seeing/Then I kiss your eyes and thank God we’re together” (Aerosmith, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”)
07 • Paul Stanley
This is what’s wrong with being sexy.
Despite stiff competition (itself a potential Kiss song title), Stanley takes the honors over his bandmates. Gene Simmons is too hilarious (“Ooh baby, wanna put my log in your fireplace”), drummer Peter Criss too “street” (“I’m a hooligan/Won’t go to school again”) and guitarist Ace Frehley too drunk. Despite casting himself as a sensitive ladies’ man, Stanley really hits the bull’s-eye with his schoolboy cock-boasting on tracks such as “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” and “Love Gun.”
Worst lyric: “Baby, let’s put the X in sex/Love’s like a muscle, and you make me wanna flex” (“Let’s Put the X in Sex”)
Bonus Worser lyric: “She’s a dancer, a romancer/I’m a Capricorn, and she’s a Cancer” (“C’Mon and Love Me”)
06 • Tom Marshall
The poet laureate of jam-band America—and a big fan of unicorns.
A prep-school friend of Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, Marshall parlayed his lack of instrumental chops into a gig as the band’s on-call lyricist—like the Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter, only far, far worse. Phishheads especially covet bootlegs of a never-released rock opera called The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, about a retired Long Island Army colonel who journeys through time to rescue a document called the Helping Friendly Book from an evil dictator named Wilson.
Worst lyric: “Guyute was the ugly pig/Who walked on me and danced a jig/That he had learned when he was 6/Then stopped and did some other tricks/Like pulling weapons from his coat/And holding them against my throat” (“Guyute”)
05 • Dan Fogelberg
John Denver, you’ve met your match.
No one can bum out a dentist’s waiting room like this titan of ’70s light rock. A sometime L.A. session musician, Fogelberg relocated to the Rocky Mountains, where the thin oxygen inspired many ballads about strange women, distant dads and, uh, sexy racehorses. His sappiest moment might by his 1981 ode to the Kentucky Derby, “Run for the Roses,” in which he serenades a champion thoroughbred in weirdly erotic terms.
Worst lyric: “All the long, lazy mornings/In pastures of green/The sun on your withers/The wind in your mane/Could never prepare you/For what lies ahead/The run for the roses so red” (“Run for the Roses”)
04 • Noel Gallagher
Too busy being better than the Beatles to edit for clarity.
“I’m equal part genius, equal part buffoon,” Manchester’s drunkest son once said. And for a guy of Noel’s intelligence, half-right’s not bad. The man who sang “look into the wall of my mind’s eye” probably could’ve used some Ritalin to go with the lager and cocaine, since he often seemed incapable of following a metaphor through a single line, let alone a whole verse. But when you’ve lived in a house called “Supernova Heights,” such petty considerations are probably beneath you.
Worst lyric: “Slowly walking down the hall faster than a cannonball” (“Champagne Supernova”)
03 • Scott Stapp
Just good friends with the Lord.
“The comfort of your arms around me/Your tender hands caress my head,” the Creed fisher of men sang to the Risen Savior on The Passion of the Christ CD. It takes no small amount of arrogance to imagine Jesus wants to make out with you—but Stapp seems to have missed the bit in Proverbs about how “pride goeth before destruction.” True to prophecy, Creed was eventually laid low by their frontman’s pious bombast.
Worst lyric: “When you are with me I’m free/I’m careless, I believe/Above all the others we’ll fly/This brings tears to my eyes/’Cause when you are with me I’m free” (“My Sacrifice”)
02 • Neil Peart
An ace on the rototoms, a train wreck on the typewriter.
Drummers are good at many things: exploding, drowning in their own vomit, drumming. But the Rush skinsman proved they should never write lyrics—or read books. Peart opuses like “Cygnus X-1” are richly awful tapestries of fantasy and science fiction, steeped in an eighth-grade understanding of Western philosophy. 2112, Rush’s 1976 concept album based on individualist thinker Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem, remains an awe-inspiring low point in the sordid relationship between rock and ideas. Worst lyric: “I stand atop a spiral stair/An oracle confronts me there/He leads me on light years away/Through astral nights, galactic days” (“Oracle: The Dream”)
01 • STING
Mountainous pomposity, cloying spirituality, ham-handed metaphors: He can do it all.
It didn’t have to turn out this way. In the Police, Sting wore ripped T-shirts and wrote catchy new-wave songs about hookers. Sure, he name-dropped Nabokov in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” but he balanced it with the awesomely post-lingual “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.”
But once publications labeled him “The Thinking Woman’s Sex Symbol,” a low-watt lightbulb popped on in his head, illuminating the way toward a self-serious future. Sting would go on to rip off Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, St. Augustine’s Confessions … even Shakespeare.
After the Police split, Sting pursued a second career liberating soccer moms from their “soul cages.” Jazz musicians were involved. A lute was purchased. Volvo bumper stickers were quoted (“If you love someone, set them free”). Surveying the Cold War, he found the West “conditioned to respond to all the threats/In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets.” His rage at Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was so heated, he castigated the scoundrel in Spanish. Holy frijoles, was Sting mad!
These searing insights befit a sociopolitical seer “cursed with X-ray vision”—and capable of doing folkloric parables about seventh sons and mystical fisherman and taking us on journeys from the battlefields of World War I to the ancient kingdoms of “the high Sahara.” But does Sting care? He doth not. He’s the King of Pain, kids. And no pain, no gain.
By Jon Dolan, Josh Eells, Tim Grierson, Andrew Harrison, Ben Mitchell, Tony Power and Mark Yarm