A Thin Line...

David Byrne has done it right. Destined to live high on the hog by way of Talking Heads royalties until the day he dies, the adventurous quirkmeister has been nothing but ballsy since his seminal new-wave outfit parted ways. You may not like everything he's tried since his career apex, but complacency has, to his credit, been Byrne's worst enemy.

Sting, meanwhile, is another story. The turtlenecked Jaguar shill has so desecrated his Police legacy that we're not entirely convinced the current soft-rock incarnation isn't the original Stinger's evil twin. He is, without question, the most hated man in rock.

But who are Nos. 2 through 10? According to San Francisco Chronicle pop music critic Aidin Vaziri, the runner-up is Eric Clapton, a ranking based almost exclusively on the guitar god's recent synth slop. We don't necessarily agree with this ranking. The criterion for what makes a rocker hated is simple: Have talent, use it well for a substantial period of time, then squander it for commercial riches, fame or forced mass appeal.

Admittedly, it's tough to find ten artists who strictly adhere to such requirements, so we've chosen -- with the help of a secret, 11-man panel -- to implement a graded system that gives talented sellouts weightier consideration than, say, Johnny Rzeznik or Fred Durst. Yet excluding such ass clowns from this list outright would be a disservice. (And we've already covered Sting.) So without further ado, let the hatred begin!

1. Paul McCartney. Barely qualified to carry John Lennon's roach clip in the days when both toiled with an overrated boy band known as the Beatles, Sir Paul has shown horribly true colors since Mark David Chapman put a tragic slug in Yoko's hubby. "Band on the Run" could have been written by a third-grader, and McCartney's duets with Michael Jackson and the ensuing public pissing match over Jacko's savvy purchase of the Beatles' catalog cemented McCartney's legacy of poor taste and idiocy. And wasn't it great when Sir Paul, sharing the stage with Madonna at the close of the 1999 MTV Music Awards, thought Lauryn Hill was a man, referring to the Artist of the Year Award winner as "some guy named Lawrence Hill"? Nice one, asshole. Worst of all, who can forget the post-9/11 ode to freedom, named, with typical genius, "Freedom"? Marrying a young, blond, one-legged starfucker 12 hours after burying your dead philanthropist wife was a good one, too, mate. We can only hope Satan delivers the goods to Sir Paul in hell, where knighthoods carry no currency.

2. Carlos Santana. We wish we could just forget about it, Carlos, like your Matchbox Twenty buddy Rob Thomas suggested on "Smooth." And maybe we could have forgotten if you made just one album of duets with flash-in-the-pan pop stars like Thomas. But no, you followed it up with a little bit of that teen tart Michelle Branch on the dreadful Supernatural sequel, Shaman, and proceeded to ride the low-rent pop-culture train all the way to a spot on NBA playoff-game lead-ins with the Black Eyed Peas. It's a pathetic career trajectory for a man once considered the heir to Jimi Hendrix, and Santana has no one to blame but himself. It's not like his record label swooped in and said, "Carlos, we need you to do this duet with the guy from Nickelback, or else we're going to drop your ass."

3. Jimmy Buffett. Alcohol rehabilitation counselors, antidepressant manufacturers and shrinks should thank this Key West ukulele hack for supplying half of their paying clientele. Here's how the vicious cycle works: a) begin liking Buffett during perpetually drunk collegiate years; b) prolong perpetual drunkenness by becoming a parrothead and attending Buffett shows until age 40; c) crash car while driving drunk from Buffett show at Pensacola Fairgrounds; d) enter court-mandated rehab program; e) get sober; f) recognize how hollow life was during personal "Cheeseburger in Paradise" bender; g) start seeing shrink and taking Prozac; h) realize that entire wardrobe consists of imitation Hawaiian shirts, huaraches, golf visors and jams; i) start drinking again; and j) hit the road for Chattanooga stop of Buffett's Four Inebriated Horsemen Tour with Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Randy Travis. Turns out, Margaritaville has inescapable walls made of petrified ape dung, an apt description of Buffett's entire catalog.

4. The Adams family (Ryan and Bryan). You've been asking for this double entry, Ryan, by consistently refusing to cover "Summer of '69" in concert. If you didn't want to be confused with Bryan Adams or be teased for being one consonant short of Canada's pint-sized pride, you should have changed your fucking name. Lots of rock stars do it, bro. Releasing three mediocre albums a year and mounting the likes of Winona Ryder and Parker Posey haven't helped, either. And for that Robin Hood song, the gravel-throated Canuck will never be forgiven, even if the aforementioned "Summer " is a true-blue gem.

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Mike Seely
Contact: Mike Seely