Two nights ago, while carelessly patrolling the back alleys of the internet, Rocks Off stumbled across Hilary Duff's execrable cover of The Who's "My Generation".
Well, what did you think, YouTube commenters?
You sure you're not being too harsh?
Yeah... ours too. Someday, when we are in our twilight years, we will think wistfully back to how we lived as teenagers, how we lived as college students, how freely we loved our first loves... and tearfully, we will remember the people we were before we heard Duff sing the sanitized, Disney-friendly lyric "Hope I don't die before I get old". This song has existed for five entire years? And people still find it within themselves to sing at all?
Yes, a little part of what makes us human curled up and died as we listened, and in true zombie fashion, we've decided to spread the evil by presenting some of the worst cover songs of all time. Fair warning: these are not songs that are "so bad they're good", like William Shatner's "Rocket Man" or MC Hammer's "Have You Seen Her?" or even "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Tiny Tim (or Paris Hilton... take your pick). You will feel no joy, no happiness, not even so much as an ironic smirk will cross your face as you listen to these songs. Every one of these covers was done in such poor taste, such mismatched ineptitude, and with so little respect and understanding for the original, it will make you wonder how in the holy hell a single person ever thought each one was anything other than a shameful audio miscarriage, to be staked through the heart and buried in the backyard under the light of a full moon. If ever you needed proof that the artists are right when they say the studio wonks and music lawyers are completely, dangerously out of touch, this is it.
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Houston Symphony: Robert Franz - Twas the Night Before Christmas
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Houston Symphony: Michael Krajewski - Very Merry Pops
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Britney Spears - I Love Rock 'n' Roll (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts) With an elementary hip-hop beat and guitar loops so thoroughly FX-ed they barely sound like guitars anymore, Britney makes it clear that not only does she not love rock 'n' roll, it's entirely likely she has no idea what it even is.
Limp Bizkit - Behind Blue Eyes (The Who) Packaged with the almost-as-terrible horror movie Gothika, even the flimsy, trick-photography-centered Halle Berry vehicle couldn't match the visceral, skin-crawling horror of watching her make out with alpha-douche Fred Durst in this song's video. Give it a listen, if you want to hear the end result of Durst's rummaging around in his attic and coming across his childhood Speak 'N' Spell and his dad's old Who LP's.
Pat Boone - Ain't That a Shame (Fats Domino)
In 1997, Pat Boone released an album called In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy in which he gave his squeaky-clean, neutering treatment to Metallica's "Enter Sandman", Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water", and ten other heavy metal / hard rock classics. That album, however, was treated like the goofy novelty it was; the real disgrace of Boone's career was its beginning. He plundered the catalogs of black musicians in the 50's, releasing clean, upbeat versions of those songs which any respectable white racist could enjoy. How much of a white bread dork was Boone? He was only barely talked out of releasing his version of this Fats Domino staple as "Isn't That a Shame". Who needs integrity when you've got good grammar?
311 - Love Song (The Cure) 311 have been putting out middle-of-the-road tripe for so long, they're pretty much the poster children of post-grunge mediocrity. Here, they translate The Cure's earnest, heartfelt expression of undying love into a silly, reggaefied bro-rock anthem, the perfect soundtrack for slipping an underage cheerleader a mickey, or doing something really, really homoerotic with a bound and gagged freshman pledge.
The Scissor Sisters - Uncomfortably Numb (Pink Floyd) At the other end of the spectrum, we vaguely remember when the Scissor Sisters showed up on the scene and everyone pretended to love them for their flamboyance and color for exactly fifteen minutes before everyone realized they sucked and went back to what they were doing. The Sisters had the good taste to disappear back into obscurity, but not before reducing one of Pink Floyd's few truly great songs into a disco-rave so fluffy and twee it makes Abba sound like Mastodon.
Rod Stewart - Downtown Train (Tom Waits) Tom Waits is gritty, gruff, esoteric, and weird as hell; that's what his fans like about him. His lack of accessibility to the average Joe is part of his mystique. Why, then, Rod Stewart felt the need to take his song "Downtown Train" and remove absolutely every element that made it a Tom Waits song is anybody's guess. Maybe Rod wanted, just once, for people to listen to both versions of a song and be able to point to his voice as the less gravelly one.
Michael Bolton - (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay
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Let's face it, virtually all of Michael Bolton's biggest hits are perverse snuff-films featuring the modern-day Pat Boone ripping the balls off a treasured soul classic; he's emasculated Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman", Dobie Gray's "Drift Away", and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" in such fashion. It's hard to find a better example of Bolton's insipidity than his butchering of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay". Where Redding's version was stripped-down, atmospheric, and sincere, Bolton's is beefed up and phony, as if he could cover his lack of soul with an orchestra, a backup chorus, and faux-epic posturing. He can't.
Madonna - American Pie (Don McLean) Watching Madonna's video for her cover of Don McLean's "American Pie" is like watching the annoying kid from art class get flattened by a school bus: sure, the original was pretentious, difficult, and hard to like at times, but it didn't deserve what happened to it. Madonna undoubtedly conceived of this version after dropping an entire sheet of Tylenol PM some rave kid told her was ecstasy.
Olivia Newton-John - Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash) Here it is: the cover song so brain-stabbingly godawful they won't even put it on YouTube. We have embraced religion here at Rocks Off, because no one but the Devil himself could possibly be responsible for the nearly immaterial, personalityless Newton-John's cover of one of rockabilly's most bold and passionate love songs. We've linked to a 30-second clip hosted on Retrocrush, just in case you've got people in your life you'd like to e-mail a 30-second snippet of Hell's own special language.
Honorable mention: Emerson Lake & Palmer's brutalization of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker", tastefully re-christened "Nutrocker". No, we're not kidding.