In The Lie, my character, Lonnie, is an aspiring musician. Lonnie’s frame of reference for pop music is stuck in 1994 Seattle. He wants to make it big, like Nirvana. The only thing standing in his way is that he’s old, not very talented, and it’s 2011.
In one scene, Lonnie proudly plays his band’s new song, “Soulcrusher,” for his wife, and we, the audience, realize for the first time just how bad he actually is. Unfortunately for him, so does his wife—and we see it all in the look on her face.
In order to write a song this bad, I approached my friend Christian Stone to help me. Christian is a great guy and a vastly talented musician—so it was not an easy ask:
Me: Hey man, would you help me write a song for my film?
Christian: Totally! I’d love to.
Me: One caveat though: The song has to be really bad.
Christian: Oh. What made you think of me?
Me: Umm… no reason. I just figured…
Christian: Fuck you, dude.
Well, I convinced him, and he came through with hideous, flying colors. I wrote the lyrics and he penned some epically dated guitar riffs—then topped it all off with a mean tambourine solo. Here are the results:
This song—I promise—is bad on purpose. Sometimes, though, movies are severely damaged by songs that are bad unintentionally. Along with au courant haircuts and fashion, a bad pop song can date an otherwise timeless story, thereby hemming it into a moment in our culture when things like synthesizers, goatees, and rock-rap were perfectly acceptable means of artistic expression.
Whether used with sincerity or irony, a bad song always calls attention to itself. Here are a few that I would pay top dollar to forget:
“My Heart Will Go On,” Celine Dion, Titanic
Yeah, I get that she has a technically perfect voice… but this song makes me throw up in my mouth every time. Call me unromantic, but my personal soundtrack to love has never sounded anything like this.
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Aerosmith, Armageddon
Look, I love “Sweet Emotion” as much as the next guy, and I would never knock their early cool. But somewhere in the ’90s Aerosmith just needed to stop. I think it was all over for them when Alicia Silverstone started showing up in their videos and the albums became compilations of ballads that literally rotted your teeth out of your head while you listened to them.
“Bring Me to Life,” Evanescence, Daredevil
Now that we’ve had a moment of reflection, can we all just admit that rap-rock was the worst thing to happen to popular culture in, well, ever? Honorable mentions: “Take a Look Around,” by Limp Bizkit, which appeared in Mission: Impossible II, and “Butterfly,” by Crazy Town, from Orange County. I want that machine from Eternal Sunshine to erase all memories of these songs.
“Hero,” Nickleback, Spider-Man
Not only did this song degrade an otherwise decent popcorn flick, it also inspired leagues of bad goatees across the country.
“I’m a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” Britney Spears, Crossroads
I’m usually a fan of song titles with commas in them. This is an exception.
TODAY IN SLATE
Ford’s Big Gamble
It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.
Should the United States Grant Asylum to Victims of Domestic Violence?
The Apple Watch Will Make Everyone Around You Just a Little Worse Off
This Was the First Object Ever Designed
Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison
In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal.
How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us
A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest jewels.
A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now …
The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.