“Africa” by Toto
Look, just because a song is completely ridiculous and kind of shitty does not mean that it can’t be underrated. And it also means that it can’t be good. Case in point: Toto’s “Africa.” This is a song with lyrics that almost certainly (“as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti “) must have been written by a seventh-grade student for his junior high literary magazine, set to the cheesiest, lushest, shag-rug soft jazz-soul fusion that the 80s had to offer.
It is undeniably bad. And that’s kind of exactly what makes it great? Because you know it’s bad for you, it makes it all the more satisfying when you find it confronting you in the aisles of your local supermarket. Like Marshmallow Fluff. It’s totally devoid of nutritional value, yet so comforting, so nostalgic.
You might not go around advertising your love for “Africa.” And you might not be going to the effort of downloading it from iTunes. But how many of you turn it off when it pops up on the radio? How long does it take for that one musical phrase (“doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doooooooo”) to get washed from your head after it ends?
“Rocket Queen” by Guns N’ Roses
I know that we all have different opinions about which magic person in the sky is the one who invented the universe. And about which politician is irreversibly ruining America. And about which soft drink will restore meaning to our lives. But can we all, please, just agree that a rock song that forgoes the usual lead guitar solo in favor of a groupie on-mic orgasm solo is the proper kind of rock song? That’s pretty cut-and-dry, right?
Look, the thing is, most people are on board with the idea that Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction is a great album. Nobody’s going to call that album “underrated.” But how often do you hear anybody so much as mention the album’s closing track? Sure, a lot of people will mention “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Paradise City” or “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Some people might even bring up “Patience,” despite it being on a whole different album. But nobody ever talks about “Rocket Queen.”
How do you think that Makes “Rocket Queen” feel, huh? Here’s “Rocket Queen” over here doing it’s best Skynyrd-esque funky blues ode to getting’ it on with older ladies, complete with groupie on-mic orgasm solo and a strangely poignant romantic second-half turn, and all anybody wants to talk about is smiles that remind them of childhood memories or whatever. That’s not cool, people. Not cool at all.
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Nicki French
Yes, we all know the Whatshername version of this song. Who, Bonnie Tyler? Whatever. Her real name should be That Lady Who Sings “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Anyway, we all know the That Lady Who Sings “Total Eclipse of the Heart” version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” That’s not the one I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the one by Nicki French.
Nicki Who? What French? Actually, I have no idea either. All I know about Nicki French is that she’s some lady who sang “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but who doesn’t even get to have as dismissive a name as That Lady Who Sings “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” The best she can hope for is That Other Lady Who Sings “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” But, really, she doesn’t even get that. She gets something more like That Lady Who I Never Heard Of.
Anyway, she did a version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” A dance version. And it’s very good. I don’t know what there is to say about this song other than that it’s a dance version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by some lady you’ve never heard of and it’s very good. If you cannot imagine that, I don’t know what I can write here that will sell you on it. Maybe you’re the kind of person who just inherently dislikes dance covers of popular songs. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It really doesn’t, so don’t go beating yourself up over it. Lots and lots of people in the world are wrong, and they somehow find the strength to get by.
“Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by Mclusky
The first rule of “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by three-piece Welsh noise-punk band Mclusky is: You do not talk about “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by three-piece Welsh noise-punk band Mclusky.
The second rule of “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by three-piece Welsh noise-punk band Mclusky is: You do not talk about “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by three-piece Welsh noise-punk band Mclusky!
Third rule of “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by three-piece Welsh noise-punk band Mclusky is: if you are going to talk about “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by three-piece Welsh noise-punk band Mclusky, make sure you do it with a hackneyed, untimely, overused movie quote that vaguely conveys the general feeling of the song to somebody who has never heard it before.
“One with the Birds” by Will Oldham
If you’re like most people, you’ve never heard of this song. And if you’re like most of most people, you’ve never heard of Will Oldham. If that’s the case, then that’s partially the fault of Will Oldham—he’s gone by, like, 90 different names including Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Palace Music, and Henry Kissinger*—partially the fault of a music industry that values flashiness and easily-digestible tunesmithiness to still-and-deep solid songwriting, and partially the fault of you, for being kind of a little bit lame. (Sorry, but somebody had to say it.) I mean, the guy did have a song covered by Johnny Cash (“I See a Darkness” on American III: Solitary Man) so that’s not nothing.
But, even if you have heard of Will Oldham. Hell, let’s even say that you’re somewhat of a Will Oldham fan. Well, then there’s still just about even odds that you’ve never heard of this song. That’s because it was released on an E.P. back in 1998 and then summarily forgotten about by the record company Palace Records, which is itself essentially Will Oldham. It wasn’t included on any of his big compilations of small songs (Lost Blues and Other Songs, Guarapero/Lost Blues 2, and Little Lost Blues), and this has never made any sense to me, because the song is soooooooooooooooooo good! So so so so so so so so so so so sooooooooooooooooo good! Dreamy and mournful and misanthropic and yearnful all at once. And so so so so so so so so so so so sooooooooooooooooo good!