Even on a quote-unquote perfect album, one song has to be inferior to the others, just as one song has to rule the roost. Such is the yin and yang of nature. Here are the six worst songs on the best albums.
6. Wilco - "Heavy Metal Drummer" from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Jeff Tweedy brings up his Belleville roots by namedropping the Landing in "Heavy Metal Drummer", and it's easy for us locals to overlook the track's cheese because of its St. Louis cred. The lyrics are nostalgic enough for phrases like "I miss the innocence I've known" to squeak by inoffensively. "Drummer" is the only tune on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to suffer from its production. The electronic drum backbone - which, chronology aside, sounds an awful lot like a Garage Band loop - is reminiscent of fellow Chicagoans the Sea And Cake, but something doesn't hit right. The synth blurps and sunscreen funk end up coming off like some adult contemporary beach bash. In fairness, the track only makes this list because it is surrounded by such great company on its parent record.
5. Beck - "Novacane" from Odelay
Beck valiantly handled the sketchy intersection of rock and hip-hop on Odelay, and "Novacane" is the only moment where the mixture spilled into nu-metal territory. The verses sound like Beastie Boys (R.I.P, MCA, btw) rapping through a CB radio over a Rage Against The Machine b-side. The Dust Brothers guru production team keeps the track above water here and there with well-placed samples; that James Brown horn stab and bass slide break is pretty classic. But a polished, or remixed, turd is a turd nonetheless.
4. The Beach Boys - "Sloop John B" from Pet Sounds
Brian Wilson was writing innovative songs on Pet Sounds amidst internal turmoil and in-band tensions. The group's version of "Sloop John B" is out of place because it feels like pandering -- to the other Beach Boys, to an audience who wanted surfing jams. The harmonies are nice (it's the effing Beach Boys, what do you expect) but otherwise, meh. 3. Pavement - "Conduit For Sale!" from Slanted And Enchanted
Every track on Slanted And Enchanted is on the verge of implosion, barely hanging on by its out of tune guitar strings. "Conduit For Sale!" is broken from the get-go and never quite rebuilds. Stephen Malkmus is usually charmingly annoying, but on this one he's just plain annoying as he sings "I'm trying, I'm trying, I'm trying" ad infinitum. Try harder, you freaking Jick.
2. Michael Jackson - "The Girl Is Mine (Featuring Paul McCartney" from Thriller
This was the lead single from Thriller. God bless those who were alive to witness this trainwreck of a song, which is as romantic as a season of The Bachelorette, and still gave the album a chance. Most of Thriller sounds like Talking Heads' Remain In Light album recorded in a spaceship (have you ever listened to "Baby Be Mine" on headphones?!?!). "The Girl Is Mine" sounds like it was recorded in a Make-Your-Own-Demo booth at Disney World. There is exactly one redeeming event of this song - at 2:43 when McCartney and Jackson trade off the song's title and Sir Paul dips into an almost inaudibly low register. Thriller has sold around 100 million copies; "The Girl Is Mine" is probably responsible for about 35 of these sales, and those are mostly from McCartney completists.
1. The Beatles - "Yellow Submarine" from Revolver
Revolver is a straight-up masterpiece, the first undisputed proof of the Beatles' genius. Psychedelic landmarks ("Tomorrow Never Knows," "I'm Only Sleeping"), beautiful orchestration ("Eleanor Rigby," "For No One") and some forward-thinking rockers ("She Said She Said," "And Your Bird Can Sing"). But then, uh, there's "Yellow Submarine." First, let's disqualify a few of the common reasons given for why this song sucks. It's not because Ringo handles the lead vocals. It's not because of the druggie animated movie released years later. It's not because of the musique concrete collage in the bridge. "Yellow Submarine," theoretically, is fantastic. The titular nautical vehicle can be interpreted as a place where all of humanity lives together in harmony, and that sentiment works better in that metaphor than in Lennon's direct "Give Peace A Chance." Listening to "Yellow Submarine" is just plain not fun, which given its levity in lyrics and production, is supposed to be the point. The Beatles did not make many mistakes in the group's brief career. "Yellow Submarine" is not exactly a mistake on its own, but sandwiched between "Here There And Everywhere" and "She Said, She Said" on Revolver, it probably should have just stayed under water.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.