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. This turtleneck-sweatered Jaguar shill has so desecrated his Policeman legacy that we're not entirely convinced the current soft-rock incarnation isn't the original Sting's evil twin. He is, without question, the most hated man in rock.
A better question is: Who're numbers two through ten? 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 synth-slop collaborations with Babyface. While we may not agree with this ranking, the criteria for what makes a rocker "hated" is more or less spot on: have talent, use it well for a substantial period of time, then intentionally squander it for commercial riches, fame and/or forced mass appeal.
Admittedly, it is tough to find ten men who strictly adhere to such requirements, so we've chosen -- with the help of a secret, eleven-man panel -- to implement a graded system in which talented sellouts merit weightier consideration than, say, Johnny Rzeznik or Fred Durst. That said, to exclude such ass-clowns from this list outright would be doing a public disservice. So too would including Sting, as he is as consensus a top dog as doggies can top. Without further ado, let the hatred begin!
1. Paul McCartney Barely qualified to carry John Lennon's roach clip while both toiled with a grotesquely overrated boy band known as the Beatles, Sir Paul's true colors have reverberated loudly and horribly 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 alleged pedophile Michael Jackson -- and the ensuing public pissing match over Wacko Jacko's savvy purchase of the Beatles' catalogue -- 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 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 twelve hours after burying your hero-philanthropist wife was a good one too, mate. Go fuck yourself, McCartney. You deserve worse than that, but such dread is unattainable on this earth. We can only hope Satan delivers the goods to Sir Paul in Hell, where knighthoods carry no currency.
2. Carlos Santana "Or else forget about it!" We wish we could, Carlos. And that would likely be possible had you made just one album of duets with flash-in-the-pan pop stars such as Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas. But no, you followed it up with "a little bit of this" and "a little bit of that" with no-talent 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 National Basketball Association playoff lead-ins with the Black Eyed Peas. Pathetic career trajectory for a man once considered to be the heir apparent to Jimi Hendrix, and Santana has no one to blame but himself. It's not like his record label swooped in and said, "Say, Carlos, we need you to do this duet with the guy from Nickelback or else we're going to drop your ass." Look for him on the next Jennifer Lopez album.
3. Jimmy Buffett Alcohol-rehabilitation counselors, antidepressant manufacturers and shrinks should present Buffett with gold-encrusted plaques of recognition thanking the Key West ukulele hack for supplying roughly half of their paying clientele. Here's how the vicious cycle works: 1) Begin liking Buffett during perpetually drunk collegiate undergrad years; 2) prolong perpetual drunkenness by becoming Parrothead and attending Buffett shows until the age of 40; 3) crash car drunk on drive back from Buffett show at Pensacola Fairgrounds; 4) enter court-mandated rehab program; 5) get sober; 6) recognize how bad taste in music and hollow life was during personal "Cheeseburger in Paradise" bender; 7) start seeing shrink and taking Prozac; 8) realize that entire wardrobe consists of imitation Hawaiian shirts, huarache sandals, golf visors and jams; 9) start drinking again; 10) hit the road for Chattanooga stop of Buffett's "Four Inebriated Horsemen" tour with Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Randy Travis. Margaritaville, unfortunately, has inescapable walls made of petrified ape dung, which is an apt description of Buffett's entire catalogue.
4. The Adams Family (Ryan & Bryan) You've been asking for this double entry, Ryan, by refusing, time and again, to cover "Summer of '69" in concert. If you didn't want to be confused with Bryan Adams -- or, short of that, teased a little for being one consonant short of Canada's pint-size 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 have done nothing to help R. Adams' credibility either. Bryan, meanwhile, paved the way for mediocre soloists like Phil Collins and Patrick Swayze to cash in at the box office by contributing to Robin Hood. For this, the gravel-throated Canuck will never be forgiven, even if the aforementioned "Summer" is a true-blue gem.
5. Elton John Bernie Taupin's not-so-tiny dancer was way better in the Studio 54 era, when he was as high as a Rocket Man and actually cranked out adventurous pop hits with gusto. Now sober, Sir Elton seems content to belt out cheesy power ballads for animated-feature soundtracks, host garish awards-show afterparties and retrofit "Candle in the Wind" to cash in on the It-Dead Princess of the Moment. Leavin' Levon far behind, indeed, and much the worse for it. Heaven hope the sun goes down on this pasty, toupee-wearing key tickler ASAFP.
6. Johnny Rzeznik Feel free to debate whether what the Goo Goo Dolls record can even be considered rock. Also feel free to debate whether or not it's music. Any way you slice the pie, this moronic, saccharine, neo-glam outfit is the worst band in America, with Rzeznik being the synthetic cherry filling. Quick, name one Goo Goo Dolls song! That's okay, you're not alone. The fact that Rzeznik ascends to this high a ranking without ever exhibiting an ounce of artistic talent is testament to how much people just want to drop-kick his pretty-boy bean through the goalposts at Fuckface Field. At least this Calvin Klein underwear-model wannabe has one thing going for him: Avril Lavigne evidently wants to ride him. And in Missouri, that'd be barely legal.
7. G.E. Smith We know: How can a Saturday Night Live bandleader named after a power company qualify for this list? Here's how: Smith served as Hall & Oates' lead guitarist from 1979 until 1985, which marked the peak of the Philly duo's commercial viability. And -- come on -- was there any blond ponytail more ubiquitous than Smith's during his ten-year SNL run? Absolutely not -- homeboy played on every imaginable televised tribute concert, including Bob Dylan's, Live Aid and Farm Aid. Indeed, where there was an Aid -- and a camera -- there was a blond ponytail, which Smith took great pains to flap across his face like a horse does with tail and ass. Smith was Michael Bolton before Michael Bolton was Michael Bolton. The difference is Smith didn't even have to open his mouth to attain such reviled status; his "look at me!" facial expressions did it all.
8. Conor Oberst & Chris Carrabba Who wants to hear sad, sad songs about the day-to-day pathos of well-to-do suburban white kids? Well-to-do suburban white kids, that's who. And that's about it. "Emo," then, is really a genre within a genre within a genre, which makes it a mystery as to why these two wimps have been garnering so much ink and critical fellatio. Every song they write is overwrought and essentially intellectually dishonest. Everybody's got problems, to be sure, but we'd love to transplant this double entry (two whiny weenies equal one man, by our count) of pastoral crackers to the ghetto for a few decades. Then we'll see if they continue to pump out the same prepubescent pussy bait that's gotten them this far.
9. Fred Durst It doesn't matter whether or not you believe Durst's claim that he drilled Britney Spears six ways 'til Sunday; this rap-rock goofball is largely responsible for rock's darkest era: the late 90's (Kid Rock, you can take a bow too). Fortunately it looks like Durst's career is over. Otherwise, he'd likely outstrip Rzeznik for the sixth spot and would rank number one if this poll were more concerned with sonic proficiency.
10. Bob Weir You can actually stop truckin' now, Bob. The Dead's insistence on staying on the road post-Jerry Garcia has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the band was just a collection of semi-competent nerds with a prodigiously charismatic and talented frontman. And "Rock Star Bobby" is the worst of the bunch, a bona fide gravy trainer who would've probably invited frequent guest Huey Lewis to join the band as a full-time harmonica player had Garcia not understandably kept his pink Izod-wearing ass in check. Weir's side project, Rat Dog, is basically a below-average bar band with a frontman who needs a teleprompter to remember his own lyrics. But frankly, given our unyielding love for all things Garcia, we were willing to forgive and forget until Weir & Co. jumped on a stage in a movie-studio lot to appear on Leno recently. With Garcia on the injured list (for good), Weir stepped in to sing lead vocals on "Touch of Grey." Horribly. Why he didn't just defecate on Jerry's headstone instead, we'll never know.
Rounding out the Top Twenty: 11. Glenn Frey & Don Henley. 12. Scott Stapp. 13. Rod Stewart. 14. Phil Collins. 15. Lenny Kravitz. 16. Steve Miller. 17. John Cougar Mellencamp. 18. Michael McDonald. 19. Max Weinberg. 20. Lars Ulrich.
Honorable Mention: Eric Clapton, Anthony Kiedis, Kid Rock, Scott Weiland, Liam & Noel Gallagher, Zack de la Rocha, Peter Gabriel, Kenny Loggins, George Thorogood, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bruce Springsteen, Axl Rose, James Hetfield, Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Winwood, Bruce Hornsby, Billy Joel, Dave Matthews, John Popper, Julian Casablancas, Jack White, Rob Thomas, Huey Lewis, Jackson Browne, Dave Grohl, Chris Cornell, Mark McGrath, Melissa Etheridge and the lead singer of Maroon 5 (we're too indifferent to even bother learning his name).
Click the links beneath the photos to print out your very own "Least Wanted" posters, then hang them around town, CORE Project-style! (Note: All posters are in PDF format and require Acrobat Reader [available here] to view. Posters average 500k in size.)