Worst Songs Ever: Stone Temple Pilots’s ‘Plush’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Stone Temple Pilots’s “Plush”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #1 on Billboard Album Rock Tracks; #39 on Hot 100 Airplay

“Oh, that’s the song about feeling it when the dogs begin to smell her,” a friend said the other night when I suggested I was going to write about Stone Temple Pilots’ breakthrough hit. Almost two years after Nirvana topped the Billboard album chart, American college radio listeners were finally seeing the ripples returning to shore. In January 1993, the modern rock chart looked like this; six months later it looked like this. Although token non-American acts like Tears for Fears, OMD, Catherine Wheel, U2, and Midnight Oil still got reported (and Bjork’s first solo entry), the chart looks like a Triassic Period archosaur: you can spot traces of what will soon rule the earth. Way down are the Mighty Mighty Bosstones; up to are Red Hot Chili Peppers, the modern rock/alternative chart champs; in the middle Lenny Kravitz and Pearl Jam. The last song at #30? Stone Temple Pilots’ “Wicked Garden.”

When Scott Weiland died in 2015, his band got the plaudits that many critics refused them for most of their run, including from yours truly. Listening to “Plush” remains an unpleasant experience for me: I relive the trauma of watching Terence Trent D’Arby not top the chart in favor of this unimaginative plod through a quarter century of hard rock tropes. I don’t get its hit status. On and on it goes, with Dean DeLeo’s talent for playing the same riff over unchanging tempos. By itself “Plush” is harmless, but it augured the one-dimensionality into which the modern rock chart would settle when record labels saw dollar signs promoting bands who weren’t Guns ‘N Roses and Metallica but loved their chords thickly. It was macho and dense and stupid.

As I hinted, STP would do better than this: “Interstate Love Song,” the Bowie-glam variations of Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (“Big Bang Baby,” “Trippin’ on a Hole in Your Paper Heart”). I’ll take 1999’s “Sour Girl” and “Where’s the Man” from Weiland’s solo 12 Bar Blues.

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