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.
Jet – “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #29 in April 2004
ROCK IS BACK! a Rolling Stone cover announced in 2002, pretending Creed, Lenny Kravitz, and 3 Doors Down weren’t still having hits and that cover stars the Vines looked like N Sync in Strokes dragBenefiting not a bit from the ministrations of the Jannsters but quite a lot from the last stores of CD-era dough in record company bank accounts, Jet scored a couple awful hits in the early Dubya years, a nightmarish era when the discussions about gender and sexuality that characterized the previous decade were shelved as the Bush’s war on the environment, the federal government, and Iraq raged without end. It isn’t that a Jet weren’t possible in 1993 or 1983; it’s that smart people said stupid things about what rock needed to do to maintain its so-called relevance when Ashanti, Destiny’s Child, and Nelly had hits.
The Australian band does wrap “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” in a pretty bow: there are peer-reviewed journal articles proving how it’s impossible to write a bad song using the James Jamerson bass line from “You Can’t Hurry Love.” But I don’t write this article to call “Are You Gonna…” a bad song. Intended for listeners besotted with back-to-basics moves, “Are You Gonna…” might have annoyed me less had it ended at the sixty-second mark; at 3:33, though, it’s a brutalizing experience, like getting locked inside a Chuck E. Cheese’s, or reading Montesquieu. The hit goes one further: an elongated mishmash of Motown and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life, with the mephitic vapors of Nic Cester’s commands front and center. It’s a long, big, dumb rock song that caught a wave but whose big dumb rock catchiness gave aid and comfort to The Black Keys and Kings of Leon.
The 2006 followup Shine On earned a rare zero from Pitchfork and, better, a video review of a chimp pissing in its own mouth. This requires talent. I hope Jet were flattered.