Every music has had this conversation with their friends at some point:
“This band sucks!”
“No dude, this band rules!”
That’s because so much of music is subjective. What sounds like a symphony to some people sounds like nails scratching chalkboard to others. Some musicians are more controversial and polarizing than others. Here are just a few of history’s most polarizing bands.
It’s been a long, long, long time since U2 was any kind of critical darling. (Probably not since Bloody Sunday) The band is one of music’s biggest-ever hitmakers, however, which makes them ubiquitous on the radio. Whether it’s Bono’s Stylishly Woke persona or the band’s sheer inevitability or, by the new millennium, it was clear that U2 was one of the more polarizing bands out there. This was never more evident than that time the band teamed with Apple to give away free downloads of its album Songs of Innocence back in 2010. The response to this offer of totally free music to 500 million people was intensely bad. Many music fans proudly spurned the chance to get their hands on U2’s album. Critics derided the deal as spam. In the end, fewer than 20% of iTunes users claimed that album.
Popularity can be a double-edged sword. One the one hand, you get to become a big star and hear your music on the radio. On the other hand, popularity leads to an often-inevitable backlash where some people hate you for your mainstream popularity. That’s probably how Chris Martin views the public dislike of his band Coldplay. The group remains pretty popular and continues to score radio hits.
Coldplay’s detractors would probably say something like “but every one of those hits sounds like the same song!” This knock has been around forever – back in 2005 John Pareles wrote a takedown called “The Case Against Coldplay” where he pronounced the group “the most insufferable band of the decade.”
Part of what makes them insufferable is that yes, Chris Martin can write and sing a melody – but his lyrics overstuffed with rhymes and they keep getting dumber. For example, “Just because I’m losing / Doesn’t mean I’m lost/ Doesn’t mean I’ll stop/ Doesn’t mean I’m across / Just because I’m hurting / Doesn’t mean I’m hurt / Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserve / No better and no worse.” This is bad high school poetry that your English teacher would have savaged.
Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet has either singlehandedly made classic rock cool again or are a total knockoff of Led Zeppelin, depending on your point of view. Despite the lead singer’s determined yodel and hand-on-his-hip-while-wearing-bellbottoms-posture, guitarist Jake Kiszka claims the band isn’t even a very big fan of Led Zeppelin. (Oh come on!)
Even Robert Plant cited them as influenced by Led Zeppelin, saying “Beautiful little singer, I hate him! He borrowed [his voice] from somebody I know very well, but what are you going to do? At least he’s got a bit of style, because he’s said he based his whole style on Aerosmith.” They claim their inspiration goes back to blues musicians.
But even this proves that Greta Van Fleet is doing Led Zeppelin drag! Bands of that era, including Clapton and Zeppelin, frequently cited American blues music as their primary inspiration. Even just writing about this band is tedious and exhausting. Or as Pitchfork put it, “Greta Van Fleet sound like they did weed exactly once, called the cops, and tried to record a Led Zeppelin album before they arrested themselves.”
Creed and Nickleback
You all know that people have feelings about Creed. And of course there are many in their feelings about whatever the hell Nickleback is doing. But it took the guys at Spin Magazine to explain how these two annoying bands are tied together. Creed was “Nickelback before there was Nickelback.”
Hootie & the Blowfish
My college experience started with Nirvana being the biggest band on the planet and ended with Hootie & the Blowfish being the biggest band in the world. And I wasn’t in college very long. This whipsaw – between intellectual grunge and mindless but pleasant rock – really explains why Hootie was so polarizing.
They had that one album full of hits that were easy to sing along with and melodies that seemed good in the moment. That album, by the way, was Cracked Rear View and it went 16 times platinum! The band could never live up to that debut and after their second album, interest petered out.
Eventually there was a good amount of rage that the band ever sold that many albums in the first place, as Gen Xers second guessed themselves for succumbing to the whims of marketing. (What they were really embarrassed about was wanting a respite from misery and choosing some feel-good music for once).
Rucker turned to country music and spent the better part of a decade donning an actual cowboy hat. But listeners, gird your loins – it has now been 25 years since Cracked Rear View and I think you know what that means: it’s time for an anthology, new album and reunion tour!
Kill me now.