While creativity is often key in the process of creating a solid song, there are still some hard and fast rules that wise pop artists quickly learn to abide by. But sometimes, perhaps by way of laziness, pretense, drugs, or just sheer indulgence, these guidelines are brushed off, and what could've been a perfectly good track is laid to waste.
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10. Failed Attempts at Genre-Mashing
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Why is it that some artists, once even they’ve become sick of the music they’re putting out, feel that they have the license to genre-hop with impunity? Just because you’ve successfully struck a pose in the past does not mean you can convincingly rock out in the present.
This is doubly true when an older artist attempts to appear to be "with it" by doing a song with a younger, more relevant artist, despite how bizarre the pairing may be.
9. Weak Breakdowns
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Who decided that busting out the Fisher Price turntable for a sweet record-scratchin' breakdown was a good idea?
It's debatable whether this approach is more egregious than just not really doing anything at all, but if you can't come up with a good breakdown, you might want to ditch the idea altogether before it has a chance to grenade the whole song.
8. Overuse of Fake Endings and/or Pauses
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One of the oldest tricks in the book – the song is running along at full steam, stops suddenly for a few beats, and then... wham, it’s back in action! Or the band attempts to fool you into thinking the song is over, but it isn’t!
The bottom line is that this little stunt stopped being clever in 1994. We get it, the song isn’t over. Oh wait, you guys are doing it twice. Three times? Okay, now that’s clever!
7. Self-Indulgent Intros That Last Way Too Long
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Just because Metallica was able to get away with it doesn’t mean everyone in the world wants to hear your four minute acoustic noodling intro before the actual song starts.
And throwing 45 seconds of feedback or random bleeps and bloops in front of a song in a feeble attempt to make it “arty” isn’t doing anyone any favors, either. My time is precious - let's get on with it.
6. Extended One-Instrument Solos
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Much like the indulgent intros, the extended solos, most notoriously illustrated by moments like Iron Butterfly's ridiculously long drum solo in In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, are not the captivating fare that artists might think they are. Even the short bass solo at the beginning of Black Sabbath’s "N.I.B." gets old pretty quick.
This might’ve been killin’ it at the show the other night, but when you’re looking for some to deliver instant gratification when your iPod is on shuffle, these exhibitions in instrument masturbation are a one-way ticket to the skip button.
5. Goofy Backup Vocals
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You know, I was actually starting to enjoy this track – that is until you dropped the children’s chorus line backing vocals on my ears like a 30-ton anvil. What’s going on here? What purpose does this serve?
And the obligatory “rapper” in rap-metal bands who swaps lines with the "rocker" and in a lame attempt to give the band some bizarre version of street cred? Dude, I just feel sorry for you.
4. Half-Ass Covers of Recognizable Songs
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If you’re going to cover a song, especially one that's an instantly recognizable hit from the past, there is one main rule which must be followed unless you want to fail miserably. Do not cover the song in a style similar to that of the original material, because your version will, without fail, sound like an uninspired, crappier rehash of the original track.
The point of covering a song is not just to pay homage to it, but to embellish it with your own style and flavor, and in the process, turn it into something new and interesting.
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Despite the lyrical content of the song being completely at odds with the service it was used to hock, Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” will forever be associated with fun family vacations courtesy of Carnival Cruises. And for whatever reason, the mental image of yuppies frolicking on the beach seems to really take the edginess of a song about drug addiction and general debauchery down a notch or two.
Such is the fate of any artist who decides to shill out a classic song to the highest bidder - don't be surprised when they desecrate it, and then run it directly into the ground.
2. Inescapably Bad Lyrics
Even if you've convinced yourself that you can get away with rhyming “thug” with “thug," we’re telling you right now – you can’t and it's cheating. We notice and judge you and your weak rhymes. If you have the gall to declare in one of your songs, “I love you like a fat kid loves cake” – we will notice.
And don’t even think about using nursery rhymes – singing “knick knack paddy whack give a dog a bone” still sounds totally ridiculous, even if you try to make it sound “metal.”
1. Excessive Use of Auto Tune/Vocal Filters
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Congratulations – your voice sounds like a musical robot! That’s totally neat.. err..well, it was for about a week in 2004. Unless you’ve already heard of Kraftwerk, in which case this stopped being novel literally decades ago.
The heavy-handed use of vocal filters in pop music as of late, robotic or otherwise, has utterly played itself out. Beyond the lack of ingenuity, it also makes you wonder what exactly they’re trying to hide. Guess it beats, you know, learning how to actually sing!