• Michael Randall

The Worst of the Worst - Songs on My Room 101 Playlist

On this blog in the past, there have been a series of music list posts – most/all of which are intended to be positive. We’ve had Malcolm Combe writing about his 10 ‘perfect songs’. I’ve written about fantastic debut albums and 2nd albums, too.

Halloween beckons on the horizon, though – a time when we celebrate the truly horrible and horrific. So in the spirit of commemorating the macabre, here are a 7 songs which are on the playlist in whichever version of hell has been specifically created for me – the ones which would be placed in Room 101 and suppressing any kind of rebellion against Big Brother. One of these has legitimately kept me up at night. Normally, I’d link them, but that would mean they appeared on my search history. Just run away.

1. Duffy – Syrup and Honey

Back in 2007/2008, I was a very big fan of Duffy. ‘Rockferry’ was a very good album, and I listened to it a lot. There would be some people I knew who would try and argue that her distinctive voice made her sound like a duck. And I disagreed with them.

Syrup and Honey, though, is just slow. Never really gets going, and is the one which is probably the most duck-y. I’ve tried giving it a go relatively recently too, when I re-listened to Duffy, following her public explanation of her self-imposed exile from public view. But I just can’t get through it.

2. The Feeling – Fill My Little World

I could have gone a few different ways for this next pick. Ed Sheeran would normally be on this list, but this would make the piece far longer than it needs to be. But there were a smattering of mid-late 2000s bands which irk me. The Kooks’ ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ would be on this list as well. Most things by Scouting for Girls as well.

However, I’ve gone with The Feeling here. Primarily because this one is more about the singing voice, which just really is like a cheese grater to my ears. It is genuinely a bad day if I hear this, and it used to be on a very heavy rotation on the radio. Fortunately, it’s one which is not played quite so much – but I guess that’s why it deserves a mention. Keep it that way.

3. ‘Nothing Precious At All’ by The Stereophonics

I’ve mentioned on here before that I used to love the Stereophonics. Their first album, Word Gets Around, was the first album which my sister and I both discovered and loved. Their second album, ‘Performance and Cocktails’ has song stand out singles on it. And we went to go and see them live in Cardiff on our own together for the ‘Just Enough Education to Perform’ album. We really were fans.

For the next album ‘You Gotta Go There to Come Back’, I actually borrowed (without checking first) my sister’s copy to listen to on the coach on a school trip to France. So I listened to it a lot – it was one of the only albums I took. And it is an absolute stinker, in spite of however much 14 year-old Michael tried to convince himself otherwise.

Being kind, I think they tried something different. They were going for effortless/breezy production, and to record things quickly in a sort of ‘lightning in a bottle’ approach. The nadir of this is ‘Nothing Precious at All’ – saccharine piano-y ballad with possibly the most irritating backing vocals ever put to tape. I should have stopped listening then. I didn’t. I’m too hurt to go back. The Feeling song is worse, but this one is personal.

4. Foo Fighters – Long Road to Ruin

I feel mean on this one. I really do like the Foo Fighters. And I love Dave Grohl. The vast majority of their work is grand. And then there’s Long Road to Ruin.

Taken from their album ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’, there was such promise – I think the first few tracks are ok, but the album overall is disappointing. This just feels long. It’s the one that I’d skip every time. When a song’s potential redeeming feature is that it has an amusing music video, you’re clutching at straws. I’m sorry.

5. Nearly Anything On Metallica & Lou Reed’s Album ‘Lulu’

I’ve mentioned Metallica a few times on this blog – recommending the documentary ‘Mission to Lars’ and ‘Some Kind of Monster’, and they also, I think, appeared when I wrote the list on decent songs on disappointing albums. This was the album I featured.

I am only a relatively casual Metallica fan – my brother in law and sister are more die hard. I’m weird in liking their more hard rock/produced efforts over the 1980s metal sound. But even I can appreciate that being a fan of theirs has been difficult at times.

Some Kind of Monster documents this well – the Napster case (whatever the merits) and the disastrous ‘St Anger’ seemed to be designed to actively turn people away. They gain some goodwill back with their next album, Death Magnetic. And then Lou Reed happened.

A spoken word album based on the German ‘Lulu’ plays of a woman who rises in and falls from high society, backed by Metallica’s demo tracks. It sounds like two radios with different stations on the go being played at the same time. If you were being kind, you would say it is ‘eccentric’ and ‘brave’. In reality, it’s borderline unlistenable. However, in the same way that the film ‘The Room’ has a cult following because of how terrible it is, there’s a certain respect for making something so truly bad.

As an honourable mention, there is a song on the ‘Biker Boyz’ (think Fast & Furious with motorbikes) which is a collaboration between Metallica, Ja Rule & Swiss Beatz, which is…well I can’t really describe it. Truly grim.

6. ‘The Magical Mr Mistoffelees’ from ‘Cats’

I try to be relatively PG on this blog and not swear. But f*** Cats, it’s an absolute pile of **** that I genuinely cannot fathom has any kind of following at all. I did go and see the film version – it actually made me want Taylor Swift to get off the screen. In a way, that’s an achievement.

I love a good musical – they are, effectively, concept albums that help pass the time. Even listening to songs in isolation, you get snapshots of a story, which you don’t get when listening to popular radio.

One of the things I quite like is cooking a proper meal, whilst listening to the radio. However, since lockdown started, I’ve changed the set radio station from Radio X (guys, Oasis split up. Get over it. And have more than 1 female artist/singer in your top 100 British songs of all time) to ‘Magic at the Musicals’ – at least I get some variety then.

However, they have an unfortunate habit of playing this song. And the trouble is, for every time they play something from Hamilton, or something I haven’t heard that often, but is decent, this is the one which, hours later, is stuck in my head.

I have a real problem with Andrew Lloyd Webber shows. His shows normally have one or two memorable songs (can’t remember a lot from my research, but I do know all the lyrics to ‘Any Dream Will Do’), but the rest is plodding nonsense on wafer thin plots. And never forget that time he just happened to appear in the House of Lords for once to vote in favour of cutting tax credits.

I nearly put ‘Where is Love’ from Oliver on here instead. So high pitched and slow – it drags on. Although it does hold a certain significance in our family – my sister played Oliver in our school production (a casting choice which still baffles my mum to this day). So I can’t really put my sister’s musical career highlight on this list can I?

7. ‘Paradise’ by Coldplay

I think anyone who has known me for over a couple of years will not be surprised at this choice. There are worse bands than Coldplay. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And because they are absolutely everywhere, and this song soundtracks nature documentaries, charity fundraisers, sporting montages and TV competition shows.

Weirdly, I used to not mind Coldplay. I mean I was about 13/14 years old, and you end up listening to whatever your parents tend to listen to in the car. It was only when I got a paper round/jobs, and was able to buy my own music (or renting CDs from the library for 1 week for 50p) and managed to discover Green Day, Nirvana, Meat Loaf, and various others.

I cannot pinpoint a specific moment when the switch happened. But I know that I was irked by them by the time they released Viva la Vida. I think I just concluded that they were pretentious, and a little bit full of themselves. It’s not even the songs necessarily – Pendulum’s cover of Violet Hill is superb.

There are a few songs of theirs which really irk me. Fix You…Sky Full of Stars…I once won an award, but the only song that they used after announcing winners, and allowing them to come on stage was ‘Magic’.

But this is my dog whistle song. It hurts. There’s a physical contortion as the realisation hits me that this is happening. To cap this off, my parents, knowing my thoughts on the songs, once gave me a lift to visit my sister, and planned out that when they picked me up, they’d be listening to Adele, but the moment we got on the motorway, put Mylo Xyloto on. I think my objections were such that we didn’t get past track 5.

And there they are – truly the worst of the worst. I’m going to need a lie down.

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