(Eight of the) 50 Worst Things Ever to Happen To Music


41. Melisma


It’s a fact, girlfriend. Words like “love,” “you,” and “baby” do not have 25 syllables. But thanks to that R&B-spawned, “Idol”–promulgated school of vocal histrionics — wherein one trills gospel ululations like Whitney with a noseful — neither the shortest word nor sweetest melody can go unmolested by a uvula-spazzing “showstopper.” Please. Stop the violence.

30. Braided Goatees


It seems so natural. Just grow those chin whiskers out a foot, part them in the middle, and weave yourself some snappy, pube-like braids! Tragically, resultant blood loss to the brain knocks 80 points off the IQ, causing in guttural vocals and misspelled band names.

13. Light Aircraft


The first day the music died, it took Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper with it. The next day it died, it took country star Patsy Cline. And the next few days went Jim Croce, half of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Denver and Aaliyah. There is, it seems, a good reason the tour bus is such a popular transportation option.

9. Whitey


There are people who believe that this creature — call him “honky,” “ofay” or the “blue-eyed devil” — was created 6,000 years ago by an evil scientist named Yakub via genetic experimentation on an island called Patmos in a … lab or something. These people are music fans. In the first half of the century, he took the kaleidoscopic music of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and begat “King of Jazz” Paul Whiteman (get it?). In the latter, he took Little Richard’s buckwild shout “Tutti Frutti” and begat a Wonder Breaded hit by Pat Boone. And today, his essence can be seen everywhere: in the beefy blond youth in a Von Dutch cap, spilling keg beer and lurching to Bob Marley; in the narrow, goateed visage of the clearly devilicious Backstreeter A.J.; in the pre-law DJ throwing up West Side; in whoever invented Auto-Tune. White folks: They ruin everything.

8. The Age of 27


For most of us, the Bermuda Triangle of morbidity lies between the ages of 50 and 53, after which, if you dodge cancer, heart disease and other bullets, you’ll probably live for decades. For rock stars, the year to fear is 27 — the checkout date for Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones and blues legend Robert Johnson among others. Honorable mentions to Nick Drake (26) and Tim Buckley (28) — who were, after all, eccentric.

4. Neverland Ranch


It’s not as though all was hunky-dory for MJ before he moved here. But somehow, his 1988 retreat into a llama-stocked, Ferris-wheel-equipped, 2,600-acre Southern California funny farm didn’t exactly sound like doctor’s orders. Jacko may since have emerged from his rustic Xanadu — dangling a baby off a balcony here, facing child-molestation charges there — and has since hied himself off to Bahrain. But the great pop star he used to be was lost forever in this multimillion-dollar shrine to childhood.

3. “The Star-spangled Banner”


Here’s an idea: Let’s have the theme song for the world’s biggest and most diverse democracy be: 1) boring; 2) violently militaristic; and 3) next to impossible to sing. Not enough? OK, now let’s bring in Roseanne Barr to perform. She’s too busy? Get me William Hung!

2. Suge Knight


Some advice: If Suge Knight offers to bail you out of jail, wait for a better offer. After doing just this for Tupac Shakur, the bullying head of Death Row records molded a talented 24-year-old rapper into a doomed gangsta cartoon, fanned a preposterous coastal rap feud (yeah! fuck the Bering Strait too!) and steered his young star on a confrontational course that ended in a bullet-riddled BMW 750. Whether or not Biggie Smalls’s subsequent murder was related, Knight drafted a tragedy hip-hop never got over.

© 2006 by Chris Norris