Welcome to the third (and last) episode of Skip The Rest! I’m sure you know the drill by now, but in case you have yet to catch up with this mini-series, you can find the two previous installments here and here. In the following, EIN Editor-in-Chief Landon, writer/editor David, and staff writer Jake will clue you in on what bands they generally dislike but enjoy that one special song by.
“Smooth Criminal” (Michael Jackson cover) by Alien Ant Farm
The year is 2009. I am 14 or 15 years old. For the first time in my life, I have regular access to the Internet after living in a rural part of Northwestern Canada without an Internet connection. However, the connection isn’t strong enough to load full YouTube videos, so the main way I discover new music is through 30 second teasers on iTunes.
I have no idea what brings me to this one particular corner of iTunes (considering my age, it is probably the name), but I stumble across the bizarrely branded Alien Ant Farm and their punny ANThology. And what is the band’s most popular song? “Smooth Criminal”.
I do not know any Michael Jackson songs.
I press play.
And I am immediately blown away by these catchy, non-stop staccato riffs. It is heavy (to my early teen ears), it is hooky, and it is unlike anything I have heard before. I download it onto my iPod Shuffle, and I listen to it on repeat. I love it unabashedly.
It occurs to me later that the band behind this incredible song must have other tracks that are that good. I go through a number of 30 second AAF snippets, hoping. And none of it sounds even remotely close. It almost sounds like someone else wrote “Smooth Criminal”.
I later offhandedly mention the predicament and track to my mom, who says, ‘Isn’t that a Michael Jackson song?’
I am embarrassed and disappointed, but everything finally – reluctantly – makes sense.
“Danny Don’t You Know” by Ninja Sex Party
I’ll draw a line in the sand right here and say that for the most part, I despise comedy bands. It’s not that I don’t think there’s a place in music to be funny, I just haven’t really clicked with all of the attempts that I have encountered over the years. I don’t think that will change, but this song did make me rethink my stance at least briefly. I was channel surfing one evening, and caught a live performance of this song on a late night talk show and was actually, genuinely, moved. This was highly unexpected.
The song takes the perspective of lead singer Dan Avidan aka ‘Danny Sexbang’, singing to a younger version of himself and encouraging him to hold on, life’s going to get better. While the song is at times hilarious (‘You sent birthday invites, and now all your friend is here’), it’s actually pretty heartwarming overall and taps into the identity struggles that many of us understand. The comedy feels more like coping rather than just throwing jokes at the wall hoping for some laughs, and that’s something that those of us that grew up awkwardly can understand. Musically, this song is just a hook-filled, anthemic rock song, and a chorus that will stick in your brain for days. There’s a sweet guitar solo, some nice sing-along parts, and the video is pretty much perfect.
To get a song that isn’t pure parody from a comedy band is rare in my experience. To get a song with such relatability is even more rare by several orders of magnitude. You’ll probably not spot me at a Ninja Sex Party show any time soon, but this song will doubtless be in my rotation for quite a while.
“Blood Brothers” by Papa Roach
Music was weird in the 2000s, especially if you still depended almost solely on radio and MTV like I did. Growing up with divorced parents and changing hormones around this time all but guaranteed me a one-way ticket on the ‘Nu-Metal and Angst Music Express’. Couple that with a love for video games, especially the then-budding Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, and I gravitated toward Papa Roach’s “Blood Brothers”.
Thinking back to those days, playing THPS 2 (the soundtrack of which has this song on it) with friends trying to destroy each other’s high scores, is a warm memory. These games exposed me to tons of great music in the punk, metal, and hip-hop genres. “Blood Brothers” stood out with its clean guitars and rapped lyrics from Jacoby Shaddix. It had a ferocity and viscerality that was less personal than their huge hit “Last Resort”. I liked the melody more, and it was genuinely groovy. Not exactly a hard thing to find in the sea of nu-millenium radio metal and rap metal artists that depended on high energy delivery to play to youth like me.
Perhaps my memories give me a pair of high prescription rose-tinted glasses, but even listening now with a clearer head and without a Playstation controller in my hand, I still find the track enjoyable. I can’t rightfully recommend that someone ‘skip the rest’, but if you wrote off Papa Roach at their peak, I’d implore you to at least give this track a try.
Thanks for your attention! This marks the end for Skip The Rest for now, although we might bring it back for another part or two in the future. Who knows? Either way, why not tell us what songs you enjoy by bands you usually loathe? You can leave your thoughts and examples in the comments if you feel like sharing.