What Is Bad In Music: Rebellious Tastes, and Hatin' on U2

Here is a two-part article in our series "What Is Bad In Music", one from writer and editor Jeff Eason of The Blowing Rocket, and another from Becka Moore of the 9:30 Club. The two have very different takes on the subject here, but while Jeff looks at the question from a more psychological perspective and Becka openly addresses her dislike for an iconic band, they both have a common love for radio station WNCW. That is where in 2008, on the program What It Is, Jeff happened to take a Becka-like whack at his favorite "sacred cow" icon, Robert Johnson. You can hear his comments as well as my own debunking of Grateful Dead and Fred Mills' top ten reasons why John Lennon is overrated here

Please note that Jeff and Becka's opinions are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or their employers. That said, I am glad they stepped up and have added to this conversation! -Joe


Above is a photo of Jeff from his days at UNC-Chapel Hill and WXYC. Here is his take on "What Is Bad In Music":

To the notion that the number of chords has something to do with the quality of music, it reminded me of a story I heard about Harry Nilsson. Supposedly, he made a bet with a fellow musician that he could make a hit record with exactly one chord in it. The other guy took him up on the bet. The result of the bet was the song "Coconut." 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 For me, bad music is like that old definition of pornography: I know it when I hear it. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think a more interesting way to approach the question is how people develop the musical tastes that they do. A lot of it, in the beginning, is based on the music our parents listened to when we were growing up. Then, for most people, there is the eventual rebellious stage where we listen to music our parents hate (even if we don't totally embrace it ourselves). A lot of people get stuck listening to "ugly" music just because it allows them to feel part of a group of outsiders that other people just don't understand. It is used as a wall to keep other people out. Even some jazz lovers fall into this trap. 
I think the most subjective musical instrument is the human voice. I know some people just can't get beyond Tom Waits' and Neil Young's voices enough to appreciate their considerable songwriting skills. I know when the three-disc Chimes of Freedom disc came out earlier this year, I was amazed at how beautiful some of the songs were because the originals, sung in Bob Dylan's latter day rasp, just didn't do anything for me. Some voices have qualities that I can't tolerate. I find Joan Baez' constant tremolo to be incredibly annoying and John Hiatt's growl/yelp thing to be a bit contrived. - Jeff Eason
And now, here is Becka Moore's essay on the famous rock band U2

What is bad in music? What has been bad, grown stale, and yet continues to mold on the airwaves?


Surely I'll catch some flak for this, but music is personal right? It's my opinion. But I can tell you, plenty of people share it.

There is no shortage of people jumping on the Bono-Bashing-Bandwagon.  This is not about that.  As a bit of a bleeding heart, I can't fault him for wanting to help people. And if you haven't seen Million Dollar Hotel, a Dramedy he wrote/co-wrote, you should. 

What this is about is U2’s music. Having grown up with some of their songs on the radio, sure, a few stuck around and I might even enjoy listening to them if they pop up on the radio. Does that make their music good as a whole? Or does it just put them in the category of every other band that had some hits on the radio?

U2 often takes on heavy topics, which Bono's vocals just can't do justice. He sounds like a weakened Joe Strummer trying to croon.

Bono once said, "I remember the day I found I could sing. I said, 'Oh, that's how you do it.'" Maybe he should have talked to himself a little more. Or maybe he just has an odd view of what vocal talent is, considering he started out doing punk-ish music (yes, it's a genre, because I added -ish and because I said so). Not exactly the first place you go when you realize you can "sing".

Honestly, I find the band boring. A lot of guitarists would argue that The Edge is one of the greats. That's certainly debatable. Does he have a unique style, or is he just monotonous? And besides, you can’t say a band is good because of one member, right?

Are their live shows really all that entertaining? Or do they just have a lot of flashing lights (A LOT of flashing lights)? These guys have no stage presence. Bono attempts to move around, but comes off like a wounded duck stricken with Tourette’s syndrome. Enough has been said about Bono and his sunglasses, but can we talk about The Edge’s beanie

Their thinly veiled messages are borderline pompous and inappropriate.  Nobody wants to hear love songs all the time, so I won’t fault them for mixing it up a bit. And lyrics about God are pretty interchangeable with lyrics about love, sex, and relationships. But the actual message remains pompous at times and fairly hackneyed at the very least.

If U2 is so drab and boring (it is), why do they continue to mildew up the airwaves? It's pretty simple. I will give U2 credit for reaching beyond the pulpit and into mainstream radio. Unfortunately, that may be the very thing that has kept them around all these years. Religious Christians can listen to U2, rock out a bit, nod their heads bit, and not feel like they're a step closer to the fiery abyss. 

U2 is the gateway drug to Rock and Roll for a lot of young Christians.  For better or worse, that is their legacy.  But it doesn't make the music good. 

 --Oh, and if you’re one of the people that like U2 for their moral message, check out Million Dollar Hotel.  It’s full of filthy language, sex, murder and suicide.  Bono was so proud of his work, he cameos in it for a brief second.  Let’s add hypocrisy to the list of grievances. - Becka Moore


Thanks for visiting Lingua Musica and I hope you may take part in our conversation by commenting here, or writing us at linguamusica@gmail.com if you would like to be featured in the series. - Joe Kendrick