Highway Hi-Fi 91: Famously Bad Musicians


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Nobody intentionally builds cathedrals to mediocrity. Music criticism, and really society in general, is often preoccupied with defining, declaring, and debating superlatives by using any means at their disposal, subjective to scientific. Look at the vast array of books, articles, lists, blog posts, and podcasts dedicated to rock’s most important bands or the world’s greatest albums, or the first true trip-hop song, or even the musician with the most substantial mustache. We seemingly have a compulsive need to declare a winner. To pin an imaginary medal for a make-believe achievement of unquantifiable greatness.

What we rarely do is look to the opposite side of the bell curve. To the outliers at the bottom, that is equally rare as their counterpoints at the apex, but not nearly given as much consideration for how unique they truly are. Those who stand out because of their outstanding failure and shortcomings. The best of the worst. The dregs of the entertainment community.

In this episode, we are going to explore the pop stars who found fans in spite of (or perhaps because of) their gross musical incompetence and who were demonstratively aesthetically just plain bad. The small handful of musicians who would be, under all circumstances, considered conventionally terrible at music yet manage to attain success. Those who through sheer will or perhaps complete ignorance managed to make a name for themselves. And those who were exploited, mocked, and enjoyed ironically but still fought to the top.

We seek to understand first what the motive is behind their drive? Were they sincere? Delusional? We’re they okay being a novelty and laughing along with their hecklers? Did they even know it was happening? Or did they just want to cash in by any means at their disposal? And secondly, we explore the motive of their audience. Did these people truly enjoy these exhibitions of atrocity much like watching a train wreck? Or did they get off on holding this secret over an oblivious performer? And finally what sort of unhealthy dynamic is formed from the strange relationship of the two.

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