Everett True

the song I hate more than any song ever

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With a delicious sense of irony, the attempt I made to embed this video, threw up the message “embedding disabled by request”.

I like much of John Lennon’s solo music, even if the last of his great vocal performances took place around ’65.

I certainly like most of Phil Spector’s production (especially End Of The Century), although you could easily argue his collaborations with The Beatles in various forms are the real low spots of his career.

I don’t even (particularly) mind the astonishingly trite lyrics and near-genius fuck-you hypocrisy of the video. The piano riff’s OK, Alan White’s drumming is fine. The singing in of itself is OK, although personally I prefer voices a little rougher around the edges. The strings are definitely not OK but… Jeez you could hang almost any major league rock star on that alone (and probably should). The birds twittering went on to inspire Television Personalities, and that’s cool.

Notice I don’t say ‘worst song ever’. That would be absurd. There ain’t no such thing.*

No. It’s not for any of the above reasons I despise this song so much. Familiarity comes into it, sure: you can’t hate popular music – or anything really – if you haven’t been exposed to it.

You could argue that whether you like this song or not comes down to whether or not you believe John Lennon was being sincere when he sang it.

I believe he was being sincere. The smug, self-deluded hypocrite.

I hate this song. It’s a weak, flimsy premise for a song: not thought-through, sappy, opportunistic, smug, the opposite of naive … something that this song is often called by its defenders. Dictionary.com defines naive as having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality. Unaffected? UNAFFECTED? This song is more cynically worked-out and produced and put-together (with all the gaps filled in) than even Madonna at her brilliant height. I supposed you could take the word in its secondary meaning –  having or showing a lack of judgment – but no, you can’t. This is a song designed to fill a need. I hate this song because it’s lowest common denominator sociology – playing to the balconies and the balconies alone while simultaneously pretending to be intimate.

Above all else I hate this song because it so bluntly, clumsily, proves what YOU CANNOT DO IN A POP SONG. Near singlehandedly, this song spoiled an entire part of music for me: the lyrics. I rarely listen to lyrics. You want to know why? C’MON (he suddenly roars) SING ALONG WITH THIS! Y’ dickheads.

*Although The Cranberries really did have a creditable try.

Oh, go on then. One more time. As you asked so nicely.

Reprinted from Melody Maker, 27 April, 1996



Reasons to hate The Cranberries.

1) Dolores O’Riordan. Her arrogance. Her petty small-mindedness. Her redneck worldview. Her incessant preaching. The fact you can actually see the mean-spiritedness of her thoughts imprinted on her pinched little face. Those American flag jumpsuits. Her cold love of money. The way she’s Sinead O’Connor for people who can’t confront even elementary contradictions. Her anti-abortion stance. Her absolute lack of self-irony. The way she makes even the most fundamental and wonderful emotions sound trite. The way America loves her clichéd, stereotypical take on Ireland. Her reduction of serious political issues to 10-second sound-nibbles. Her dress sense. The obscene way she made legions of students slow-dance to the most crushingly banal political lyric (“And their tanks and their bombs and their tanks and their guns…”) since Paul McCartney’s “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”. That wedding.

2) Dolores O’Riordan. Her smug conceit masquerading as concern for all mankind.

3) Dolores O’Riordan. Her lyrics. The fact that no one in her obviously highly technological camp has bothered to buy her anything more than a Second Year rhyming dictionary. The fact that she sees fit to write a song about John Lennon – a bigoted, misogynistic, self-loathing, tantrum-prone asshole who also happened to write some great songs – 15 years after the event, and gloss over all his faults. The fact that she does so by writing the infantile lines, “It was a fearful night of December 8th/He was returning home from the studio late/He had perceptively known that it wouldn’t be nice/Because in 1980 he paid the price…With a Smith & Wesson 38/John Lennon’s life was no longer a debate.” The fact that every person in her camp is clearly so in awe of her (temper? Power? Capacity for retribution? Fragile ego?) that they didn’t take her gently to one side and go, “Er, Dolores, perhaps it’d be better if someone else wrote the lyrics…”

4) Dolores O’Riordan. Her videos. You know how much Dolores hates to be typecast as a “thick Paddy”? Has she actually watched any of her own videos? The way they reinforce received notions of Ireland as a backwards country populated entirely by broken-toothed, bowl-headed, crying schoolkids in grey V-neck jumpers dancing around streets lit by the occasional Armalite flare? And the odd horse – y’know.

5) Dolores O’Riordan. Her lyrics. Guess whose only contact with “real life” has been MTV news and the occasional venture onto the street outside the Four Seasons? Check “War Child”: “I spent last winter in New York and came upon a man/He was sleeping in the streets and homeless, he said ‘I fought in Vietnam’…” You ****ing patronising, prematurely middle-aged cow.

6) Dolores O’Riordan. Her music. The opening song here (“Hollywood”) starts like Stiltskin. Only not as good. Then we’re onto Foreigner territory. With the odd mandolin thrown in, for “local” colour.

7) Dolores O’Riordan. Her lyrics. Check “I’m Still Remembering”: “They say the cream will always rise to the top/They say that good people are always the first to drop/What of Kurt Cobain, will his presence still remain?/Remember JFK, ever saintly in a way….” (Yeah, and an adulterous ego-maniac who started the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, in another way.) Check: “Bosnia” (no, seriously, folks) – “Bosnia was so unkind, Sarajevo changed my mind…Rummmpatitum, rummmpatitum/Traboo, traboo, traboo…” (We’re quoting from the official lyric sheet.) The theremin and musical box used (spookily!) to spice up the music have the unfortunate effect of making the song sound like something from The Twilight Zone.

The situation in the former Yugoslavia seems to have particularly troubled Dolores while she was writing the songs for this album (what’s wrong, dearie? Nothing better on TV?). After all, as she helpfully points out in the heady, emotive (all right: we’re lying) “Free To Decide”, “You must have nothing more with your time to do/There’s a war in Russia and Sarajevo too.” This is, incidentally, the most perceptive insight she offers throughout. (Who are the people who take this woman seriously? Where do they live? Where do they go to at night? Please don’t invite us.)

8) Dolores O’Riordan. Her voice. The way she turned what was a dazzling, intoxicating gift into an atonal corncrake skree by infusing it with her personality. Now it emparts no emotion of any kind, save for pettiness, bitterness, self-righteousness. She tries to suggest such broad sweeps of emotion with her songs but, somehow, they always end up sounding so ****ing small.

Not that we’d want to belittle her.

22 Responses to the song I hate more than any song ever

  1. Everett True March 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    (from Facebook)

    Mike Appelstein
    Couldn’t agree more. And yet the Imagine album also contains “Gimme Some Truth” and “How Do You Sleep?”, proving that the man was still capable of genius. Blame Yoko of you want – I’ve read that “Imagine” was at least in part inspired by Grapefruit.

    Joseph Kyle
    that’s my least favorite song of his. it’s pretty but it’s so didactic.

    Joseph Kyle
    i always felt John was at his best when he was looking inward. the more spontaneous, quickly-written songs about himself and his relationships always felt more real than his political or hippie drivel. to me, Imagine, while now considered a “hymn” of sorts, was along the lines of those “back to nature” writers of the transcendental movement who just so happened to be millionaires. it’s easy to wax philosophic when you don’t have to worry about the next paycheck. that’s why i think mccartney’s best songs/records are those written during his “salary freeze” days of 1969-1971, when the band’s cash was tied up, he reportedly had no real access to his money, and he was just living in a little shack in Scotland, writing and recording songs in his shed.

    Mike Appelstein
    Lennon’s on record calling “Imagine” “virtually the Communist Manifesto,” though he immediately distances himself from Communism in the next sentence. Still, it gives the song a sinister air. You imagine it being sung to a Great Leader, even as he’s instigating purges against dissenters. Strange stuff from the guy who put down those who mindlessly carried pictures of Chairman Mao.

  2. Shawn Wolfe March 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Someone did a brilliant video for Imagine using footage from THX:1138… seems to have been pulled from YouTube though. Really spun the sinister bleak commie undertones. Haw.

  3. Princess Stomper March 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    I just always thought that Imagine was rather boring, as well as having trite and rather stupid lyrics. A lot of the Beatles stuff was pretty average, and some of it was brilliant, but this was the only song I remember as being downright dull. If someone else had sung it, we’d all have forgotten it years ago.

    If Mike Appelstein’s right about the lyrics being “virtually the Communist Manifesto”, it explains my aversion to them – sinister indeed.

  4. Erika M March 29, 2011 at 7:47 am

    I love John Lennon in all his “bigoted, misogynistic, self-loathing, tantrum-prone” glory, though I don’t much care for that song “Imagine”(or the associated album). Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds! Woman Is The Nigger Of The World! I love that he had the guts to be so raw and sloppy, after years of being so obtuse and psychedelic. I would say of anyone, he is the artist I most wanted to emulate, growing up (maybe because my parents had Beatles records). AFA misogyny he gets lots of points for improvement from me, especially considering he lived through a very decadent groupie-using era of rock n’ roll, but by 1980 he *insisted* on giving Yoko EVERY OTHER SONG (Double Fantasy), no matter what anyone else around him said. I know he had to have had a lot of pressure to “shut his bitch up.” To me, he was a flawed and human and beautiful artist.

  5. Hannah Golightly March 29, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I have to say I liked this song a lot more before I got sleazed all over by the guy who did the sound on this record. Grim.

  6. Mark Lansing March 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I contend you only hate the song that much because (a) it has become so goddamn unavoidable, and (b) because so many people think it’s far more meaningful and eloquent than it actually is. Sure “Imagine” is flawed and shallow, but it also expresses a sentiment that’s ultimately noble, and to me it’s an honest reflection of Lennon’s personality and outlook … he could be a real schmuck some time and woefully self-congratulatory, but at heart he wanted to do something useful with his fame, and I’ll take John’s ego and posturing over Paul’s any day of the week.

    Oh, and as narcissism posing as compassion goes, “Imagine” doesn’t hold a candle to “We Are The World.” That song is truly foul.

  7. Everett True March 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Spot on, Mark.

  8. Garyne1 March 29, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Couple of more reasons to hate The Cranberries

    1 – “To all those people doing lines don’t do it, don’t do it, inject yourself with liberty, its free, its free” – I cringe whenever I remember that lyric.

    2 – They were cunningly previously called The Cranberry Saw Us.

    Linger was harmless enough mind.

  9. Gerry March 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Wait, what is wrong with Communism? It isn’t sinister! I have no issues with the redistribution of wealth (cause I don’t usually have any).

    Plus we all well know John’s most cutting piece of social commentary was ‘Working Class Hero.’ Plus it was covered by those bastions of the left, Greenday & Marilyn Manson! & too many more to mention.

  10. Julian March 30, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    I disagree with the accusations of hypocrisy this song always brings. John Lennon was ruthlessly honest about his flaws and contradictions – more so than any other celebrity I can think of. Just because he yearned for simplicity and innocence, while knowing that he wasn’t simple and innocent, hardly makes him a “self-deluded hypocrite”.

  11. Everett True March 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Spot on, Julian.

  12. Wallace Wylie March 31, 2011 at 1:34 am

    I’ve never understood left-wing thinking that is repulsed by the conformity of Capitalism but yearns for the government imposed conformity of Communism. I’ll probably go to my grave detailing the pain resulting from Capitalism’s agenda, but it’s saving grace is a small circle of privacy for those who don’t want to participate too much, as opposed to the mind-numbing depersonalisation that results from Communism.

  13. Dan Lacey November 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    This was Lennon’s ‘White Christmas’ and should be regarded the same. I didn’t live through WWII and therefore can only ‘Imagine’ the Borglike emotional societal connection formed with the Bing Crosby recording, but I remember as kid in Catholic school how a substitute teacher who we only new for a single day, a 20 something in a bright pink dress and thick framed glasses, told us solemnly that she wanted us to listen carefully to something important, and then proceeded to play Imagine on a phonograph on a stool at the front of the room while nervously standing watch at the door, and then when done put the record back in her personal case and never mentioned it again.

    This song has always been very successful at jerking me around, depending upon my political and/or religious views during any particular phase of my life. I think this is because it is meant to be something other than a song, and is quite successful at that. Your review, which reads like buckshot as to WHY you hate the song, tells me that it has fucked you up quite royally in its own sincere and sappy way. Point, Lennon!

  14. annaphallactic November 26, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Ever read or heard someone try to explain why Citizen Kane, the film to which we compare all other films made in the US by default, is “overrated”? The parts about “Imagine” take a similar tone. This isn’t criticism, it’s a screed.

    That said, I agree with every word about the Cranberries.

  15. ian November 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    whiny. limp. dull. so damn earnest its nauseating. ‘Imagine’ is the adult equivalent of a 6 year old singing why they like chocolate cake – there’s nothing more to it. Living around byron bay I feel I have a civic duty to hate this song & all the times it gets rolled out in tie-dyed hippy earnest….yeccchhhh!

    Having said that it’s all too easy to bag this song & so many other trashy/annoying songs…. I mean why listen to Glenn Frey’s ‘the heat is on’ when you can listen to the Drones?!

    Great site btw – first time here & will be back…

  16. Lynden Barber November 26, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Agreed. It also ruined and trivialised what was until the moment it came over the closing credits, a powerful film (The Killing Fields) about a subject nobody should ever trivialise, the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia. Did you use the word “trite”? If not, I will. It needs to be there.

  17. andrew August 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Don’t know much about Lennon, he seemed a bit of a whiny self loathing rotter who may as well have walked around in a tshirt saying I blame mummy but he admitted the beatles had done fuck all since about 65 creatively and kept moaning about how he was a crap guitarist, well he wasnt that crap unless of course you are comparing yourself to delightful individuals like Eric Clapton. The communist manifesto is a bloody scary read, invigorating but terrifying, not at all the fluffy hug fest Lennon implies it is by comparing his little ditty to it. But hey it was the inspiration for bad news’s ‘Imogen’ so not alls lost.

    As for living under communism, that opportunity died when Lenin and his pals crushed the sailors soviet, don’t think we saw any in the 20th century accept in its religious form.he beatles were always moaning weren’t they

  18. gary stafford August 29, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    bohemian rhapsody
    and bloody bat out if hell

    jeez instantly need to turn the radio ir tv over if any of these come on.

    songs loved by sheeple.. Simples nuff said.

  19. Johannes Bols March 6, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Yesterday I exhumed my copy of “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” I bought this single in late 1972 (I remember the perfect green of the shamrock).

    While I think it is a great song and does possess significance, the vocal mix has GOT to be the fuckin sloppiest I’ve ever heard on anything ever released by Paulie! What was The Little Master thinking? “I’m perfect, and Linda says the vocal’s fine.” I don’t know…

    I am a great fan of “McCartney” & “Ram.” I’m a great fan of Macca (pre-“Band on the Run” – the albums after that are uninspired, although they sold millions of units).

    But he ought to have given this song the extra work it deserves.

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  21. Julia July 24, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    Whoever wrote those critics about Dolores O’Riordan obviously doesn’t know her and her music.
    It’s very easy sit and judge exposing the own feelings and thoughts
    It probably made Dolores smile from Heaven and when she read it on Earth too.
    She was above critics and stereotypes, she was privileged that’s why from a poor country girl, she became an icon selling 40 million plus records. A statue remembering her at the heart of Limerick and an eternal trace she left and it’s common that some people don’t understand all that

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