The AV Club, August 6, 2011 (no longer on their website due to overhaul)
August is the traditional dumping ground for worthless movies–long-shelved rom-coms and schlocky horror feasts dumped on audiences when they’re too heat-dazed and CGI-blinded to notice. And in Philly, apparently, August is the resting place of musical misery. We can accept differences in musical taste (keep on rocking out to the Allman Brothers, Dad) but we just can’t take artists who screw with fans, blab to the press about romantic conquests, and project a general air of self-important sleaziness. In an industry of studied debauchery and cultivated “bad boy” images, it takes a lot to stand out for douchiness. But these five artists or bands somehow manage it.
Here’s a list of the musical dirtbags who are coming–or planned to come before melting down in a collective, vomit-splattered hissy fit–to our fine city (or rather, most to Camden, take that as you will) this August.
Adam Levine (and Maroon 5)
First up is Adam Levine, who continues to ride the train of Songs About Jane‘s 2003 success all the way to the Susquehanna Bank Center tonight.
Levine is a perverse crossbreed of Conor Oberst and The Situation who somehow multiplies their douchiness, transcending the social spectrum between fixie freak and meathead. He’s barista with a standing appointment at Hollywood Tans and a home Bowflex set, a beer pong champion with an e.e. cummings collection and several unsolicited submissions to his state university’s literary magazine. He’s the crooner of bands with names lifted out of a Pottery Barn Kids catalog (Maroon 5 and Kara’s Flowers) who somehow still feels comfortable on a Harley Davidson.
Genuine Grizzly Bear cubs and Gorilla Juiceheads are bad enough, but Adam Levine outdoes them through cross-pollination—and artifice. A quick glance through his Scholastic unauthorized biography (okay, his Wikipedia page) reveals that the little bitch lived the life of Tori Spelling-lite. He’s the grandson of a Hollywood producer who grew up in Brentwood. It’s only fitting that Kara’s Flowers appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210 in 1997. His media persona is a bizarre, horrible conflation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, as interpreted by The C.W.
And he’s used that triple-barreled sleaziness—and the interminable “She Will Be Loved”—to worm his way into the pants of half of Hollywood, including but not limited to Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, Rihanna, Paris Hilton, Kirsten Dunst, Natalie Portman, and Maria Sharapova. But you don’t have to be professionally attractive and hungry to win Levine’s attentions. As he reassuringly told IQ magazine, “Don’t worry, I’ve slept with a number of hippopotamuses.”
When he’s not eliciting radio pain, badmouthing romantic conquests, and rocking Camden with the other Maroon four, he’s coming at you on basic cable: judging Idol copycat The Voice and developing a sitcom about a karaoke bar for NBC. Yes, a karaoke bar. It seems like just the sort of place a recording/pickup artist such as himself would thrive. Cue the “American Pie” and all those songs about Jane.
And to warm you up for the Axe assault of Levine’s lechery, there’s Train. Corporatist, middle-aged Sony cash cows, Train are about as rock’n roll as someone’s dad in a Jimi Hendrix costume. Exhibit A: Their ukulele player looks uncannily like Howie Mandel. Exhibit B: They have a ukulele player.
Previous commercial fodder “Drops of Jupiter” and “Calling All Angels” established Train as the unwanted successors to Creed’s bombastic, Grammy-anointed light rock misery. We thought the late-2000s had destroyed Train but mediocrity is like cockroaches: you just can’t kill it. In 2009 they reemerged, down a few members but up one ukulele. They’d doubled down in douchiness, adding a “Banana Pancake”-flavored dash of Jack Johnson surfer douche to their regular Scott Stapp Messiah-complex douche.
Nothing expresses the horror of this new “indie” Train better than “Hey Soul Sister,” a pingy, uke-strumming ode to an alternative girl with heavy bangs and awesome fellatio skills. (What else did you think those lipstick-stained right side brains were?)In this ditty, lead singer Patrick Monahan is a man in a fanny pack trying to hang with the painted kids at Lollapalooza. He’s the midlife crisis douche, fetishizing a “Soul Sister” with alternative bangs and rug-cutting moves who will inspire him to outlandish things like not trimming his chest hair. (“My heart is bound to beat/Right out of my untrimmed chest.”) It’s creepy in a bouncy way that apparently appeals to appliance commercial producers and Curves trainers.
Bad the first time around, “Hey, Soul Sister” becomes immeasurably awful the more times you hear it. And this baby hasn’t even reached its pop half-life yet: it’s destined to be played in dentist’s offices, Walgreen’s, and every wedding you go to for the next three to five years.
Bad enough is the dirtbag riding into town on a wave of radio success and teen girl perspiration. Although Maroon 5 and Train’s success may call into question a collective national taste level, it’s undeniable. We all know you’ve sung “Hey, Soul Sister” along with the radio/four-door refrigerator commercial at least once.
But the skeaze who piggybacks on others’ success descends to a new level of sleaziness. And Eric Benét, performing alongside R&B mainstays and general upstanding fellows The Whispers Saturday at Robin Hood Dell, has made a career out of riding coattails—and then spectacularly screwing it up. You probably can’t think of a single song by Benét but his name almost certainly rings a bell, a distant echo of People magazines long ago recycled and celebrity gossip far past its expiration date.
See, in headier days, Benét was married to Hollywood golden girl Halle Berry, around the time she was grunging down to play a death row widow in Monster’s Ball and then gussying up to accept the Oscar for that role. But being married to an A-list actress and Bond girl apparently wasn’t enough for Benét, who cheated and lied his way into rehab for sex addiction and ultimately a divorce from Berry. Cheating on America’s sweetheart earned Benét national hatred and a series of magazine interviews in which he tried to expunge his name by claiming that although he’d cheated on Berry, he’d never had “sexual intercourse with anyone” while he was with her. Splitting hairs, Eric, and excusing extramarital heavy petting is not going to win you any fans.
As for his music, who cares. His personal life alone has enshrined this guy in the Musical Slimeball Hall of Fame.
We’re equal opportunity critics here at the AV Club and don’t believe that douchiness is an exclusively male characteristic. Women can display the same arrogance, crudity, sleaziness, and Ed Hardy-clad beer guts that distinguish our favorite male scuzzbuckets. And if ever there was a douche baguette, it would certainly be Kesha Sebert, whose bringing her sparkle and sleaze act to Penn’s Landing, Wednesday, August 17.
Pop glitter beast and Auto-Tune enthusiast Ke$ha has achieved success with the persona of a 16-year-old mall rat with keys to her parents liquor cabinet. She stylizes her song titles as if she was adorning her MySpace (“TiK ToK” and “We R Who We R”), compares her heart beat to a drum machine, and wears more glitter than an arts camp.
She’s the sorta-friend who never shuts up about that “transformative” time she dropped acid at Coachella, the one who always dates men with questionable facial hair and criminal records. She’s the former roommate who once tried to pierce her tongue in the bathroom and always returned the clothes she borrowed smelling of Easy Mac and Newports. For a while, no one could figure out how to pronounce her dollar sign stylized name but “Ke-ching-a” seemed like a pretty good bet.
And recently, she’s the popstar who turned to Groupon to sell bargain basement tickets to her show. Ke-ching-a indeed.
Kings of Leon
You’ll never get to see our last band of slimeballs because they just imploded in a drunken tantrum and canceled 29 dates of their national tour. Canceled with no intention of rescheduling.
See, pigeon-haters and “Sex on Fire” singers Kings of Leon were supposed to perform Friday, August 12 at the Susquehanna Bank Center. But a disastrous Dallas date last Friday in which lead singer Caleb Followhill left stage to vomit and never returned deep-sixed the tour. The official reason for the cancellation is Followhill’s “vocal issues and exhaustion” but we all now that’s just doublespeak for “raging alcoholism.”
Way to piss off the fans, bros.