Everyone has heard about Robert Plant and his well known, self-professed hatred for “Stairway to Heaven,” or Slash’s iconic lack of fondness for “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” but there’s a much longer list of artists with contempt some of their own major work.
In the spirit of departing from overtly sensationalist, click-bait titles, this list really should have a more appropriate name. However, after giving it some thought, it was plain that “10 Songs Whose Own Artists Dislike Listening To and/or Performing Live” didn’t quite have the same ring about it.
This is a list mostly comprised of artist-given opinions about their own work, and contains information pulled from interviews, recorded expressions and quotes while relying less on rumor and hearsay. In this Top 10, artist opinions range from mild aversion to outright cringe-level at the thought of performing any of these in front of an audience or hearing them on the radio. Let’s get started.
10. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire”
Artists get sick of their songs over time. It happens. For Kings of Leon, fan insistence is probably the only thing keeping the song “Sex on Fire” on their set list night after night. The band’s members have been quite adamant in letting everyone know just how they feel about the continuous demand for their most popular hit—quoth Kings of Leon at a show about to play “Sex on Fire”: “We hope you guys like this one, because we’re fuckin’ sick of playing it.”
Funny? Yes, a little. But it turns out that the band was completely serious, as drummer Nathan Followill reconfirmed in an interview for UK newspaper, The Sun:
“I would be pretty damn happy if my sex was never ever on fire again. Fans want it and you have to do it, and after so many albums together I can tell you, there’s a lot of debate about what records make it onto a set list. Everyone has their favorites.”
9. Eminem – “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”
As any listener of Eminem knows, the relationship between the artist and his mother has been rocky at best, rising to the surface through tracks such as “My Name Is” and other releases at the turn of the millennium. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” is one such release, and one that Eminem (aka Marshal Mathers) absolutely refuses to perform live anymore.
In fact, on the Marshal Mathers LP 2 in 2013, the song “Headlights” is featured as an apologetic lyrical play to his mother, Debbie Mathers and provides a good look at Eminem’s current perspective on their troubled history, as well as some of the motivations for writing “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”—now, Mathers explains, he cringes whenever he hears it, and states his regrets for mocking her drug problem and vowing to never let his daughters meet their grandmother.
8. James Blunt – “You’re Beautiful”
James Blunt is not a fan of being associated with the song that, according to him, was force-fed to anyone walking around in 2005 to the point of being completely obnoxious. To quote the artist:
“”I think, at the end of the day, I was marketed by a record company to appeal to women during Desperate Housewives‘ commercials and you lose 50 per cent of the population in doing so.”
Moreso, the success of “You’re Beautiful” served to paint Blunt as something that he felt misrepresented the direction of both his career and overall personality; he assures everyone that he isn’t happy being so glum all the time:
“The marketing also painted me out as an insanely serious person, an earnest person and, as all my friends know, I’m anything but. I have a couple of over-emotional miserable songs that I’m known for, but I think it’s turned that corner now. People can see I don’t take myself that seriously.”
7. Panic! At The Disco – “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”
Who can tout it better than the artists themselves? This pretty much says it all without us having to (obligatory NSFW language warning). On a more positive note, props to Panic! At The Disco and any other groups or solo artists that choose to deliver what their fans want to hear most, despite the grating monotony that must arise when playing a song hundreds of times a year.
6. Kanye West- “Gold Digger”
Did you know that Yeezy doesn’t like the song “Gold Digger?” Well, apparently, he doesn’t. As Kanye put it mildly in an interview last year with Zane Lowe of BBC Radio,
“…I would get paid for doing ‘Gold Digger’—which, I never really liked that song, but I always knew I would get paid…”
Imagine that. Whether Kanye had been referring to his dissatisfaction the song’s lyrical content, vibe, technical arrangement, or perhaps with its placement on his 2002 album, Late Registration, no one can really say. Whether or not there is more than a little irony in cutting and performing a song entitled “Gold Digger” because it’s guaranteed to make money…well, that’s for you to decide.
5. Coldplay – “Speed of Sound”
Coldplay hates “Speed of Sound,” specifically the studio recording. Vocalist Chris Martin told Howard Stern in a 2011 interview that their track, “Speed of Sound” (often criticized for having identical-sounding elements to “Clocks”) is actually one of his least favorite songs. After being asked if any Coldplay songs had ever become hits that he personally thought were terrible, Martin explained that, while he thinks “Speed of Sound” isn’t necessarily a bad song, it pains him to think that they never got it right on record; he cannot bear to listen to the current recording, or play the song live. To this day, Coldplay does not perform it in any of their concerts. When asked why, Martin’s reasoning was that the lack of enthusiasm would detract from the overall experience:
CM: “It pains me.”
HS: “Now, you have to play this in concert.”
CM: “No, we don’t. We don’t play it.”
HS: “Because of your feelings about the song?”
CM: “Yeah, because, like I said, an audience can pick up real fast if you’re not convinced by something…”
4. MGMT – “Kids”
MGMT is known for taking a contrarian stance on just about everything ranging from the prospects of living famously to their careers in music becoming too mainstream. It should come as no surprise that one (multiple, really) of their songs has migrated onto the list of things they don’t really care for. Fans of the band were disappointed to learn that MGMT had stricken “Kids” from their 2013 tour altogether, the beginnings of a departure from what the group perceived as being mired in a cycle of making music by pouring ingredients into a pop song success formula.
According to the group’s constituents, Goldwasser and VanWyngarden, this decision was a byproduct of “not trying to make music that everyone understands the first time they hear it”, which, among other things, manifested itself in the form of not wanting to define any singles before the release of their second album, Congratulations. Presently,
MGMT is less than thrilled to revive any of their songs from the record that made them famous in favor of composing material that is entirely non-reminiscent of their earliest and most popular work—a controversial move unappreciated by many of duo’s fans.
3. Baauer – “Harlem Shake”
Harry Rodrigues, otherwise known as the Brooklyn-based DJ Baauer, flew to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2013, riding a track from decidedly humble origins. Produced in his apartment in Williamsburg, NY, “Harlem Shake” exploded after being exposed to the unpredictable nature of the internet. The mix quickly became a phenomenon, spawning a meme of its own along with countless dance videos of people uploading their own clip of themselves flailing about to the song. However, like many pop culture whirlwinds, the appeal quickly faded for Baauer once it blew up out of his hands:
“Overall the song got big for no reason of mine, but I was still connected to it 100 percent,” he tells Corban Goble of Pitchfork, “I got a taste of what it’s like to have a song in that stratosphere and I can tell you that I’m happy with that being the only time it happens. I don’t want that shit.”
At points, Baauer felt as though his privacy had been invaded, and had even received backlash for the erratic and often over-the-top impact of the trend once “Harlem Shake” had reached critical mass. He certainly doesn’t want to keep performing it forever.
“At this point, I’m trying to go from playing the original, to just playing a remix, to maybe putting in one little clip—sort of weaning off of it until I can eventually not play it at all. That would be the perfect thing.”
2. Lorde – “Royals”
Lorde is prevalent enough to receive an honourable mention on this countdown; by way of introspection and watching a ton of YouTube videos, the young pop icon has arrived at the conclusion that her original recording of “Royals” falls short of expectations when thrown up alongside fan-made covers of the song. Speaking with the Daily Record, she explains her current views on the song that made her a household name:
“I listen to people covering the song and putting their own spin on it—and I listen to it in every single form except the original one I put out—and I realize that actually it sounds horrible. It sounds like a ringtone from a 2006 Nokia. None of the melodies are cool or good. It’s disastrous—awful. But, for the same reason, in the context of the way I released it, it just worked out.”
Referring to “Royals” in another sit down with The Music:
“I understand why it worked and why it was kind of a hit, but at the same time there’s part of me that’s like…’these melodies are just not as good as something I could have written now.'”
She’s tired of hearing it. Perhaps as an exercise of sensibility, Lorde now wishes for radio stations to let up on “Royals” a little bit, reasoning that she’d “like to give everyone a little bit of breathing room…” before unveiling something else just as likely to enthrall listeners to the point of insanity.
1. Gotye – “Somebody That I Used To Know”
If there is any artist on this list that has earned a moment’s reprieve from performing a song that they have written, that artist is Gotye. When “Somebody That I Used To Know,” or as I like to call it, “The Tune That Enveloped Us All” finally caught on in the US in January of 2012, there really was no escape; for this reason, it was the prime contender for the number 1 slot on our list. Its near overbearing popularity had seen it rise to the top of charts in 23 countries worldwide, not excluding the US, Australia, and the UK, and the sheer magnitude of its success only reverberated as the song comfortably carved out a place for itself in the top 10 lists of more than 30 other countries around the globe. The indie pop single flourished so wildly that it endures as the iconic centerpiece of Gotye’s music career, winning two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance alongside Record of the Year in 2013.
So, from whence comes the dislike? It’s simply too big! In a past interview with NME, Gotye stated his mixed response to “Somebody That I Used To Know” becoming the sensation that it did:
“I like the fact that people are still discovering it and I don’t feel like it’s a noose around my neck. But at the same time, I do wonder how many times you can listen to the same piece of music. I can’t think of any song that’s ever been picked up like this and I do feel like saying to people sometimes ‘Come on guys, there are other songs out there’.”
In the same interview, somewhere amidst the outrageous level of airplay and the flood of alternate renditions and covers filling his inbox, Gotye had yet to decide whether or not he had it in him to deliver something just as earthshattering as the hit single ever again. When asked, he responded, “Time will tell. I don’t know whether I can or whether I want to.”
Of course, he added that he still enjoyed playing the track live, and that it hadn’t quite become a burden to him yet…back in 2012. It goes without saying that carrying around that kind of baggage for so long wears heavily, and at what sentiments might be stirring beneath Gotye’s calm and collected visage, to this day, the world can only speculate.