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June 4, 2014 8:51 AM   Subscribe

From Journey to Beyoncé: The 150 Greatest Schlock Songs Ever

In which Slate's Jody Rosen argues that shlock isn't what we want, it's "... what we need. It’s music that serves our awkward yearnings, in a secular era, for uplift, for a touch of the sacred, for a stairway to heaven. It’s the soundtrack we turn to for a good long cry in a dark little room, when we’re dumped by someone we love. We recoil from schlock even as we lust for it, because it hits us where it counts, revealing us at our most wretchedly vulnerable and human. Which is why, despite our high-minded instincts, we’re stuck with schlock. There are times in life when only thing that will do is a great big tear-jerking cliché, gusting along atop an even bigger melody. As the poet said: We’re livin’ just to find emotion."
posted by philip-random (121 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
We need those songs to remind us how blessed silence can be.
posted by planetesimal at 8:57 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Who volunteers for the modified ludvico of sitting though all 150 in one sitting?
posted by Ferreous at 9:05 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Schlock" is a meaningless term in the context of this list because if the song achieves the artists goal of evoking a feeling, it cannot by definition, be "schlock".

A "schlock" tune is one that makes you feel the opposite of what the artist is trying to get you to feel.

George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" has that effect on me; Instead of arousal, I want to punch myself in the groin when I hear it.
posted by Renoroc at 9:05 AM on June 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


The article doesn't deserve to be dignified.

However, the mention of Love Bites gives me an opportunity to post this Edguy DefLep-alike which I would say harks back to that style except that "harks back" doesn't quite say enough.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2014


This is an overly broad definition of schlock he said person who was once paid cash money to write about Celine Dion
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I read through the whole list and I still can't pin down what is meant by schlock. Whatever the definition is, I have no idea how your choice of a Katy Perry song is "Roar" and not "Firework." That's a major oversight.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:14 AM on June 4, 2014


It's a bit hard to pin down what her definition of "schlock" is, yeah. These sound more like "guilty pleasure" or "cheese" or something like that.

But them including Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" is a travesty. That was a piece of brilliance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on June 4, 2014 [20 favorites]


This seems more like an odd list put together just for the sake of putting together a list than any actual attempt to define what "schlock" is supposed to mean, but boy, Harry Nilsson did have some pipes, didn't he?
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:16 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, I think I get what they mean by schlock - songs that you know are a little silly and cheesy and corny, but if you were at a karaoke bar you would still sing the shit out of them and have a blast.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:16 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Anyone who labels George Jones and Ray Charles as 'schlock,' is not somebody I'd care to drink with.
posted by jonmc at 9:16 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you're thinking about your life in terms like "schlock" vs not, there's a good chance you're over-intellectualizing due to not having enough real things to be concerned about.
posted by the jam at 9:18 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I get Bonnie Tyler, Neil Diamond, and Lionel Richie, but what do songs like "Drops of Jupiter" have to do with schlock? They're too gutless and plain to be anything but pop.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 9:19 AM on June 4, 2014


53. Peter Cetera, “The Glory of Love” (1986)

The Karate Kid II (along with Grease 2) is at or near the top of my list of favorite "so bad it's good" movies. So much goofiness to choose from, but this song playing while Daniel-son romances his Okinawan sweetheart is peak cheese.
posted by The Gooch at 9:20 AM on June 4, 2014


I took "schlock" in this context to mean more "songs that evoke the feelings that people really do have but do not admit because they are excessive/embarrassing/pathetic/ridiculous". Because I am a total music snob, I am unfamiliar with the vast, vast majority of these songs and artists, but surely most people have felt some kind of great saccharine welling-up of "if you don't love me I'll just die" or "everything I do, I do it for you" or "I am a heroic survivor moving past my extraordinarily tragic break-up".


(I used to date someone who did this great acoustic cover of ABBA's "SOS", and it was sad as heck to hear.)
posted by Frowner at 9:22 AM on June 4, 2014


I think this article was the result of a drunken wager. "Hey, Jody! I bet you can't write an article about this list of 150 random songs I made!" "The hell I can't! Give 'em here!"
posted by TedW at 9:23 AM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Schlock" is a meaningless term in the context of this list because if the song achieves the artists goal of evoking a feeling, it cannot by definition, be "schlock".

I don't know; I think something can evoke a feeling and still be schlocky. I've always taken "schlock" to mean that it's over-the-top corny, ham-fisted, heart-on-sleeve by-the-numbers and, uh, various other hyphenated things. It can still be effective at getting an emotional response even if you hate how they did it and saw it coming a mile away and feel like it's been done a hundred times.
posted by Hoopo at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


That was a piece of brilliance.

It's all in the Top Three for me. Over The Rainbow and Purple Rain -- they deserve whatever accolade is thrown at them, because they not only cut it as top notch aural sculptures, they're also, in their way, about the very thing all of this is about. Over the Rainbow is about the big and impossible dream, the unattainable. Rain that is purple is rain that is deliciously, ridiculously resplendent, and thus the stuff of epiphany and transcendence.

But that Journey chunk of rat poison at #3 is the kind of thing that people would pay for with their lives in the bloody aftermath of my revolution ... if I was a violent person.
posted by philip-random at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm stunned at how many of those songs I don't recognize. I grew up in the '70s for gods sake. I thought I knew all the schlock there was.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:27 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I took "schlock" in this context to mean more "songs that evoke the feelings that people really do have but do not admit

That's how it looked to me.

Part of growing up is learning to accept and own your emotional responses to art (with a sense of proportion), rather than being embarrassed that you have them.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:28 AM on June 4, 2014


Anyone who labels George Jones and Ray Charles as 'schlock,' is not somebody I'd care to drink with.

If we take schlock to mean over the top, slightly corny, emotion that somehow still works completely (not the usual definition, but it seems to be where the author is going), the question isn't why is George Jones on this list, but rather why is he only on it once. You're telling me there are 150 songs that do that better than "The Grand Tour"? Not true.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:29 AM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Under this definition of schlock, it's my favorite kind of music. I need this playlist.
posted by asperity at 9:31 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm stunned at how many of those songs I don't recognize. I grew up in the '70s for gods sake. I thought I knew all the schlock there was.

I wonder how many of them are in the "I knew the song but didn't recognize them by the title" category for you? Like, "Into The Night" for instance; it doesn't really evoke any recognition in me looking at the title, but if you put it on and I heard that very first falsetto, "Sheeeeee's juuuuuuust sixteen years old....leave her alone, they saaaaaaaaaaaay....." I would instantly know what you mean.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just have to sort of reject any attempt to apply this sort of analysis to what at the end of the day is really just a matter of personal taste.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:33 AM on June 4, 2014


Oh hey, now I'm wondering at a couple of omissions - "Just a Friend" and "Hey Jude" aren't on there?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Some of my favorite jams are on that list, along side of some of the most truly awful sounds ever committed to vinyl (or tape, or ether.)

Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:35 AM on June 4, 2014


. . . I am, however glad to hear someone else say this:
"The Long and Winding Road" . . . was superlative schlock in the first place. By the time Phil Spector got finished glopping strings on top, it was a Mantovanni-worthy schlockstravaganza.
-- because for years apologists have blamed Spector for the results, but we've now had every opportunity to hear the record without Spector's additions, and it remains a long and bor ing song -- bup bah -- yeah yeah yeah.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:35 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


"The Worst That Could Happen" by Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge is probably my nominee for most glaring omission. There's a couple Gary Puckett songs that should probably be there too ("Young Girl," "Woman, Woman"), but I get that not everyone has realized how great Gary Puckett is.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:37 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Neither Paul McCartney nor Elton John have enough entries on this list.

Note: I love Paul McCartney and Elton John.
posted by thivaia at 9:37 AM on June 4, 2014


Schlock can be good and still be schlock. Schlock can be terrible and still be schlock. Above all though, schlock is lurid. Most of these songs certainly qualify by that criteria.
posted by Ferreous at 9:42 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also:

1. The author has apparently never heard "MacArthur Park".

2. Let us praise the owners/designers of the site for a) placing the entirety of a list of 150 short items on a single page when they could've done the click-bait thing, and b) including a Youtube link for each listing in case you aren't familiar with it.

So C+ for composition, but A- at least for neatness and penmanship.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:43 AM on June 4, 2014 [23 favorites]


MACARTHUR PARK! Oh my god, that's the most shocking omission yet....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:45 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


On a side note november rain will always stick in my mind as being the song recommended to me by an absurdly bombastic ex con I worked in a kitchen with as the best song to get a lapdance to because "no one realizes how long it is when you request it, the stripper's knees will give out before the song does"
posted by Ferreous at 9:47 AM on June 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Ack! #14 is Danny Boy. I have no idea why that song pushes the copious-amounts-of-tears button for me, but it does. Every. Single. Time. If someone - anyone - starts singing it, I have to walk out or my companions have to endure a weeping Jessian. If that's schlock, then it works.
posted by jessian at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2014


Ferreous, that kind of sounds like the justification behind all my high school dances ending with "Stairway to Heaven" - it's slow and it's long, so the lovebirds could get one last long good dance in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2014


MacArthur Park is #72.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 9:50 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


MACARTHUR PARK! Oh my god, that's the most shocking omission yet....

I believe he went with the Donna Summer version, which may be "better", but it pales in the lurid column.
posted by philip-random at 9:51 AM on June 4, 2014


Exactly, but stealthier. I would assume most strip clubs would be well aware of someone trying to wring value out with stairway to heaven and charge accordingly. November rain slips under the radar until it's too late.
posted by Ferreous at 9:51 AM on June 4, 2014


Your favorite definition of the word "schlock" suks.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:51 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


You want to talk shocking omissions? Brandy (You're a Fine Girl).
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


1. The author has apparently never heard "MacArthur Park".

it was the first thing I thought of at the word "schlock".

Possibly omitted for being just absolutely bizarre and inexplicable. What a strange image, the cake thing. And to put that much gravitas behind it musically. Also, how on earth could you "never have the recipe again"? It's a fucking cake, not the Great Pyramids. Whatever parallel he's trying to draw doesn't even work.
posted by Hoopo at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2014


The author has apparently never heard "MacArthur Park

MACARTHUR PARK! Oh my god, that's the most shocking omission yet....


It's even more tzl'oqqy in the original Klingon*

MacArthur Park is #72.

Yeah, I searched on "Richard Harris" before posting. That's a different record.


-----------------------------------
*well, actually it's Jimmy Webb and his piano, live. Unbelievable.

posted by Herodios at 9:58 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Glaring omission: Bob Seger - Night Moves

The wistful coming of age part is schlocky enough, but when you get to ending chorus with all the backup singers it drives off a cliff and explodes
posted by Ferreous at 10:00 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


SCANS LIST FOR STEINMAN....



SCANNING....



SCANNING...




STEINMAN HAS BEEN DETECTED.

QUANTITY AND RANKING DETERMINED TO BE ADEQUATE, BUT NOT IDEAL.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:02 AM on June 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


And then there are the Eurovision winners that occasionally made it into the top 20 here in the US.

Save all Your Kisses For Me

Or the Jaques Brel 'translation' that's...I don't know. Seasons in the Sun

Or the most obvious one of all (I didn't miss it, did I, because...c'mon!)

Copacabana.

The seventies, so very, very weird.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:02 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Whatever the definition is, I have no idea how your choice of a Katy Perry song is "Roar" and not "Firework." That's a major oversight.

I think a case can be made in favor of "Roar". The song is uniquely lazy in that the lyrics are primarily just a series of variants of well-worn phrases/trite cliches ("From zero to hero", "Eye of the tiger", "If you stand for nothing you'll fall for anything", "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", "Was down but got back up") under the guise of being inspirational. If I didn't know better I'd think it was parody.
posted by The Gooch at 10:04 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think "And I am Telling You" from Dreamgirls has probably achieved schlock status now. No one seems to be able to sing it anymore without practically coughing up a lung.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:06 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


philip-random: It's all in the Top Three for me. Over The Rainbow and Purple Rain -- they deserve whatever accolade is thrown at them, because they not only cut it as top notch aural sculptures, they're also, in their way, about the very thing all of this is about. Over the Rainbow is about the big and impossible dream, the unattainable. Rain that is purple is rain that is deliciously, ridiculously resplendent, and thus the stuff of epiphany and transcendence.

But that Journey chunk of rat poison at #3 is the kind of thing that people would pay for with their lives in the bloody aftermath of my revolution ... if I was a violent person.


Do you have perchance a newsletter to which one might subscribe?

Also consider hiring Heroodios as editor; his/her resume is impeccable:

Herodios: 1. The author has apparently never heard "MacArthur Park".

2. Let us praise the owners/designers of the site for a) placing the entirety of a list of 150 short items on a single page when they could've done the click-bait thing, and b) including a Youtube link for each listing in case you aren't familiar with it.

So C+ for composition, but A- at least for neatness and penmanship.


--

knuckle tattoos: MacArthur Park is #72.

It deserves to be on there twice. At least.

I once heard a William Shatner spoken-word version. Yet I live. Clearly there is no mercy in this world.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:08 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]



Also, how on earth could you "never have the recipe again"? It's a fucking cake, not the Great Pyramids.

Maybe the narrator is Latvian?


Which would also explain why I can't make a cake.

posted by louche mustachio at 10:10 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


the cake is a metaphor for a love affair. So yes, you could bake a cake again, but not the same cake, hence a different recipe.

It's not a good metaphor, but it is a metaphor.
posted by philip-random at 10:17 AM on June 4, 2014


So yes, you could bake a cake again, but not the same cake, hence a different recipe.

So it's like a philosophical thing then? Like the "you can never step in the same river twice"?
posted by Hoopo at 10:21 AM on June 4, 2014


Maybe the narrator is Latvian?


Which would also explain why I can't make a cake.


Make some dough, add some love, put it in.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:25 AM on June 4, 2014


"Thunder Road” (1975)
The screen door slams … and the schlock is unleashed.


I WILL CUT YOU
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:25 AM on June 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


The seventies, so very, very weird.

Oh ho!

You want 1970s Schlock? Get a whiff o' this:

Apache 1977 Tommy Seeeback's cover of the Shadows / Jørgen Ingmann records puts the mental in instrumental (the video must be seen to be believed).

Does schlock get any schlockier than the disco version of the Star Wars theme? Or A Fifth of Beethoven?

Still in the ring and swinging: the 1950s and 1960s. The author lists Little Anthony for "Tears on My Pillow" (a great song and a great record) but not Tell Laura I Love Her or Hey Paula?

Then there's hippy-schlock: Are You a Boy? and after calling out The Tops for "Reach Out I'll Be There", they missed: Reach Out in the Darkness (I think it's so groovy, now . . . )
 
posted by Herodios at 10:36 AM on June 4, 2014


Schlock is an English word of Yiddish origin meaning "something cheap, shoddy, or inferior"

I think the author means "cheesiest" or perhaps "kitschiest" ... dunno.

Regardless, I don't see how Purple Rain fits anywhere in such a list.

BAD LIST.

Missing:

Mr. Big - To Be With You
Nelson - (Can't Live Without Your) Love And Affection
Damn Yankees - High Enough
Poison - Something to Believe In
Skid Row - I Remember You

and that's just one genre.

Macarthur Park Suite by Donna Summer is one of the greatest records ever made. You all are fools.

Glaring omission: Bob Seger - Night Moves

I was gonna say "there's your thread winner," ... don't get no schlockier than ol' Bob.

...

Then I remembered Shakedown. It don't get more schlockier.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:38 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Schlock implies cheap and low-quality, like a Harbor Freight tool. The Björk song Bachelorette starts with the lyrics: I'm a fountain of blood / In the shape of a girl. Given that these are THE TWO GREATEST LINES IN MUSIC, it by definition can't be schlock.

Also, Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" is a tender song of heartbreak with an admittedly somewhat schlocky spoken word section. Whitney Houston's version is 100% pure grade-A schlock (albeit really well-sung schlock).

Mostly I think this list is "150 songs the writer liked and could find on YouTube".
posted by dirigibleman at 10:39 AM on June 4, 2014


and wait a fucking minute.

how does I Will Always Love You (which, not my thing, seems like a decent song) make the list and not Me and Little Andy!?

"Aintcha got no gingerbread? / Aintcha got no candy? / Aintcha got an extra bed for me and little ... (whispered) Andy?"

I want to say these are supposed to be guilty pleasures, but not really. Weird list.

Mostly I think this list is "150 songs the writer liked and could find on YouTube".

Close, but that discredits YouTube. YouTube has almost everything. Except, ironically, PURPLE RAIN. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I saw the FPP I was thinking of Brandi or '65 Love Affair or the like.

I have now learned that "Schlock" and "Dreck" are not necessarily identical, at least according to this listicle.
posted by Danf at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2014


From the link:

7. The Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love?” (1977)
When those harmony vocals rise over the tinkling soft-rock keyboards — it’s like the sun coming up.


Oh my god yes.
posted by kgasmart at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]





Make some dough, add some love, put it in.
That's how you end up with a shitty cake.

the cake is a metaphor for a love affair. So yes, you could bake a cake again, but not the same cake, hence a different recipe.


I HOPE YOU LIKE PIE.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]



Oh ho!

You want 1970s Schlock? Get a whiff o' this:


I know a challenge when I heare one.

Run Joey Run

BooYa!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:00 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


And, to pile on:

One Tin Soldier

Sadly, I could do this all day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:01 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


From the link:

7. The Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love?” (1977)


except the Bee Gees have so many more palpable eruptions of the sticky sweet stuff in their pre-Disco phase.

World for instance.

Of course, it rains every day.
posted by philip-random at 11:02 AM on June 4, 2014


Okay, I'mma play the ultimate in 70's schlock:

I've Never Been To Me.

Top that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:04 AM on June 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


have now learned that "Schlock" and "Dreck" are not necessarily identical, at least according to this listicle.

So did anyone else RTFA that goes with TF list?
The truth is, we’re capricious in our judgments about schlock. Dave Marsh derides the “triviality” and “banality” of Journey’s schlock-rock, but there is no more flaming schlock purveyor than Marsh’s beloved Bruce Springsteen . . . critical gatekeepers have often gone along with the charade, damning Bon Jovi’s bombast while ignoring — or, rather, relishing without owning up to — Bon Iver’s.
Rat own, Daddio, and I'm glad to see someone else coming out in print on this!
 
posted by Herodios at 11:05 AM on June 4, 2014


Schlock does not seem the right word for these songs, but I see what the article is going for. These are supposed to be songs that you earnestly sing along to and which cause you to have genuine emotions, but you're pretty embarrassed about the fact that you're earnestly singing along and having genuine emotions.

I sincerely object to Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt being included among the likes of the other choices on the list though. That cover is sublime and gutting, almost difficult to listen to, knowing that it is essentially Johnny Cash facing his imminent death. This is not a song you sing along to, and it is not a song you should feel embarrassed about crying over. It sticks out like a sore thumb as a grim reflection on mortality while most of the other songs on the list are earnest songs about love and heartbreak. There's a level of ironic distance in the cultural appreciation for most of the other songs on the list, which I think is missing in the near-universal admiration of Hurt.
posted by yasaman at 11:07 AM on June 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


except the Bee Gees have so many more palpable eruptions of the sticky sweet stuff in their pre-Disco phase.

Every song on that whole earlier greatest hits album could qualify. "New York Mining Disaster, 1941"

Anyway, "How Deep is Your Love" is a complex tune, a lot going on in terms of chords, I've tried to get this thing going on acoustic guitar and it's just tough. Maybe I just need the falsettos.
posted by kgasmart at 11:09 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The song is uniquely lazy in that the lyrics are primarily just a series of variants of well-worn phrases/trite cliches

I don't know if I'd say 'uniquely' lazy. Have you ever heard a Bon Jovi song?
posted by box at 11:15 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Okay, I'mma play the ultimate in 70's schlock:

I've Never Been To Me.

Top that.


Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast

I think we're done here.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:15 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


And this dandy little number from 1983

Nobody
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:16 AM on June 4, 2014



I think we're done here.

not so fast
posted by philip-random at 11:22 AM on June 4, 2014


Top that.

Don't Cry Out Loud
posted by 23skidoo at 11:24 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ray Charles' America the Beautiful (with the ORIGINAL first verse!) is schlock? That's when I stopped reading.

(No, of course, I read the rest. It's about half right. Rosen doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference between schlock and great, emotional, powerful songs, over the top or no. I wonder what he says about opera, which is the most oversung, over-the-top, emotions-on-your-sleeve, nothings-subtle musical art form.)
posted by aureliobuendia at 11:25 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think we're done here.

not so fast


UNCLE!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:29 AM on June 4, 2014


....I see your matching my 70's schlock bet, and raise you all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


....I see your matching my 70's schlock bet, and raise you all.

Have we really got this far without Half Breed?!

Can we all just go throw a Have a Nice Day party now?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:45 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


. . . I am, however glad to hear someone else say this:
"The Long and Winding Road" . . . was superlative schlock in the first place. By the time Phil Spector got finished glopping strings on top, it was a Mantovanni-worthy schlockstravaganza.
-- because for years apologists have blamed Spector for the results, but we've now had every opportunity to hear the record without Spector's additions, and it remains a long and bor ing song -- bup bah -- yeah yeah yeah.


YES YES YES I love Paul and I love the Beatles and yet I hate this song so much with the fire of a thousand suns. It's the Long and Winding Song. Long and Winding and Ceaseless and Dull and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Last year I had the honor of seeing Sir Paul in concert at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. When he began to play "The Long and Winding Road" literally EVERYONE in my section got up to take a bathroom break/get more beer. I felt vindicated in my hatred of the song. And then I also felt kind of mean - I was in a floor seat near the stage and I was just hoping that because of the lights Paul couldn't see the extreme MASS EXODUS that had just occurred. Because seriously, EVERYONE.

Including me. I can't bear that song, even performed live by Macca himself. Optimal bathroom break time.
posted by thereemix at 11:47 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


that Journey chunk of rat poison at #3 is the kind of thing that people would pay for with their lives in the bloody aftermath of my revolution

Jamelle Bouie once called "Don't Stop Believin'" "the 'Lift Every Voice And Sing' for white people" and it's honestly the best description of that song ever.

If we take schlock to mean over the top, slightly corny, emotion that somehow still works completely (not the usual definition, but it seems to be where the author is going)

And that's the problem with this piece. Rosen wants to call that kind of thing "schlock," then make a rhetorical turn and argue that schlock is actually a fine thing. I think it's simpler to just say that a(n overly) melodramatic appeal to the emotions is the default state of popular song (possibly the default state of song) and that schlock is a song (or a performance) that tries to appeal to our emotions and stumbles into bathos. When I think schlock, I don't think of "Over The Rainbow" or Ray Charles or George Jones or even Journey, I think of most of the contestants on American Idol or Paris Hilton's record or Up With People. (Tho even that kind of thing has its pleasures) Schlock isn't something that thrills us, however manipulatively; schlock is something that tries to thrill us manipulatively and fails.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:52 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Can we all just go throw a Have a Nice Day party now?

Really, one day on Channel 7 on Sirius ought to do it.

/goes to fetch headphones to plug in for the rest of the day
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:56 AM on June 4, 2014


My love of The Losers hinges pretty much entirely on its use of Don't Stop Believin'.

As does my love of Don't Stop Believin', for that matter.
posted by ckape at 12:03 PM on June 4, 2014


Lame article and list. "Schlock" means something of poor quality or maybe overwrought or cheesy. While most of this stuff is mainstream, a lot of these are classic well-done pop songs that are fairly earnest and hold up really well today. I guess you have to be insecure or in a certain pressure-filled hip group to not just like what you like. These are more "Songs that were hits and are produced in a manner I would not choose if I was trying to get my band a spot at an indie music showcase".

My own personal bane is indie solo acoustic "sad bastard music" as my friend calls it. That's more what I think of as "schlocky". Or maybe Morrissey's solo stuff, that's pretty phoned in and over-dramatic.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:08 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


not so fast

BOOGER!
posted by octobersurprise at 12:23 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


No shit y'all MacArthur Park is playing on Sirius RIGHT NOW!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:27 PM on June 4, 2014


My own personal bane is indie solo acoustic "sad bastard music" as my friend calls it.

There's a hell of a lot of schlock in the "I have a guitar and I can sing off-key in what I think is a quaint fashion" genre, but it doesn't get recognised as such very often because singing off-key is perceived as authentic in a way that mass-produced pop is not. If it's authentic, it can't be schlock. (Of course, obscure singer-songwriters don't have to be any more authentic than pop stars.)

At least that's how I see it, anyway. Schlock can't actually come from the heart; it's an over-exaggerated, trite imitation of the heart.

This is a weird list, though. I don't get where the author is coming from at all.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:28 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ray Charles America the Beautiful is a perfect example of how to sing with tempo rubato.

Bleeding Gums Murphy's rendition of The Star Spangled Banner is more tempo furto aggravato.
posted by plinth at 12:29 PM on June 4, 2014


People are so grumpy about music!

Anyway, I liked this list and article. The blurbs were quite succinct but often got at some essential element of the song. I liked how catholic it all was, too - from 1890s sheet music through to Bjork and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (oh my GOD, "Maps" is sublime schlock).

If we take "schlock" to mean lurid, overdramatic, chest-thumpingly emotional, maybe a little bit tasteless or embarrassing to a grown-ass adult if it comes on shuffle when fancy company's over for a dinner party . . . then yeah. Schlocky songs throughout the ages.

If this isn't what "schlock" means to you, or you cannot conceive of how a song could be simultaneously good/enjoyable and also schlocky, then I think you may not be picking up what this list is laying down.
posted by erlking at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]




Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town is also more my definition of schlock.
posted by Danf at 12:47 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


If we take "schlock" to mean lurid, overdramatic, chest-thumpingly emotional, maybe a little bit tasteless or embarrassing to a grown-ass adult if it comes on shuffle when fancy company's over for a dinner party . . . then yeah.

Well, yes. If we define "schlock" as anything you or Rosen wouldn't play at a dinner party then it all makes perfect sense.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:48 PM on June 4, 2014


How this list doesn't have America/England Dan and Jon Ford Coley/Seals and Crofts/Bread is beyond my comprehension. You want to talk schlock? These boys delivered. The deeply emotional warbling! Over what, I ask you? I inevitably connect their maudlin AAC/soft rock bleating with a miserable wait in the doctor's/dentist's reception - and that image is a cliche for a reason!

I mean, If, for crying out loud. Ugh.

And I'm not even going to link that dang horse song.
posted by droplet at 1:11 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Clearly the problem with picking 150 "best" schlock songs is that we have a near-inexhaustible supply of it.

My definition of schlock is: something that makes me cry and then feel shame for being moved by such a hamfisted yanking of the heartstrings.

See: "Wildfire". That poor horse.
posted by emjaybee at 1:18 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Let's not forget that in the early 70's the Vietnam war inspired some epic shlock, as well as evil schlock.
posted by TedW at 1:24 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]



I'm not even going to link that dang horse song.

I quite like "Horse With No Name" and I think people who claim it sounds like a Neil Young rip-off are just repeating received wisdom, particularly those who weren't alive and consuming rock radio when the record came out.

Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town is also more my definition of schlock.

Schlock now: Daring then.

glad to hear someone else say this: '"The Long and Winding Road" . . . was superlative schlock in the first place. . . .' -- because . . . it remains a long and bor ing song . . .

YES . . . I love Paul [but] hate this song . . . Sir Paul . . . Macca . . .


I am glad we agree on the song and on the high variability on McCartney's output . . .
but "Macca" gives me a rash -- and unless you are a British subject, "Sir" is superfluous.
I notice nobody over here refers to knighted politicians and scientists by their titles -- just pop stars and movie actors.

posted by Herodios at 1:25 PM on June 4, 2014


Let's not forget that in the early 70's the Vietnam war inspired some epic shlock, as well as evil schlock.

I was really expecting the second link to be to "Ballad of the Green Beret," yet it was even worse.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2014


evil schlock

Oh my. That's really bad. And I must confess, I'd totally missed it. I heard the sentiment a lot then, but never this song.

So -- thanks? I guess.
 
posted by Herodios at 1:39 PM on June 4, 2014


No Bobby Goldsboro? This list is bullshit!
posted by MikeMc at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think people who claim it sounds like a Neil Young rip-off are just repeating received wisdom, particularly those who weren't alive and consuming rock radio when the record came out.

I actually thought it was him until just now. When I heard it as a kid, Neil Young was the only guy I knew who sang like that. So no, not repeating received wisdom.
posted by Hoopo at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2014


Anyone who labels George Jones and Ray Charles as 'schlock,' is not somebody I'd care to drink with.

Between those, and the inclusion of Thunder Road, this person needs to be locked in a room with a radio that plays only Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" and "Watching Scotty Grow", Morris Albert's "Feelings", the Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight" and Sylvia's "I've Never Been to Me". Fuck this writer.
posted by Ber at 1:50 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Think of Laura?
posted by Dirjy at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2014


I am glad we agree on the song and on the high variability on McCartney's output . . .
but "Macca" gives me a rash -- and unless you are a British subject, "Sir" is superfluous.
I notice nobody over here refers to knighted politicians and scientists by their titles -- just pop stars and movie actors.


"Macca" gives me a rash too but I really only think of him that way when I'm listening to his more insufferable output (like "Long and Winding" and, I am ashamed to admit, "Maybe I'm Amazed" which is another very schlocky song that goes on for about 10 minutes longer than it needs to). I think I just associate the stupid nickname with the stupid songs.

I know "Sir" is superfluous but I get a kick out of saying "Sir Paul" and "Sir Mick" and "Sir Elton" and so on because it used to drive my mother INSAAAAANE (she thought knighting pop stars was exceedingly silly) and in my heart I'm still a pre-teen who enjoys needling my mother.
posted by thereemix at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]




Pretend the author didn't use the word "schlock." Pretend he used the word "purple," and that he said a purple song is a song that is (a) sung sincerely by the artist and (b) sopping with emotion, such that a listener in the wrong mood would roll their eyes in disbelief.

The problem with the word "schlock" is that it's a value judgment. By using that word, he's implying that (e.g.) Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt" is second-rate, or pablum, or something that you Should Not Like.

The problem with the idea, as is pointed out in the article's comments, is that its expansiveness threatens to render it meaningless. I wish Rosen had illustrated more songs that aren't schlock so that the reader can more easily discern where he's coming from.

But I will agree that he's on to something here. Of the 150 songs he lists, I hate a lot of them, and I love a lot of them, yet I recognize that the hate-songs and the love-songs have something in common, even if it ends up having very little to do with my ultimate judgment of merit.
posted by savetheclocktower at 2:47 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


What, no "Muskrat Love?" No "Precious and Few?" No "All By Myself?" I could go on and on and on...this list is just scratching the surface.
posted by Fuzzypumper at 3:04 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


From the second link: [Rolling Stone reviewer] Frost wrapped up her piece with a vision of Journey’s obsolescence: “Maybe there really are a lot of ‘streetlight people’ out there. If so, my guess is that they’ll soon glow out of it.”

Funny thing is that "Don't Stop Believin'" and Journey are still chugging along while Rolling Stone rushes headlong into obsolescence. Journey: 1 Rolling Stone critics: 0
posted by MikeMc at 3:11 PM on June 4, 2014


post this Edguy DefLep-alike

Among all my metalhead friends, I am often laughed at for really really enjoying Edguys transformation over their last few albums from pretty good if kinda generic Euro Power Metal band into a fucking amazing Cock Rock band. How can one not love Lavatory Love Machine?
posted by mediocre at 3:19 PM on June 4, 2014


Based solely on this list, I suspected Mr. Rosen didn't have any idea what he's talking about. Then I read the essay and was sure.

I mean if I'm not the biggest solo-acoustic hack in this thread, I'll be stunned. None of my regular set is on the list? C'mon.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:05 PM on June 4, 2014


About half of these songs I've sung at karaoke and about half of them I'm about to go sing at karaoke as soon as possible!
posted by Kwine at 5:26 PM on June 4, 2014


Possibly omitted for being just absolutely bizarre and inexplicable. What a strange image, the cake thing. And to put that much gravitas behind it musically. Also, how on earth could you "never have the recipe again"? It's a fucking cake, not the Great Pyramids. Whatever parallel he's trying to draw doesn't even work.

Well, Jimmy Webb once explained in an interview that the literal inspiration for this odd metaphor was his seeing a Saturday afternoon outdoor Wedding Reception which was suddenly drenched in a flash rain shower. I think he attached this poignant image to a recent romance break-up that he experienced. The never having the recipe again part is figurative. The random cake was literal. I think it combines together into something like a sort-of mixed metaphor, and some people don't really like mixed metaphors, but personally I don't mind.
posted by ovvl at 5:41 PM on June 4, 2014


"Schlock" is a meaningless term in the context of this list because

I think I figured it out. Jody Rosen got his wording wrong.

Not "schlock" --

schmaltz
noun \ˈshmȯlts, ˈshmälts\

: music, art, etc., that is very sad or romantic in usually a foolish or exaggerated way

... which makes a helluva lot more sense, sadness and romance being prone to foolishness and/or exaggeration. It may not explain Johnny Cash's Hurt or Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road but it certainly explains the cake left out in the rain, the daddy walking so fast, the yearning for whatever it is that might be over that rainbow.
posted by philip-random at 6:14 PM on June 4, 2014


But that Journey chunk of rat poison at #3 is the kind of thing that people would pay for with their lives in the bloody aftermath of my revolution

the offense of claiming the boy is from "south detroit" is worth an execution on its own
posted by pyramid termite at 6:21 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


philip-random: “Not "schlock" -- schmaltz”
Rosen rejects schmaltz as not inclusive enough in the linked essay:
Schlock has a close relative in another Yiddishism, schmaltz — a label often given to music that is swamped by goopy sentimentality, as a roast chicken is swamped by rendered fat. Much schlock music qualifies as schmaltz, or is at least very schmaltzy. But schlock is a broader category than schmaltz; it makes room for songs that are grandiose but less reliant on lachrymose sounds and sentiments. (Toto’s “Africa” is schlock but not schmaltz, concealing its torch-ballad bombast beneath a placid easy-listening arrangement.) Other terms are sometimes used interchangeably with schlock: kitsch, cheese, camp. Schlock contains elements of these, but none are true synonyms. Schlock is more dignified than kitsch like “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” or Red Sovine’s tearjerker trucker ballad “Teddy Bear.” It is weightier, more substantial, than pure pop cheese like the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” or novelty-song cheese Los del Rio’s “Macarena.” And while certain listeners embrace schlock, with both affection and condescension, as camp, schlock itself is allergic to the irony that is a prerequisite of camp. A karaoke singer might perform “The Rose” or “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or “Kiss From a Rose” as a campy sendup, but Bette Midler and Poison and Seal take those songs seriously — offer up those roses on bended knee. Schlock is earnest and solemn; it’s ambitious and aspirational and exalted. It shoots for the moon or, at least, for the penthouse suite.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:39 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


adding to Bulgaroktonos' list, one more Gary Puckett: Lady Willpower
posted by leotrotsky at 6:59 PM on June 4, 2014


#62, Guy Lombardo, Canada reprazent!

also,

Let's listen to #90 again, Tom Waits/West Side Story. It's profound.
posted by ovvl at 7:07 PM on June 4, 2014


What, no "Muskrat Love?"

A little respect please for Spider John the Outlaw, the original composer of the song (when it was called Muskrat Candlelight). Don't hold him responsible for the covers.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:23 PM on June 4, 2014


Journey wouldn't be this high on the list but for the Sopranos. I hope that Jon Cain, Neal Schon and Steve Perry sent David Chase something really nice for Christmas that year.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:31 PM on June 4, 2014


Whaaaaa! /donald duck

No Cheap Trick? Those guys consciously made great schlock.
posted by telstar at 8:01 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seemed such a poorly defined, appallingly broad grabbag. For that I sentence the author to listen to 150 consecutive playings of Christopher Cross's "Sailing."
posted by NorthernLite at 8:47 PM on June 4, 2014


On the radio this morning, I heard two songs that really should have been on the list:

REO Speedwagon, "Keep On Loving You"
Collective Soul, "The World I Know"

And a rule of thumb: If your rock or pop song contains a string section, it's very likely schlock.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:13 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, what a glorious trainwreck of an article (and thread!) Thanks for the laughs :)

About ten years ago, around the holidays, I conceived of an 'email game' for my family - we would take it in turn to add to a list of 'Most annoying songs, ever', aka earworms. We were originally going to stop when we reached one hundred entries, but much like this thread, we all kept trying to top each other, so we ended up with about 600 I think.*

So many of those songs represented here!

* I wish I could find that list now, but it was a decade and many email accounts ago :(
posted by PlantGoddess at 6:52 AM on June 5, 2014


No Dan Fogelberg, "Longer"?
posted by Chrysostom at 7:02 AM on June 5, 2014


No Bryan Adams? (Everything I Do) I do it for you....
posted by cass at 8:56 AM on June 5, 2014


I think her definition of schlock is audio equivalent of black and white photography. There a lot of schlock photography where someone takes a picture, turns it grey scale, then says "look, a Photograph!". They make a cheap and easy version of deep, instead of actual deep.
posted by BurnChao at 2:56 PM on June 7, 2014


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