YouTube HOF: Favorite Embarrassing Songs and Performances
Creed, “One (Woodstock ’99)”
Bill Simmons: Mention the word “Creed” in 2012 and people will either (A) snicker, (B) say something snarky, or (C) claim they never liked Creed. That’s fine. Creed released three monster albums, turned off America and eventually self-destructed, followed by everyone pretending their meteoric rise never happened (and that we never liked a single one of their songs). These things happen with musical artists: Once people turn on them, there’s no going back. It doesn’t matter that Creed made three multiplatinum albums in five years (1997, 1999 and 2001), sold an estimated 40 million copies and cranked out seven No. 1 hits, or even that their first two albums were critically well-received. People only remember what happened after that. Their third album was reviled by everyone; so was lead singer Scott Stapp, an overly spiritual blowhard who become one of the Internet’s first punching bags. Nearly a decade later, you’d never wear a vintage Creed concert T-shirt, tell Creed stories, crank Creed in your car or argue Creed’s merits in a bar for the simple reason that you might get punched in the face.
Of course, YouTube doesn’t lie — it captures bands at every point of their career, good or bad, almost like a snapshot. If you gave yourself amnesia and watched Creed’s performance of “One” at Woodstock ’99, you’d come away thinking, “Wow, that was a great performance! Creed could really bring it! And Woodstock ’99 looked awesome!”
None of these things are true. I’m almost positive. I never liked Creed. And Woodstock ’99 sucked.
(So why did I watch this clip three times?)
Eden Wood, “Bieber Fever”
Molly Lambert: I have an exceptionally high tolerance for things that other people might find “embarrassing” or “unbelievably fucking annoying,” but this song by Toddlers & Tiaras contestant Eden Wood following up first single “Cutie Patootie” makes me feel deeply ashamed … of how much I love it! The creepy, sultry, Photoshopped YouTube screenshot. Her lil’ Arkansas accent. The long John Waters-endorsed tradition of creepy novelty songs from the under-10 set like Little Cindy’s “Happy Birthday Jesus.” Eden Wood makes Happy Hardcore for those teething out of Kidz Bop. Bieber fever. Beeb-beeb Bieber fever.
Mr. Mister, “Kyrie”
Dan Silver: I’ve only recently come to know the meaning of “Kýrie, eléison,” and it’s not changed my opinion of this awesomely synthesized, screaming-guitar, ethereal rock ballad. And if this weren’t enough, the video is a treasure trove of ’80s archetypes: elegant mullets, a Rutger Hauer doppelganger for a lead singer, earnest-looking drummers, a faux-live performance, sassy keyboardists with Buster Poindexter hair, clapping in unison, staged 16mm “just a fun loving bunch” verite footage, and of course (my favorite), the white pleather trench coat.
4 Non Blondes, “What’s Up” (David Letterman performance)
Mark Lisanti: You ever do that thing where, after a tough day at the office, you grab a ukulele, put on the novelty Rastafarian dread-wig/hat combo you picked up while super high at Lollapalooza ’94, slap your old swim goggles on top of that, and just kind of let it all out with Linda Perry? And by the end of your duet, you’re sort of shuddering from catharsis, but also maybe kind of drenched in tears and wailing like your favorite childhood hamster (Milo) died again? Not to the point where your neighbors in Hollywood are calling the cops, but there’s some volume happening? This has never personally happened to me, but I’d bet that if that very specific combination of things of things were to occur, you’d probably be a little embarrassed to share how special the catalyzing song is with strangers. You know, in theory.
Phish, “Bouncing Around the Room (1990)”
Tess Lynch: This video smells like old hair and gorp. Look at that sea of Caucasian ponytails bobbing along to “a crystal haze, the never-ending coral maze,” dancing in sweet, stupid ignorance as someone taped them on a 15-pound camcorder. My favorite comment: “I snorted a bunch of meth at a Phish concert once and danced ’til there were holes in my socks. That was some pure shit.” Bet that was during “The Squirming Coil,” brah. Don’t get caught by the Makisupa Policeman!
Puff Daddy ft. Sting, “I’ll Be Missing You (Live)”
Rembert Browne: I’m not embarrassed that I love this video. This is easily one of the most iconic MTV VMA performances. 1997’s “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puffy’s beautiful tribute to his best friend, the Notorious B.I.G., with onstage appearances by an emotional Faith Evans (Biggie’s widow), 112 (Jagged Edge-lite), and Sting (loves Tantric sex). I remember watching it in real time and feeling overwhelmed by what was happening, because it was all just so beautiful.
What I’m slightly embarrassed about is the fact that, since this clip appeared on YouTube, I’ve watched it pretty much every day. You really shouldn’t get the chills and tear up after watching the same clip thousands of times, but I can’t help it.
I can’t help it because this performance is really a one-stop shop for me. I mean, there’s a gospel choir, there’s Diddy Dance, a JumboTron montage, the instruction of lighters to be put in the air, and a shout-out to Princess Diana. You know what, I’m not embarrassed anymore. This is simply the best thing ever.
Gin Blossoms, “Found Out About You”
Bill Barnwell: Why do I find myself going to YouTube and finding the video for “Found Out About You” by the Gin Blossoms once every week or two? I don’t like the song. If you were in a car with somebody and this song came on, you would make fun of it and make fun of them for liking it. So would I. It’s the same midtempo, watered-down alternarock that’s led to the likes of Matchbox 20 and Maroon 5 lurking in the CD players and iTunes collections of the uninteresting. (Statistical trend: Bands whose name starts with the letter “M” and finishes with a number are terrible.) I mean, the singer of the Gin Blossoms is wearing a turtleneck in this video. A turtleneck! No good music has ever been created by a guy who was comfortable unironically wearing a turtleneck in his video. And, yes, I didn’t bother to go look up the name of the lead singer from the Gin Blossoms because I felt like it was an embarrassing thing to look up.
I know all that. I believe in it. And yet, I still find myself going to YouTube far too frequently and typing “found out about you gin blossoms” into the search box. It’s gotten to the point where Safari recognizes that I search for this video a lot and suggests it to me when I enter “youtube.com” into the URL bar. I hate myself through every moment of the 30-second VEVO commercial I’m forced to watch while waiting for this stupid song I don’t like to play. But then that guitar part kicks in and, within 15 seconds, I’m tapping the drum part on my desk and doing my best Robin Wilson impression. Shit.
Alanis Morissette, “Ironic”
Jonah Keri: Ripping the song for improper use of the term ironic has been de rigueur since the day it came out. It’s a silly tune with nonsensical lyrics (“10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife”? Really?!) that no self-respecting dude will cop to enjoying. But I can’t help myself. For someone who rarely listens to music unless driving, it’s a great sing-along, the “RAI-III-AAAAAIIIIIN” moment an excellent way to terrify the guy in the car next to you. Alanis being a fellow Canadian might be a slight influence. But really, it’s just a catchy-ass song. I’ve got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is extending its middle finger to the haters.
Jamiroquai, “Virtual Insanity”
Amos Barshad: Airport moving walkways built into the stage?! This shit blew my mind in ’97.
Terence Trent D’Arby, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”
Megan Creydt: An orchestra! And for some reason this guy reminded me of a werewolf, which was compelling. I admit I fast-forwarded through him the first few times — not sure I’m in love with all the fancy voicework he’s putting out there — but how can you resist the mop-of-dreads move at 2:30? You can’t, is the answer.
Lil Zane ft. 112, “Callin’ Me”
Jonathan Abrams: No one has heard of Lil Zane before or after this glorious song. The guy made a checklist for everything a burst-on-the-scene rapper should include in his video. Fly ar? Check. Park the car in front of a plane? Check. Plane with dancing stewardess? Check. Jet Ski? Check? Party at the pool? Of course. Did you know Lil Zane when this song came out in 2000? Probably not. But you wanted to be him. He did a show and had to be in Las Vegas the same night! He shifts seamlessly from rapping that all of his friends are armed to adding “plus we love to ball.” In all, it just shows that 112 could be put onto just about any hook back then and transform it into a hit. Or it’s just a poor reflection of my musical tastes in high school.
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