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Defending the universally loathed

The Phoenix looks with loving eyes at some of the worst people, places, and things in the world — and gives them a big hug
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  January 14, 2008


Okay, it’s a new year. You’ve “resoluted” this and forsworn that, all so your waistline will shrink and your breath won’t stink. (Good luck with that, by the way.) But as long as you’re being so forgiving with your mind, body, and spirit, perhaps you can extend your generosity to other entities that you previously scrutinized a little too harshly. Forsaken entities that deserve a second chance.

Of course, not every reviled person, place, and thing can be defended. Some have no redeemable qualities whatsoever — think George Steinbrenner, Nazi Germany, adult-contemporary music. But there are other critically and popularly despised articles and individuals worth rescuing from the scrapheap of judgments past

For this exercise, we asked our staff to play defense lawyer for the universally loathed, to find a spark of life in a black hole, to kiss instead of kick. So with an open mind, read on. And embrace that which you thought was un-embraceable.


Album: Standing in the Spotlight, Dee Dee King (a/k/a Dee Dee Ramone)
In the late ’80s, bassist Dee Dee Ramone (née Douglas Colvin) quit his eponymous band and made the absurd decision to record a rap album, under the nom de mic Dee Dee King. It’s since been disparaged as one of the worst albums ever made, and, yes, seen as a hip-hop record, it’s easy to see why. Dee Dee’s rhymes and “rap” vocal phrasing are clueless, and the incoherent execution of the record — in every minute detail, from its pink album cover and photos of Dee Dee, in all his scumbag CBGB glory, mugging with a Run-DMC–style black fedora and Mercedes dookie chains, to ludicrous boasts like “I’m the baddest rapper in Whitestone, Queens” — seems like a lackadaisical gag. (It wasn’t.)

But seen as the great lost Ramones album, Spotlight is more than a rapper’s delight: it’s a happy accident that captures the raw, naive talents of an outsider artist. On display in Spotlight is the formula that fueled the Forest Hills Fab Four’s Rocket to Russia and other early-career successes (successes arguably responsible for every good album made by any rock artist after 1976): cartoonish bravado and fantasy narratives (meeting a mermaid in “Commotion in the Ocean,” becoming the world’s best wrestler in “The Crusher,” being a fucking rapper in multiple tracks); raw id (“I Want What I Want When I Want It”); Spector-esque girl-group vocals (here provided by Debbie Harry on “Mashed Potato Time”); political naiveté bordering on idiocy and a Teuton-centric world view (“German Kid,” which features rapping in Deutsch, and the admittedly cringe-worthy English couplet, “I used to live in Berlin/It’s pretty cool to be half German”).

Dee Dee was delusional, clumsy, and lost, but he was also a goofy genius who, even at his drug-and-drink-addled worst, could pen deceptively simple, hook-riddled nuggets.

— Lance Gould


Single: “Thong Song,” Sisqó
Has there ever been written a more profoundly passionate and sincere ode to underwear — or any garment, for that matter — than Sisqó’s “Thong Song”? And what makes for good music if not conviction? A compelling melody? Check. An engaging beat? Yep. Lyrical craft? Well, we’ll let him slide on that one. Sure, the juxtaposition of grave “Eleanor Rigby”–sounding strings and lines like “She had dumps like a truck” is ludicrous, but if a rapper widely considered to be the greatest ever can quote Austin Powers over a dead-serious Ennio Morricone sample, why can’t Sisqó reference Ricky Martin? (Yeah, I just compared Sisqó to Jay-Z. What of it?) Rolling Stone readers recently voted “Thong Song” the ninth most annoying song of all time. More annoying than Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” (number 11) and Eiffel 65’s “Blue” (number 14)? Seriously? If a soul banger’s catchy, danceable celebration of G-bangers is annoying, well, then send me to the annoying factory. If you don’t have the track handy (not sure why you wouldn’t, but whatever), google “YouTube Thong Song” and give a listen. Check the über-dramatic key change after the breakdown, at around the 3:15 mark. “I don’t think you heard me!” Sisqó belts, voice dripping with emotion. Don’t worry, Sisq — we hear you loud and clear.

— Will Spitz


Country: France
Hypocrisy is a universally human trait, and nature seems to have endowed the French with more than their fair share of it. But to hold that against the French is, well, unnatural. We don’t expect naturally intense New Yorkers to be laid back, or genetically gracious Southerners to be rude, so why should we expect the know-it-all cheese eaters to be anything but Gallic?

The United States was built on the shoulders of French hypocrisy. It was the blockade of Yorktown by the French fleet that was the key to George Washington’s victory over the British. In fact, King Louis XVI more or less bankrupted his nation to help the American revolutionaries shake off the chains of King George III. While Louis was busy helping our rabble-rousers stick it to the Brits, he was busy suppressing his own homegrown revolutionaries, who — when they got the chance — chopped off Louis’s head. Even a nation of hypocrites has a limit to its tolerance. So next time a tired old fart or an energetic young fogy starts to complain that the US saved the Frogs’ lily pad when we bailed them out during WWII, tell them to relax — and eat some cheese.

To be annoyed by French perversity is an exercise in futility. They do it so well. When France failed to enlist in America’s jihad against terrorism, many — such as Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh — dismissed them as surrender monkeys. Well, the French do wonderful things with bananas. Parisians were, no doubt, mordantly pleased with themselves as the Bushies slipped on their own banana peels. Pass the flambé.

Every nation needs to come to terms with its own particular forms of national shame. And, all things considered, France has let itself off lightly when it comes its shameful record of collaboration with the Nazis. As one wit has said: France is just like Germany, but with better food. But that’s something. Eat up.

—Peter Kadzis

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Celebrity News, Entertainment, John Belushi,  More more >
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Defending the universally loathed
The French make the best french fries known to man, not to mention the best french toast. And who can French-kiss like a French woman?
By Ian Donnis on 01/12/2008 at 6:33:57
Defending the universally loathed
I agree that criticism is a consumer convenience. In addition it is usually well written and interesting. That said, true evaluation only obtains between artist and audience. Yale Scholar RWB Lewis said, "Critics don't make canons, writers make canons."
By Ian Donnis on 01/12/2008 at 6:44:51
Defending the universally loathed
In other words, Silber has half a brain, and he's dangerous.
By Ian Donnis on 01/12/2008 at 6:54:03
Defending the universally loathed
I am glad to read Sharon Steel is proud to admit she's devoted to Ashlee Simpson, even if she does find it inexplainable. My devotion to Ashlee is something I CAN explain. And it goes beyond my being an against-the-grainer, a defender of lost causes, a forgiver of miss-takes, a male-feminist fighter against misogyny, an old hippie/punk power popper. Ashlee has tall talent & that's no lie. She has a deep, sexy joyous voice. Her mad music is what matters most & it moves me so. She can break my heart, show it to me & put it back together again. She is the laughing girl w/the most fun house. ..... From Ashes to Smashlee, Dust to Magic Star Dust, this Megatop Phoenix gonna rise above, like us she must. She can sing, she can dance, she can clown, she can bring it on w/everything & more till there's nothing left to lose out on the floor but herself in our l.o.v.e. for her.
By Ian Donnis on 01/13/2008 at 6:33:00

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