The Worst Songs I Have Ever Heard #13: “My Best Friend’s Brother”

Yesterday, when I was listening to Shabazz Palaces’ rather remarkable new album on Spotify, my enjoyment of Ishamel Butler’s spaced out hip-hop was interrupted by a commercial for a song by someone with the unlikely name of Victoria Justice. That song was called “My Best Friend’s Brother” and I alluded to it in my review of Black Up knowing full well that it was going to end up here eventually. Because without a doubt, “My Best Friend’s Brother” is one of the worst songs I have ever heard. I don’t know who Victoria Justice is, but I do know that she needs to be stopped.

And yes, I’m well aware that this music isn’t being made for people like me (that is, people who have any kind of discerning taste whatsoever), but Spotify clearly isn’t aware of that fact because they fucking advertised this piece of shit right into my earholes when I was trying to listen to some groovy, laid back hip-hop. So if this makes your tween-ager weep, blame Spotify. And then stop letting your fucking kids read Bollocks!.

“My Best Friend’s Brother” starts off with the kind of produced-until-lifeless synth and guitar riffs (over programmed drums, no less) that have backed every teenage pop track since Britney first demanded that you hit her, baby, one more time. It’s a formula that has been vile since its inception but it’s hardly the most stupefying thing about this particular song.

The thing I find the most baffling about “My Best Friend’s Brother” is its central premise. I just don’t see what’s so taboo about having the hots for your best friend’s sibling. If Ms. Justice was jonesing for her best friend’s boyfriend (or girlfriend maybe), I could see a conflict. But it’s not like Justice’s best friend is fucking her own brother, so what’s the problem? Is the brother in question a notorious brute who likes to beat the shit out of women (the song says he’s a “punk rock drummer” but I’m guessing Victoria Justice and I disagree vehemently about who is and who is not a punk rock drummer)? The song never bothers to say why exactly Justice’s best friend would object to the relationship, which makes Justice’s love seem about as forbidden as brushing your teeth.

And of course, the video has a stupid fucking dance that goes along with the chorus and said dance actually features a part where Justice motions for the hearer of her dirty little secret to keep mum about it in front of her best friend! So if you watch the video, you will see Victoria Justice attempting to be coy, in a completely Disney-fied way, about something that really doesn’t need to be a secret to begin with and then punching a truck-sized hole (with a dance!) in her own secret plot.

I get that a lot of this teenage Disney shit (I know, because the internet just told me, that “My Best Friend’s Brother” is from something called Victorious, which is a Nickelodeon show, but you get what I mean here) is fundamentally retarded but before you suggest that it shouldn’t matter to me as a functional, devilishly handsome adult with diverse interests and tastes, let me tell you why it should matter to all of us. The underlying message of the success of your Miley Cyruses (who is herself no stranger to our Worst Songs feature), Hillary Duffs, and Victoria Justices is that our kids are fucking stupid. At this juncture, it’s pointless to debate whether they were fucking stupid from the outset or if it is in fact a culture that allows not only Miley Cyrus but her bemulleted scumbag of a father to be (ahem) successful (ahem ahem) musicians that has made them (and perhaps all of us) fucking stupid. Many of us (well, many of you, parents) accept as an immutable fact the idea that our kids will like low-quality dreck when it comes to music (and movies and television) and that it’s just dandy to allow them to consume this shit so long as they keep their mouths shut and bring home a fridge-worthy homework assignment once in a while. But let me ask you this: would you let your kid consume cheeseburgers or Chocodiles with the same degree of passivity? I mean, clearly some of you would because we have an obesity epidemic in this country. But surely most of you (I’d like to think only good parents read Bollocks!. I happen to know a few awesome ones who do) would not allow your kid to consume terrible food the same way they consume culture that is absolutely designed to keep them tugging your pant leg for newest cutesy bullshit to be burned to disc. So I have to ask: why don’t we care about our kids’ cultural consumption as much as we do about their caloric consumption?

It seems to me that we’re only fighting half the battle if we’re working so hard to get our kids to exercise and eat right and then allowing them to poison their brains with shit like “My Best Friend’s Brother.” What good is a healthy body if it houses a mind turned to sludge by auto-tuned, assembly-line music that’s created to get you to tune into (and buy the shitty trademarked merchandise of) vapid, thoughtless television shows? And if you think your kid is somehow incapable of “getting” better music than can be found on Victorious or Hanna fucking Montana, then you’re implying that you agree with Disney and Nickelodeon and Mattel and most major record labels that your kid is fucking stupid. But hey; maybe your kid is fucking stupid. I don’t know. But it seems like exposing them to stuff like “My Best Friend’s Brother” is only gonna make it worse.

And yes, of course, this is ‘Merica and we have a constitutional right to be completely fucking stupid but if you find yourself using that defense for our most inexcusable cultural excesses, I don’t know that you’ve got anything worth defending. We’ve spent the last two hundred years finding better, faster ways to become physically, emotionally, and intellectually unhealthy and it hasn’t exactly borne us any useful fruit. For those of you who want a better future for your kids, why not start by making sure that your kids are just as culturally fit as they are physically fit? Why not create higher demand for intelligent, artful children’s culture (it exists, you know. Read a Shel Silverstein book) instead of relying on cable networks to pump our kids full of brain-dead crap like “My Best Friend’s Brother”? We can do this, America. We’re like the 23rd or 24th best country in the world and we can do anything if we put our minds to it!

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The Worst Songs I Have Ever Heard #12: “Glory of Love”

By the time we’re done here today, you might get the impression that I hate love songs (I don’t; I hate bad songs). After all, it was just last week that I was bagging on the Bryan Adams wedding reception staple, “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” and now here I am taking aim at another popular ballad from yesteryear, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love,” which some of you might know as the theme song from The Karate Kid Part II. “Glory of Love” was a certified hit, spending two weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1986. What can I say? It was a slow decade.

If you’re young and/or blessed enough to be completely oblivious to Peter Cetera, I’ll give you a little background information. As the singer for Chicago (one of the most overrated bands in the history of music), Cetera helped cement the group’s reputation as a “ballad band.” He wrote the schmaltzy (and totally destined for this list) “You’re the Inspiration,” which propelled Chicago’s imaginatively titled 17 to the top of the charts back in Nineteen-Eighty-Who-Gives-A-Fuck.

The 80s was a schmaltzy decade for music, although there was some great music being made then as well – a lot of it by R.E.M.. But there is no doubt in my mind that Peter Cetera was the King of 80s Schmaltz. I have this belief largely because Cetera was too schmaltzy even for my young 80s self, who owned not one but two Richard Marx albums on cassette (his self-titled debut, which featured “Don’t Mean Nothing,” a song so insipid it makes the Eagles seem like the Dead Kennedys; and, of course, Repeat Offender, which featured the smash single “Right Here Waiting,”). I had horrible taste in music when I was younger but even then, I had my limits.

First of all, when Peter Cetera sings, “I am the man who will fight for your honor” in that Muppety high tenor of his, the line carries about the same amount of credibility that George W. Bush did when he said he didn’t hate gay people, he was just for traditional marriage (I guess this week’s not-so-subtle political undertone is, “It’s fucking absurd that gay marriage isn’t legal in all fifty states”). I think even the most gullible woman on earth would have a hard time believing that Peter Cetera was capable of defending her honor against anything more threatening than a fruit fly.

And for that matter, let me ask something of the ladies: have you ever, even once in your adult life, swooned over a dude swearing to “fight for your honor”? What the fuck does that even mean? Cetera seems to be pulling some Don Quixote shit, and he hints at it later in the song when he sings, even more absurdly, “It’s like a knight in shining armor/ from a long time ago.” Ladies, if that’s the kind of verbiage that gets your knees knocking, I’ve written grocery lists that will make you melt.  After making the most oblique reference possible to “a knight in shining armor,” (seriously, he sings “It’s like a knight in shining armor.” But he never tells us what it is. You’re about to say, “Matt, ‘It’ is obviously love.” But that doesn’t make sense in light of the next line. Read on) Cetera then tells the lucky object of his affection, “Just in time, I will save the day/ take you to my castle far away.” So after he’s told this chick, in the second verse, that he could never make it alone, he now pulls the ol’ switcheroo by suggesting the his clearly codependent self is gonna “save the day.” From what? The only thing Peter Cetera could “save” you from is a day free of horrible, saccharine music.

“Glory of Love,” much like “(Everything I Do) I Like the Taste of Poo,” is a stunning example of the worst kind of poorly conceived, sickeningly executed love song. In its attempt to be poetic and passionate, it comes off as being cloying and smarmy, largely because Cetera didn’t put any fucking thought into these lyrics. He presumes, like a lot of dumb guys do, that his lovely lady is dreaming of a hero and he promises, with his impossibly 80s hair and whiny voice, to be that hero. Why? So they can live forever “knowing together/ we did it all for the glory of love.” I know what you’re thinking: “What did they do for the glory of love?” If you listen to the song, they apparently lived forever for the glory of love. That’s it. They just… hung around. Cetera conveniently avoids explaining precisely how this glorifies love, but that’s probably because he was too busy trying to shoehorn that fucking knight in shining armor trope into the song. I’ve got some news for you, Peter Cetera: knights in shining armor are about as romantic as turds in a martini shaker. Armor, for those of you who have never stopped for even a second to think about it, is really fucking heavy. If a dude were riding his mighty steed over to your house in order to sweep you off your feet in his nice, shiny armor, he’d work up such a sweat getting from his house to yours that he’d smell like the asshole of a dead rhinoceros by the time he got there. You’d be far more concerned with the glory of deodorant and breathable fabrics than the glory of love.

Any close examination of this song reveals it to be condescending at best and completely sexist (not to mention brick-stupid) at worst. Why assume women spend their time dreaming of a hero? Most of the heterosexual women I know are dreaming of a dude who will do the fucking dishes once in while, if they bother dreaming about dudes at all. And anyway, telling someone you’ll be what they’ve been dreaming of is dumb on at least two levels: first of all, you’re presuming to know what they’ve been dreaming of and second, what if they’ve been dreaming of Ted Bundy? We all have different heroes, Mr. Cetera. Some people’s heroes were the Ku Klux Klan.

We hardly need to discuss the actual music behind all this lyrical dross, but since our hands are already dirty, let’s pry open that shit sandwich too. The introductory keyboard part is pretty typical of shitty 80s ballads – I’m pretty sure “Schlocky Ballad” was  a factory preset on synthesizers back then. And, just like its retarded younger cousin “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” “Glory of Love” has a completely unnecessary guitar “solo” that makes me feel more than a little embarrassed for the instrument. Overall, the instrumentation is just one more feature of “Glory of Love” that convinces me that if you’re dreaming of a hero like Peter Cetera, you probably have self-esteem issues.

But, like I said before, “Glory of Love” was an unqualified success. This cloying, dumb, lazily written, sexist turd of a song was a smash hit in the 80s and I’ll let you form your own judgments about the kind of decade that would allow such a thing to happen.