Hated in the Nation: The 30 Biggest Punching Bags in Pop History
We open up the case files to see who's gotten a bad rap and who's just bad
CHARGE AGAINST: Trend-hopping Johnny-come-latelies; the first of the second-wave grungies to stretch the definition of “alternative”
CASE FILES: At a moment when even the credentials of seasoned Seattle punk scenesters were up for close inspection, Candlebox didn’t stand much of a chance in the authenticity race. Their sound was grunge-lite — a safe, wrinkle-free, artificially sweetened classic-rock stand-in that scrubbed away all the feedback-flecked grime. It also didn’t help that after a massive bidding war — typical of the early ’90s — they were the first alt-rock signing to Maverick, Madonna’s fledgling major-label imprint. The tight-knit Seattle scene made much ado about not knowing who they were: local journos sniped and Courtney Love perpetuated a rumor that the band was from Los Angeles. Said bassist Bardi Martin: “Musicians are some of the shittiest, most insecure people on the planet. It seemed a lot like high school.” The attitude spiraled out nationally, and in the span of three issues in the mid-’90s, SPIN called them “predictable, compromising grunge metal” and “as likely to endure as Queensryche.”
THE DEFENSE: Though Candlebox clearly were influenced by pioneering, older-brother-like Seattle bands (see Mark Yarm’s recent oral history of grunge, Everybody Loves Our Town, for an account of lead singer Kevin Martin warming up his vocal cords to Pearl Jam), they were very simply a bunch of guys whose timing was good for business but bad for credibility. DAVID BEVAN
LANA DEL REY
CHARGE AGAINST: Vapid, prefabricated glamourpuss pretends to be indie rock, reimagines Nancy Sinatra as a preening, Lynchian style zombie.
CASE FILES: Despite absorbing indie rock’s love of decaying footage and swampy reverb, the former Lizzy Grant flaunted a pop personality guaranteed to irritate punk purists. The Internet embraced her and then immediately cried that everything was “fake”: the name change; the major-label funding; the (allegedly) augmented lips; the fact that her dad, Rob Grant, had scored millions as a domain-name prospector, debunking the singer’s claims to simply being the product of a Jersey trailer park. A year of online LDR-bashing climaxed with the most roundly mocked Saturday Night Live musical performance in recent memory; it wasn’t clear whether Del Rey was petrified or hypnotized. Twitterers complained that she seemed like a third-tier Kristen Wiig character, and the following week she became one.
THE DEFENSE: Says our own Jessica Hopper: “The issue with Lana Del Rey is not whether she is some corporate test-tubed ingénue, but why we are unwilling to believe that she is animated by her own passion and ambition — and why that makes a hot girl so unattractive.” And the album’s not that bad, honestly. KEITH HARRIS