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
BILLY RAY CYRUS
CHARGE AGAINST: Singing mullethead who ratifies Garth Brooks’ deliverance of Nashville to pop’s promised land.
CASE FILES: Yankovic wrote a whole song about how annoying this guy is, and Bill Hicks used to openly fantasize about a TV show called Let’s Hunt and Kill Billy Ray Cyrus. At the time, it would have been worth watching. Some Gave All, his cloddish, seven-million-selling 1992 debut, borrowed enough from Jimmy Buffett, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp to indoctrinate a huge audience into country’s new style-blurring ways. Whether they admit it or not, some of the manly truck-driving hat models who currently fill the country charts owe Cyrus a debt. So does someone else. After his fleeting musical moment, Cyrus became a TV actor, but his not-exactly-talented teen daughter Miley dwarfed his success.
THE DEFENSE: He was friendly with Kurt Cobain! That’s more than you can say about Axl. I.R.
CHARGE AGAINST: The nadir of studio-buffed, soulless, corporate AOR.
CASE FILES: Even more than the robot-obsessed Styx, Journey were never interested in appearing remotely human: Steve Perry’s weirdly androgynous, stratospheric vocals; Neil Schon’s pristine guitar sound; and those electric blue scarabs bursting into outer space on their album sleeves (Lester Bangs put “Any Journey cover” at No. 7 on his list of the ten worst LP covers ever). Indeed, when they morphed from a hippie-ish Santana offshoot to a steely hit machine, critic Dave Marsh wrote that the band “was a dead end for San Francisco area rock.” By comparison, other corporate-rock goofballs acts (Foreigner, Toto, and REO Speedwagon) seemed warmly nuanced.
THE DEFENSE: Time has shown “Don’t Stop Believin'” to be a cross-demographic cultural touchstone. The song was used in the last shot of The Sopranos, was the showstopper in the Broadway hit Rock of Ages, and became a rallying cry for the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants. Perry even appeared in the Giants’ victory parade after the team won the 2010 World
Series. Honestly, don’t you sing along when it comes up at karaoke? D.M.