Last week, Aerosmith front-man-turned-American-Idol-shill Steven Tyler announced plans to release a solo country album for newly revived country label Dot Records. The news sent alternating waves of amusement and bafflement through the Glide offices as we each pondered and discussed the question that was on everybody’s mind: “What the actual fuck is he thinking?” Tyler hasn’t exactly been relevant for the last few years, as his stint on Fox’s corporate music training program proves, and the whole idea reeks of a soulless marketing ploy.
Of course, this is hardly the first time an artist has attempted to cross genres and carve a new niche for themselves among previously untapped demographics. While occasionally this leads to some interesting new directions, more often than not it’s an embarrassing disaster. True, nothing he does at this point could possibly be any worse than the last two decades of his career, but if we’ve learned anything over the years it’s that there’s always a lower point. For this reason, we urge Tyler to take a look back at a few other crossover attempts that didn’t go over well for the artist.
No list of this sort would be complete without a mention of the Garth Brooks disaster that was Chris Gaines. Ostensibly produced as a tie-in record for a planned fictional bio-pic that never got off the ground, The Life of Chris Gaines stands to this day as the most baffling cross-genre experiment to ever happen. While it did earn Garth Brooks his first Top 40 Pop hit, critics and fans were bewildered by the attempt, and it left most people wondering why the hell he didn’t just release a pop album as Garth Brooks, if that’s what he wanted to do. Instead, we got Brooks stepping into the shoes of a fictional Australian pop-singer with oh-so-fashionable bangs and a soul patch. While this might have made some sense if the album’s tracks were drastically different from Brooks’s previous output, the fact is that they weren’t. Instead, they kind of just sounded like Garth Brooks trying to find his footing in another genre. The Chris Gaines experiment died out as quickly as it came, but it remains an unwashable stain on an otherwise remarkable career.
Chris Cornell, Scream
To be fair, the Soundgarden/Audioslave front man has never really had luck with solo albums, but with 2009’s Scream Chris Cornell achieved new and exciting levels of “what the fuck ?!” Conceived with noted hip-hop producer Timbaland, along with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Cornell abandoned his rock and roll roots for this R&B and rap flavored nonsense that left critics and fans scratching their heads in confusion. Even Trent Reznor took to Twitter to lambast Cornell, calling the effort “an embarrassment.” Cornell is easily one of the best rock vocalists of the last 25 years, and he sounds best with a band behind him. I’m all for experimentation and pushing new personal boundaries, but good lord. I can only imagine the title is a reference to what fans did when they first heard this album.
Hard as it is to believe, at one time, Kiss was dangerous. Parents boycotted their records, called the band Satanists, and accused them of corrupting the minds and souls of children across the land. This, of course, led them to become one of the most popular bands in the 70’s. By 1979, the luster was wearing off, and this, mixed with some infighting among the band, led to some poor career decisions that ultimately created Dynasty. Born of the disco craze, much of Dynasty was an attempt move in a new direction and cash in on the musical trend that danced its way across the nation. The result inspired a collective “what the fuck” from the band’s core fan base and, while financially successful, officially sanitized the group, making it impossible to ever take them seriously again.
Lou Reed and Metallica
Full disclosure: I’m a full-fledged Metallica apologist. I’ll argue the virtues of Load with you until you get so frustrated that you’ve no choice but to walk away. I maintain that St. Anger was a misunderstood work of genius that features one of the best musical depictions of depression ever recorded (“The Unnamed Feeling”). What I won’t do, however, is make excuses for LuLu, Metallica and Lou Reed’s collaborative train wreck that confused fans of both artists. This meandering, pointless, obtuse work was a waste of talent and potential that even the most ardent Lou Reed fan had a hard time justifying…and Lou Reed fans are known for justifying anything that bears his name. Featuring spoken word vocals provided by Reed set to music composed by Metallica, this was a disaster on all fronts for all involved that all but killed any goodwill either artist still had with their base.
David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s “Dancing in the Street”
There can be no doubt that the 80’s were a cultural low point which sucked the creativity and relevance from the souls of some of our most beloved artists, even those previously thought to be untouchable, like David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Originally recorded as part of the Live Aid Benefit, I suppose it’s safe to say that both artists had the best of intentions in recording this cover of the 1964 Martha and the Vandellas hit, but we all know what lines that road to Hell. If Sartre is correct, and Hell is truly other people, then there can be no doubt that Jagger and Bowie each play the role of the other’s personal Satan as they sashay their way through this mind-numbingly terrible cover like men on divine missions to ruin each other’s career. While neither artist suffered too many long term ill effects from this insipid tripe, it’s an undeniable black mark on what might have otherwise been two perfect careers.
Let me just get this out of the way: Snoop Whatever The Fuck He’s Calling Himself These Days had only one good album. ONE. Period. End of discussion. His entire post-Doggystyle career has been one long attempt to maintain artistic relevance in the wake of an album so good it could never be properly followed up. But God bless him for trying, though. Or is it Jah bless? In 2012, as part of his search for continued record sales, Snoop announced that he had been inspired by a trip to Jamaica and would be recording a reggae album of his very own. The result, Reincarnated, was a front-to-back mess that once again failed to capture the success of his first album, leaving the erstwhile Doggy to abandon his new direction to become, once again, a loveable stoner with inexplicable success.
Dee Dee King
Fresh out of rehab, a newly clean and post-Ramones Dee Dee Ramone discovered his newest passion: hip-hop. Entranced, as we all were, by breakbeats and fresh rhythms, Dee Dee changed his name from Ramone to King and released one of the worst records of all time: Standing in the Spotlight. Eschewing his punk roots for a record rooted in rap (and sometimes doo wop) Dee Dee embarrassed himself and his former bandmates with his ham-fisted attempts at dropping sick rhymes. Sporting a look that felt remarkably like a clueless white boy trying to imitate Run DMC (you know, because he was) Dee Dee stumbles and fumbles his way through this absolute mess that stands, to this day, as a testament against misguided genre experiments.
Vanilla Ice, Hard to Swallow
In 1998, Vanilla Ice had long since faded away as the cultural radar blip that he was, and the world had by and large done the right thing and forgotten all about the days when Ice and the Running Man reigned supreme. At the same time, a new craze was sweeping across suburbs and rock stations across the country: rap-rock. With the success of bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, Vanilla Ice decided the time was right to throw his hat back into the music ring, rebranding his sound to fit the new trend, and even reworked his one hit song, “Ice Ice Baby”, into something even worse than the original with “Too Cold.” While it’s arguably the single most 1998 thing that ever happened, it wasn’t enough to reignite his flame and Ice quickly descended farther than he had already fallen by becoming an MTV and third tier cable channel reality TV staple.
Iggy Pop, Party
While the 80’s were a pretty bad time for the former Stooges front man in general, that he managed to survive 1981’s Party with a career still intact is almost impressive. Not as impressive as “Lust for Life” or Funhouse, but impressive nonetheless. For this record, Iggy Pop eschewed his punk roots to dip his toes into the new wave scene after promising Arista Records a more commercial album than his previous output. For the first time ever, Iggy finally lived up to the Pop in his name, and the results are as bad as his earlier efforts are good.
Neil Young, Everybody’s Rockin’
Not even Neil Young was immune to the curse of the 80’s. The story of the crossover disaster that is the 1983 rockabilly dud Everybody’s Rockin’, begins a year earlier with 1982’s Trans. Trans was a synth heavy nightmare that was a critical and commercial failure. For his follow up, he recorded a pure country album that Geffen Records rejected, saying they wanted something a little bit more rock and roll to make up for his previous effort. An incensed Young went into the studio and literally shat out 25 minutes of soulless, uninspired rockabilly drivel in retaliation for Geffen’s meddling. Everybody’s Rockin’ found Young going through the motions of going through the motions and the result was so bad that he actually got sued by his label for making two god awful records in a row. While the lawsuit ended up backfiring against Geffen, it’s still pretty hilarious for someone to get sued for making shitty records.