All Overrated List

What better way to follow up Easter weekend than by making some judgments about other people? I’ve been wanting to do a universal overrated/underrated list for a while now, and this seems like as good a time as any to get it started.

Basically, we’re just here to discuss any public figure – music, sports, TV, etc. – that is generally thought of as more or less valuable than they actually are. It’ll be broken up into two parts, and I’ll of course start with the overrated list, because I am a dick.

Before we get started, keep in mind that calling someone overrated doesn’t mean I think they have no value, just that I think the public perception of them is unwarrantedly rosy. And I will not include any pop R&B singers – such as Bruno Mars or something called Trey Songz – for you can just assume I think they all suck. Anyway, in no particular order…

Tyler Perry

You may know him from Tyler Perry’s House of Pain, Meet the Browns, the film Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and countless other painfully unfunny TBS programs that you probably haven’t seen either. He is a writer/director/producer who allegedly makes comedies, though I don’t believe there is documented proof of a sane person laughing at any point during any of his productions. It’s almost difficult to call him overrated because everyone I know seems to agree with me on how terrible anything Tyler Perry creates is, but his movies and TV shows continue being made. And oh yeah, Wikipedia (which is as far as I’m willing to go for research on this topic) claims that Forbes claims that he was the highest-paid man in entertainment in 2011, earning $130 million. So clearly someone is watching these shows, and apparently enjoying them. What the hell, people? Do you appreciate lowest-common-denominator humor that isn’t even funny to the lowest denominator? Do you like your sitcoms written by someone that reads at a third grade level? I once had a black friend suggest that the reason I don’t appreciate Mr. Perry’s work is because it’s a racial thing; I’m white, and thus cannot understand his apparent genius. I just don’t understand black humor, she told me. Well, while I must admit I’m not even sure what “black humor” is, I am fairly certain I understand at least the fundamental levels of “humor,” which is nonexistent in Perry works. I think it’s less of a cultural thing and more of a thing about things that are funny, and Tyler Perry is not funny.

Blink 182

There are some pieces of pop culture that reach us at a certain point in our lives, and just seem to be right for us at that particular time and place. These things might not be good per se – often they have very little artistic value – but because they hit us at the right time, be it a stage of development or a specific age or even a physical location, we were able to appreciate them nonetheless. And as the years pass, even when we realize these things have considerably less value than we assigned them at the time, we are able to appreciate them due to the nostalgia they invoke and, often, good-natured humor. Limp Bizkit and Field of Dreams are two examples of this for me, and I bet most everyone has their own set.

Blink 182 is not one of these things. They are not good and never were. They kind of always sucked, actually, and when I look back on their work now, I feel no nostalgia, and neither should you. Blink basically capitalized on the 90’s policy of doing as little as possible while playing music, and while it certainly worked at the time, let’s not celebrate it now. Band like Nirvana subscribed to this “Do Less” theory as well, but they were way less whiny than Blink 182, and thus are okay with me. In whatever sort of pop/punk/emo movement this was, Blink was the biggest of the big and the whiniest of the whiney, and I don’t condone any of that. (And please, before you genre nerds jump on me and assert that “they weren’t punk or emo or pop, they were actually mid-postpunk/modern expressionist,” please save it. The labels mean nothing. I don’t care). They were hailed as quirky and edgy back then, but in retrospect, “Take off your pants and jacket” isn’t really funny, and their drummer couldn’t even succeed at being a reality TV personality, which is saying something.

Michelle Wie

Why do we still care? She has two career LPGA tour victories. She’s never won a major, and she has ONE top-ten finish in a major tournament in the last five years. The whole uncommonly young wunderkind/phenom thing has officially passed her by, and she’s not even that good looking – zero Kournikova factor. And she plays women’s golf. So why exactly are we supposed to be paying attention? Are we supposed to remember the 14-year-old that was going to change the sport of golf? All I remember was a spoiled brat who was preoccupied with playing PGA events (through sponsor exemptions) before she had ever won an LPGA event. She never even made the cut in one of those PGA tournaments, by the way, but she continued playing them. More cameras there, I guess. She also famously once said “I watch the PGA, not the LPGA. I like the players on the PGA better.” What a bitch. In case you missed it the first time, this woman has two career LPGA wins. No majors.

Eric Clapton’s Solo Career

This is tough for me, because I adore so much about Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos. But I have a social responsibility to call them like I see them, and as I see it, Clapton hasn’t written or recorded much of value since the 1970s.

Let me be perfectly clear: Eric Clapton is, at the very least, one of the 10 greatest rock and roll guitarists of all time. The Yardbirds were groundbreaking. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is a phenomenal album. And Cream is still one of the best power trios ever. Clapton even gives the handful of us blues fans that still exist after the year 2000 a reason to live by organizing events like the Crossroads Guitar Festival. In fact, he was the first person ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three separate times – with the Yardbirds, Cream, and then as a solo act. And it’s that last one that’s really the issue.

See, it’s not that Clapton’s solo stuff is bad; it’s just not very good. Somewhere along the line, whether it was due to evolution as a musician or quitting hard drugs or just simple aging, the magic kind of left ol’ Slowhand, at least regarding any studio recordings he’s made. Oh he can still get up on stage and rock that Stratocaster, and the importance of this cannot be understated, at least in today’s musical climate. It’s why we keep him around. But the driving rock and lightning licks of the 60’s are a thing of the past, and in their place are mostly slow ballads and easy listens. Nothing wrong with those things, they just aren’t nearly as good as the early work. Somewhat ironically, he’s spent the vast majority of his career as a solo artist – Cream only lasted about two years and the Yardbirds less than that, yet he’s been schlepping it on his own for four damn decades. Sure, he’s living off reputation at least a little bit at this point, but it’s almost as if the R&R HOF people just finally relented. “Fine – he’s a good musician, and though we don’t really like any of the solo stuff that much, he’s been doing it for so long. It MUST be worth something.”

Plus he covered a Bob Marley song. Eric, I thought you were better than that.

It almost makes me wonder what would’ve happened if Jimi Hendrix wouldn’t have died when he did. We tend to lionize guys like Hendrix, whose career was cut so short and yet managed to pack so much outstanding and influential material in a tight window of time. Death at a young age adds so much unknown to someone’s legacy – there’s a tendency to assume that untimely death means the individual in question had many more contributions to make, and only didn’t because he or she ran out of time. But we never really think about the other option – what if Hendrix’s musical career (or Duane Allman’s or Stevie Ray Vaughan’s or Janis Joplin’s) just kind of slowly waned and fizzled out, like so many do?  We give Jimi so much credit for advancing the way the electric guitar was played, and he deserves every damn bit of it. But what if he’d lived? We’ll never know, but I do think if Clapton died of a heroin overdose in 1975, and Hendrix was still alive today, we might be thinking of both a lot differently.

Chris Brown

Ahhh I promised I wouldn’t do it! But dammit, I just can’t help myself. This is one R&B singer that needs to be singled out. And shot. If it wasn’t enough that he assaulted my girl Rihanna (and believe me, it was), he’s been assaulting music listeners for years now. Even though I despise this musical genre in general, there’s something that especially irks me about this pile of crap. Okay, it’s probably the Rihanna thing. But wait! Then there’s his obnoxious singing voice, his lack of any real creativity, his stupid tattoos, the fact that he hit Rihanna, and his tendency to engage in petulant Twitter fights. Chris Brown is really just one of those spoiled, overgrown children that tend to drift through celebrity and then disappear in a year or two. But he’s still here! Why? Aren’t there enough nasally pop singers with limited talent that essentially duplicate what he does, just without beating up my favorite human peacock?

I don’t get it. Not only do we keep Chris Brown around, we give him Grammys – he took home one of the spares that were left this year after Adele claimed her 92% share of the awards. This is not okay – we shouldn’t be awarding being Chris Brown. Can’t we just bring back Kris Kross and give them the Grammy instead? At least they had a positive attitude.

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Sam Neumann | sam@samneumann.com | Boulder, CO