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Becoming one of the biggest bands in the world isn’t always the best feeling. While it might be easy for some artists to keep spitting out the same kind of songs repeatedly, there comes a point where they will want to test the boundaries of what they can do or wonder what else they have to say besides their usual schtick. When it comes to classic artists like Guns N’ Roses and the Eagles, one song sent them into a downward spiral they would never recover from.
While every one of these tracks became a vital part of the band’s catalogue, there was absolute hell behind the scenes. Outside of the time spent working on the effort, the group dynamics often resulted in artists being fired from the band or starting a significant dip in quality that no one in the fanbase asked for.
Despite having a nasty reputation behind them, that doesn’t mean every career-destroying song was terrible. Most of the songs on this list are decent to some degree, only to fall apart when you realise what it took for an artist to make it, usually involving blood, sweat and tears pouring down the drain.
Even though a handful of artists could recover from these bad singles, many others wouldn’t be so lucky, either being relegated to the bargain bins immediately upon release or touring the rest of their lives as a nostalgia act after the song dropped. While most fans may wash their fans of an artist over time, it only took one song for the band and the fanbase to crash in on each other.
10 songs that ruined artists’ careers:
10. ‘Can’t Stop Partying’ – Weezer
No one has ever come to a band like Weezer expecting the most jaw-dropping rock music in the world. For most of their career, Rivers Cuomo has gotten by writing some of the greatest nerd rock ever created, being proud to represent the resident dorks of rock music on songs like ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘My Name is Jonas’. When the band got back together following a hiatus in the 1990s, Cuomo made a drastic mistake by trying to sound pop.
For most of the band’s 2000s output, songs like ‘Beverly Hills’ were looking to cash in on the pop-rock trends in the band’s wake, featuring songs more reliant on the hook than any well-written material. As much as the group may have worked their way through the pop sphere admirably, ‘Can’t Stop Partying’ is one of the biggest ‘jump the shark’ moments in the history of music.
Telling the story of a man who wants nothing more than to hit up the clubs, Cuomo is entirely out of his element here, including a cringe-worthy performance where Lil Wayne does everything he can to add some credibility behind Cuomo’s lyrics. Even though Weezer fans stayed on for a little while, the fact that the song exists is probably one of the main reasons why the band were offered millions of dollars to call it a day.
9. ‘American Life’ – Madonna
Madonna has always been known for going against the grain. Since her appeal is about moving against the status quo of what pop stars are used to doing, it’s almost expected that not everything that the ‘Queen of Pop’ releases will be for everyone. Even though the ‘Material Girl’ was looking to go into unchartered territory with a protest record, ‘American Life’ remains the most perplexing thing she has ever sung.
Written in protest to the oncoming Iraq War, most of the song and accompanying video is the most baffling imagery Madonna has ever made. Initially going to include footage of soldiers on a runway, her robotic voice offers nothing in the way of a hook, sounding like she’s reading from a laundry list of buzzwords as an unpleasant electronic beat plays in the background.
It also doesn’t help that the breakdown features one of the first instances of Madonna rapping, featuring bars that sound like a 40-year-old mother who just figured out what the concept of hip-hop means. While ‘The Material Girl’ may have been able to continue on with one monster tour after another, this was the first time fans could skip out on a performance entirely and not miss anything.
8. ‘Humans Being’ – Van Halen
Van Halen has always had a bit of an identity crisis regarding lead singers. Although both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar had their own strengths, they also came with more than a few hangups, leading to both being sacked on separate occasions. While many point to Van Halen going wrong with Gary Cherone, the actual ending of the band’s glory era started with the song ‘Humans Being’.
Coming at the tail end of the 1990s, the band were commissioned to write a song for the movie Twister called ‘Humans Being’ when Hagar decided that he didn’t want to turn up. Even though he eventually went ahead with writing the song, Eddie Van Halen initially shot down his lyrical ideas because he thought they were below average.
While the tension had been boiling over since the recording of Balance, it would be this song and two more songs used for a greatest hits package that became the last straw for Hagar, wanting to move away from the Van Halen camp to pursue other projects. Given how scattershot the production of Van Halen III, it’s safe to say that any of the bright spots from Van Halen’s glory years were reaching the end of the line by the time the Twister soundtrack even hit stores.
7. ‘Summer of Love’ – The Beach Boys
A large portion of the greatest music The Beach Boys ever made came from the mind of Brian Wilson. While every member was essential in making the group’s signature sound, it was Brian’s attention to detail that helped get the best out of his brothers, Dennis and Carl. As Brian entered the darkest chapters of his life in the 1980s, though, Mike Love decided to take a massive knife to the band’s legacy with the song ‘Summer of Love’.
Looking to get back in tune with what the kids were listening to, much of the song sounds like it should be on the soundtrack to a long-forgotten sequel to Baywatch, even featuring cast members from the beach-themed show in the video, no less. As opposed to the fun-in-the-sun spirit of the band’s past material, Love went the extra mile by attempting to rap sensually, making the entire thing feel decidedly creepy.
Even though Brian would return to the fold off and on throughout his career, seeing him embarrassingly make his way through the music video makes the whole song feel like a sad epitaph of the band’s original glory. Part of The Beach Boys died the day that this song was released, and every surfer dude who grew up in the 1960s most likely cried a single tear.
6. ‘The Girls of Summer’ – Aerosmith
When talking about the glory days of Aerosmith, everyone usually circles back to their time as one of the kings of blues rock. Across their 1970s output, every single one of their songs was about taking the ferocity of Led Zeppelin and infusing it with the swagger of The Rolling Stones. While that sounds amazing, the band’s second half marked a sea change from where they had been initially.
Though the group’s initial attempts to work with outside songwriters served them well on tracks like ‘Angel’ and ‘Cryin’, the Just Push Play was when most people started to fall off the bandwagon. Framed as a pop crossover, most songs tended to be bottom-of-the-barrel schlock reserved for the MTV generation, featuring the glossiest guitars ever featured on an Aerosmith project.
Of all the songs from this era, ‘The Girls of Summer’ marked the actual low point for the band, with most of the members not even bothering to appear in the video because of how different it was from what they wanted to be. Compared to the massive songs like ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘Sweet Emotion’ that fill stadiums to this day, this feels like a glorified Steven Tyler solo outing than anything to do with Aerosmith.
5. ‘We Are the Clash’ – The Clash
Towards the beginning of the 1980s, The Clash were already starting to look combustible. Even though every project had the same punk rock spirit as in their early years, disagreements over the band’s future caused the relationship between Joe Strummer and Mick Jones to dissolve. While Strummer ultimately fired Jones, his choice to continue led to one of the saddest attempts at band resurrection ever.
Replacing Jones with two different guitarists, most of Cut the Crap could have qualified for a list like this, featuring nothing but discordant noises committed to tape in an attempt to sound punk. For all of the effort, though, ‘We Are the Clash’ is the most damning evidence that the band would never be the same, trying to make an anthem out of the title and sounding like a second-rate punk band in the process.
Although Strummer may have done everything he could to salvage the project, he admitted that he was ashamed of it, not even counting it among the core list of studio albums that the band made. Even though The Clash started as one of the most militant voices in music, ‘We Are The Clash’ feels like a firm slap in the face to everyone who believed in ‘The Only Band That Mattered’.
4. ‘Comfortably Numb’ – Pink Floyd
It’s hard to say anything negative regarding the ‘Comfortably Numb’ production. In the context of Pink Floyd’s grand epic, The Wall, the storyline and composition of the tune remain one of the finest moments of Roger Waters and David Gilmour working in tandem with each other to create magic. Although the track itself may have been gorgeous, the fallout of the track would become the final death knell for the band’s camaraderie.
Throughout the album’s creation, Waters ruled the band with an iron fist, wanting to get as much of a say in what the album’s final version would sound like. Even though the band would roll over and accept Waters’ regulations on the storyline, they would have massive disagreements regarding what the song needed, including Waters firing Richard Wright during production and rehiring him later.
By the time the band had gone out on the road to bring the rock opera to life, most of the core band was officially dead, with Waters making a glorified solo album under Floyd’s moniker entitled The Final Cut before the rest of the group went their separate ways. Although the band’s career could continue for a few more years, any ounce of the original magic that each of them had together was officially snuffed out.
3. ‘Victim of Love’ – Eagles
The trademark magic that defines most Eagles projects always happened by design. Throughout every project they made, Don Henley and Glenn Frey were the co-captains of the group, penning the massive hits that would take them to superstardom. Although that meant everyone contributing something to the final product, that didn’t mean everyone had to step behind the microphone.
While Don Felder helped write the track for ‘Victim of Love’, his insistence on singing the tune was quickly shot down by Henley, who elected to trick Felder into going to dinner so he would never know that they recorded over him. Even though Felder had to roll over regarding that one song, the tension from that lesson would boil over into the next album.
As the band got more out of their minds on cocaine when recording The Long Run, Felder thought he was gradually getting paid less, culminating in a massive fight between him and Frey during a benefit show where they were caught fighting each other onstage. Even though ‘Victim of Love’ was the tiny seed of Felder’s problems, it managed to spread out and take the entire band down.
2. ‘I Disappear’ – Metallica
The enduring legacy of Metallica is most likely never going to be killed off any time soon. Even though the band have made songs that would have been laughed out of the room by any other metal act, their ability to bounce back off their classic material has kept fans filling stadiums for years. When talking about the moment they started to make huge mistakes, though, it can all be traced back to ‘I Disappear’.
Written for the second instalment in the Mission Impossible franchise, many fans fell off Metallica after this song when Lars Ulrich went after Napster. After seeing that fans could listen to the song online without paying for it, Ulrich went against all types of music piracy, which left many fairweather fans of the band to protest against their music.
That was only the beginning of their problems, though. Featuring the final performance from bassist Jason Newsted on record, his departure would send shockwaves through the band, culminating in their massive low point on the album St Anger a few years later. While Metallica has made brilliant pieces of art that transcend the genre altogether, the drama that came with ‘I Disappear’ was enough to put them out of commission for years.
1. ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ – Guns N’ Roses
It’s hard to look at a cover song as being something to kill a career. Since all an artist has to do is do justice to someone else’s track, it’s easy to knock something out in the studio and call it a day. By the time Guns N’ Roses managed to get everyone in the same room to record ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, everything had already fallen apart.
After the massive tour for the double album Use Your Illusion, the band had lost original members Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler and returned to Los Angeles world-weary. To smooth things over, the band went into the studio to cut various punk covers for the album “The Spaghetti Incident?”, only for no one to get back on the same page again. In one last effort to get the band on track, the recording of The Rolling Stones’ classic song for the soundtrack to Interview with a Vampire would become the last gasp from the original lineup.
While it was included on the band’s eventual greatest hits record, guitarist Slash was known to loathe this song, pointing to it as the core sound of the band breaking up. Although Guns N’ Roses may have looked like the most badass rock and roll band in the world for a few years, their attempts at reviving a 30-year-old rock tune meant that the last gasp of hair metal had officially died out.