It’s easy to say that a song is bad. Try it! It’s fun, too!
But what does saying a song is bad really tell the world? Not much! Sure, it’s bad. But bad in relation to what? How is it bad? How bad is it? These are the important questions. How important are they?
In the world of computing, a lot of attention is paid to benchmarking. We will compare the performance of a particular piece of technology against another piece of technology from the same category with similar properties. Using the reference item as a benchmark for comparison, we are able to accurately evaluate how much better (or worse) a given piece of equipment is than the reference equipment.
I have decided to apply this method to evaluating music, and to do so I have decided to use 90s alt-rock gem “Laid” by the UK band James as a benchmark. Why have I chosen “Laid” by James?
Because it fucking rules. That’s why.
Today we’ll be looking at a recent single released by some person named Machine Gun Kelly. The track’s name is “Papercuts”.
A lot of bands have lifted from the Pixies, but this is… this is pretty egregious. This is what you would get when an ad executive wants “Where Is My Mind?” for a car commercial, but they don’t want to pay for it so they commission something that is just different enough to evade a lawsuit.
The vocal approach seems to be one of taking the same two or three notes and applying lots of blurbly auto-tune effects to it. I’ve never been a fan of this kind of vocal production, and it’s kind of stunning how little imagination has been put into the melody of this song’s verses. Is Machine Gun Kelly actually an AI? If so, then moderately impressive programming work, but I have actually heard better AI singing.
The pop-punk crunch that comes in with the drums makes sense given that this appears to feature Blink 182’s drummer. Pretty rote stuff. Boring.
Boy, this guy is sure wondering why people are so mean to him. I… uh… I have a few ideas about it.
Wait, what am I doing? This isn’t supposed to be a post about whether or not this song is good! (it’s not)
This is supposed to be a post about whether or not this song is better than “Laid” by James!
“Laid” by James has fewer chords than “Papercuts” by Machine Gun Kelly, but it manages to come across with far more verve and nuance. In fact, the song seems to be the same chord progression all the way through, but pulls a dynamic journey out of it. This song is fun to listen to!
“Papercuts” is performed by a celebrated alt-rock drummer, but absolutely nothing that he does in “Papercuts” is as cool and fun as the 16th note snare crescendos that are performed in “Laid” by James.
“Laid” by James elegantly tells the tale of a complicated and difficult relationship. It does not wallow in the petty angst of a young millionaire wondering why people don’t treat him as nicely as he thinks that he should be treated. The opening stanza of “Laid” by James could be an amusing poem that one finds in a book of amusing poems. The opening stanza of “Papercuts” by Machine Gun Kelly is barely an acceptable LiveJournal post from 2003.
“Papercuts” by Machine Gun Kelly is not better than “Laid” by James.
“Laid” by James is a very fun song that makes me happy every time I hear it!
“Papercuts” by Machine Gun Kelly will make me happy if I never hear it again.
Thank you for your time.