For the past few months, I have been listening to a certain Omaha hit music radio station while in the shower. It’s one of those stations chock-full of Rob Thomas, Daughtry, and Avril Lavigne. It’s mindless pop schlock, none of it even bordering on offensive or adventurous. It’s the same songs every day. The kind of station where you can sing along to songs you’ve never heard before because they are so predictable. It’s perfect for my private time with the loofah: a time I use to scrub my balls, shampoo my beard, and sing along to songs that I don’t want anyone else to know I enjoy. There’s one song in particular and it’s been eating me up inside as of late, so it’s time to fess up.
It is time for me to confess that I can’t get enough of the new Shinedown single “If You Only Knew.” For that matter, I can’t get enough of their last one, “Second Chance,” either. Yes, I apparently like not one but two Shinedown songs. What in the hell is happening? Have I no shame? Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal to your average rube, sucked in by anything on the radio with a catchy hook and an electric guitar, but I’m supposed to be above that. Shinedown is not the sort of band that I enjoy. It pains me to admit my sudden infatuation with what amounts to a modern day “Monster Ballad” from a band that I hate. Yes, it’s hate. I hate Shinedown, and I especially hate that they are trying to make me feel otherwise. Thus my need to confess all of this, before I start hating myself. I mean, come on! What’s next? Nickelback? Please god, tell me there is another way.
As a rock radio deejay, I hated Shinedown from the moment I first played their debut single “Fly From the Inside.” I continued to hate them after playing it for the seven-hundredth time and moving on to the next single; the one about staring down the barrel of a 45. I wished on countless occasions, while subjecting my listening audience to it, that he would’ve just pulled the damn trigger on that 45 and put us all out of our misery. No, he never did, and Shinedown just kept making albums. They also seemed to appear on the bill of every rock show our station promoted for the next three years. I couldn’t escape them, and worse yet, I had to keep playing their shitty songs on the radio. I apologize.
There were many bands that I actually learned to tolerate as I played them over and over again. If you don’t find something you can get into, you’ll end up hating the gig, and radio is not something I ever thought I’d hate. Bands like Staind, Incubus, Korn, Tool, System of a Down and even Breaking Benjamin I could handle. Throw in a heavy dose of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Nirvana along with all of the other 90’s stuff I grew up with and it was like sugar on the medicine spoon, helping to get that Shinedown down. But there was always a handful of bands that I despised, though that’s not even a strong enough word. Shinedown was among them. I cursed off-mic every time I got a request for any of the generic, derivative, uninspired four minutes of suck rock that bands like Shinedown too often produced. Sure, there were bands I hated more than Shinedown. It’s not like they were Nickelback or Creed. They weren’t Disturbed, Drowning Pool, or Saliva, either. Hell, I even managed to stomach their cover of “Simple Man” because it’s such a great song and that Shinedown motherfucker can actually sing it. Though, as a general rule, I tend to think he mostly over-sings. I did, however, loathe that “45” song with every single molecule of my being. Therefore, Shinedown never stood a chance in my book. Or so I thought.
I knew something was up when I first found myself singing along to “Second Chance,” on the radio. I didn’t know it was Shinedown at first, but I should have. I think I just didn’t want to believe it. Somewhere around the second time I heard it, it occurred to me that I knew the voice that was belting out lines like “Tell my mother, tell my father, I did the best I can,” and “I’m not angry, I’m just saying this is my life.” It couldn’t be, but it had to be. Yes, it was Shinedown, and I was actually enjoying it, despite the cheesy lyrics about a waving Halley’s comet and a disappearing man in the moon. In my defense, it was a big crossover hit which is why I was hearing it between Pink and “I Kissed A Girl” on the radio, though I know that’s no excuse. It just means that I know I’m not the only one who needs to be confessing right now. It’s really a terrible song to like. It’s like a sensitive sequel to Poison’s “Fallen Angel.” The angel has survived her escape to Hollywood, and instead of being chewed up and spit out by the porn industry, she has somehow landed on her feet and wants her family to know that she’s okay, in spite of them. Hey, “sometimes goodbye is a second chance,” am I right? Why are we “always running in place”? It’s Scott Stapp deep, it’s gag-worthy, but it’s oh so catchy. I dare you to not sing along.
Of course Shinedown couldn’t have just been satisfied with one big crossover hit for me to annoy my wife with: they had to followup it up with their latest, “If You Only Knew.” It’s pretty much the same song, but even more contagious. Tossing aside parent-child relations for lost love, “If You Only Knew” has an even bigger hook to snare you with and straight up Velveeta shells and cheese for lyrics. “It’s 4:03, and I can’t sleep,” Brent Smith sings, “without you next to me, I toss and turn like the sea.” Seriously. He’s “hanging by a thread,” from a web he spins for her, and has saved all of the letters that she’s returned. He’s going to drown (hopefully). If she only knew. It’s twelfth grade poetry at its finest. It’s a panty-dropper for fourteen year old rocker chicks and bleached-blond milfs alike. You should really Google the lyrics for the full effect of the entire heart-wrenching narrative. But I will hand it to them, when they pair these words with the sickly sweet mid tempo rock melody, you don’t stand a chance of resisting. Trust me, I tried. I even hoped that it wasn’t Shinedown, but low and behold, ten seconds on their Myspace page and my worst fears were realized.
I quickly cleared my browsing history, and spoke not a word about it. Then I heard it again. Now, I wait for it to come on the radio like my second grade self trying to tape Bon Jovi and ACDC songs with my parent’s cassette player. I have a problem, and it may ruin my marriage. We all have guilty pleasures, but for some reason this one is different. It’s like finding out that a painting you really love was done by Hitler or John Wayne Gacy and you don’t even like clowns. You know you shouldn’t like it, but you just can’t help yourself. I ignore the god awfulness of the lyrics and sing them as if they were my own, lately when I’m not even in the shower. My wife would be filing for divorce if she didn’t know how anguished I was about the whole situation.
I suppose the main reason that I’m now sort of down with Shinedown is probably the same reason why I also joyously sing along to Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson songs in the shower. The same reason I hope to hear the new John Mayer single “Heartbreak Warfare” while I’m driving to the grocery store. I’m a sucker for a good pop song: I, in fact, am not immune to the allure of a catchy hook and I apparently have bad taste in music, despite what my record collection suggests.
I will give Shinedown this: at least they’re actually writing listenable songs these days, perhaps to the chagrin of hardcore Shinedowners, if there even is such a thing. It’s a good career move, one that unfortunately will lead to future Shinedown albums and maybe even more Shinedown songs on the radio for me to sing along to. Luckily, that’s where they will hopefully stay; on someone else’s radio station, with me in the shower with my loofah, and nowhere near my record collection.
So bravo Shinedown! Bravo! And by “Bravo!” I mean, “Fuck You!” I hope you are happy now, because I’m not. “It’s 4:03 and I can’t sleep,” because I can’t get your fucking song out of my head. I suppose that’s penance enough, eh Father?