The Three Most Underrated Singles of All Time


3. Beck – “Loser”

In the spring of 1994, a curious song hit the MTV Buzz Bin — a post-modern blend of hip-hop beats, folk guitar, popcult wordplay, and a chorus to sum up the entire “Slacker Generation.” Now that the Internet has coronated the geek, we tend to forget the age when we were all “losers.” But at the time, this song spoke volumes to the over-educated and under-rewarded. Unfortunately, the jocks and capitalists of the world — bent on preserving an honest appreciation of straight-path social success — buried Beck’s career. He put out his next two albums on tiny imprints Bongload and K and was last seen making frequent appearances as a VH1 guest commentator.

2. Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Weird “Al” Yankovic ushered in the “Grunge” era with his massive hit “Smells Like Nirvana,” and while most had assumed the song title referred to the old British psych group Nirvana, in fact, the music had been completely ripped off the Seattle band Nirvana (US)’s major-debut single. The original blows the Al “Yankovic” version out of the water — like a torpedo — with its guitar and bass unity, bigger than life MIDI-trigger drum sound, and melody line guitar solo. Lead singer Kurt Cobain’s intentionally awful lyrics stick it to the entire Pop System: “A mulatto / an albino / a mosquito / my libido” (Whatever, man. Nevermind…). Trivia: The bassist went on to form top indie band Sweet 75.

1. The Beatles – “Hey Jude”

After Beatlemania (the actual phenomenon, not the revival show) subsided in the mid-’60s, the Beatles put out some drug records and faded into countercultural obscurity. Their fantastic attempt at a comeback single in 1968 — “Hey Jude” — could have been the greatest pop song of all time had their refusal to make Christ their personal savior not made headlines around the world.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
March 27, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

13 Responses

  1. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Well the only of these three that I would listen to willingly now is Beck’s Loser. And it’s the only of the three that has any nostalgia for me. I was living in Southern California with KCRW and KROQ as the background music. Surely it was earlier than ’94? My girlfriend of the time was a Cantonese-Canadian beginning grad studies at Caltech. Her entire lab was listening to KROQ and singing along with Beck. She would come home and sing it sarcastically to me saying “Why do they like a song about a loser?” Not much later she would drop out of grad school to enter medical school and has finished specialized training in ob-gyn. She’s now, undoubtedly, raking it in.

    Anyone ever try Loser at Karaoke? Not an easy one …

  2. trevor Says:

    could this be more of a listmania attack!? underrated? next to nevermind, i would say overrated.

    i would like to offer.
    apehx twins “ventolin”
    and squarepushers “port rhombus” Ep [i say ep because it contained both “port rhombus” and “problem child” i don’t know witch one made my jaw drop farther.]

    changed the way music was made, how it sounded, and has been made since. but most people have never heard these songs. maybe of the artists though. thats underrated. in my opinion.

  3. josh Says:

    I get that it’s a joke… but what’s the punchline?

  4. graham webster Says:

    Sparklig: I did try “Loser” at karaoke. The Tokion folks laughed at me more than usual that night.

  5. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    But it’s not as difficult as The Style Council’s My Ever Changing Moods. I caused someone to leave the room once with my efforts at that one. How I wish I could sing it.

    O-susume Karaoke number: The Smith’s Big Mouth Strikes Again.

  6. Chris_B Says:

    I suck at karaoke mostly because I dont know most of the songs in the catalog or they just dont have songs I know. I can however do a mean Vegas lounge version of Bobby Darin’s version of “Mack The Knife”.

    I’m with graham on this one, what is the punchline? Where’s the beef?

  7. der Says:

    Don’t listen to them.
    Great post, no punchline required.

  8. Patrick Says:

    I think I got ahold of Loser at karaoke, but it’s not because I’m any good at karaoke, only because I sang it way too much back in the day.

    That’s also one of the rare tracks from that time that I have yet to get tired of.

  9. erikhw Says:

    Hmm. I never knew Beck faded into obscurity. Whenever he releases a new album he gets superstar-headlines over here (Norway). Maybe it’s some Scandinavian thing, I don’t know.

  10. OG Says:

    I would say, at least from a U.S. point of view, Beck has certainly not faded into obscurity. The NYT falls over themselves to praise him (as they recently did), he works with other groups like Air, etc. He seems, from this corner of the world (Brooklyn) rather ubiquitous.

    See the generally fawning reviews of his latest, Guero, which is a pretty sweet album.

  11. marxy Says:

    I would say, at least from a U.S. point of view, Beck has certainly not faded into obscurity.

    Yeah, and since when was Sweet 75 a “top indie band.”

  12. broohaha Says:

    That was funny. I was actually taking your post literally when reading about Beck, thinking how different our worlds must be from each other for you to perceive that he’s been relegated to obscurity. Then you wrote about Nirvana, and I smacked my forehead. Oh, elusive irony…

  13. Keith Says:

    Smells Like Teen Spirit? Are you kidding me? It’s the most played song on the radio from the 1990’s, period. Loser, is probably not far behind, in most played songs on the radio, from the 1990’s. And Hey Jude is regarded by many to be the Beatles’ best song – not sure how that makes it underrated.