In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: As Har Mar Superstar, Sean Tillmann is perhaps best known not for his music, but for his underpants. Tillman’s rock ’n’ roll alter ego plays most of his shows in his tighty-whities, bouncing around stage enthusiastically and refreshingly without shame. It’s that kind of artistic presence—his latest record, Bye Bye 17, is out now—that’s made Tillman a mover and a shaker in the music scene. He’s written songs for Jennifer Lopez and The Cheetah Girls, opened for The Strokes and Tenacious D, appeared on a number of TV shows, and acted in films like Starsky And Hutch and Whip It! He also hosts a podcast, Nocturnal Emotions, during which he talks about embarrassing moments with actors and musicians like Flea, Ted Leo, and Macaulay Culkin. One of the podcast’s segments, “Let Me Ruin Your Favorite Song,” features Tillmann doing pretty much what the segment promises and ruining the guest’s favorite song. The A.V. Club doesn’t have a favorite song, but we still wanted to know what Tillmann would choose as his least favorite song.
The hated: Eric Clapton, “Tears In Heaven” (1992)
Sean Tillmann: I hate that song so much.
The A.V. Club: Why?
ST: Well, it’s kind of a tie between that and the national anthem as my least favorite songs. “Tears In Heaven” is so fucking sappy and sad that it’s a whole level of “woe is me.” I just can’t comprehend it. And I like “woe is me” jams, but when it’s so pathetic and it’s so revered, I think it’s very polarizing. You either hate it or you love it, you know?
AVC: Granted, it did come out of an incredibly sad situation. Even Eric Clapton didn’t play it for years because he thought it was too sad.
ST: We did karaoke like a month ago after brunch. It was 4 p.m., really early. We were kind of drunk already, too. Anyway, it was only me, my four friends, and another couple there, and this chick decides her first song is going to be “Tears In Heaven.” And I was like, “It’s four in the afternoon; it’s bright out. You don’t want to hear ‘Tears in Heaven’ in the middle of the day sung by some chick at a bar.” That’s a horrible idea.
AVC: “Tears In Heaven” was co-written by Will Jennings, who also wrote the lyrics for Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”
ST: Oh my God! That bastard! He’s just a maple-syrup guy.
ST: That’s amazing.
People always talk about the subtext. Yeah, Eric Clapton’s son died, but that’s even worse! Now you’re, like, profiting off your sorrow. I don’t know. The whole idea of “Tears In Heaven” is so community theater. That title is like a play your gay high-school teacher wrote.
AVC: People love that song. It won three Grammys, including Record Of The Year, and it won an MTV VMA, which is incredibly weird.
ST: People fucking love that song!
AVC: You can say that because he’s an artist, he should be allowed to grieve how he wants, and if he wants to write a song, then he should.
ST: Yeah, but people who want to cry to that are the most base individuals. If that tugs at your heartstrings, then you’re fucking 1 foot deep.
AVC: It’s not subtle, that’s for sure.
ST: And Clapton’s just a dick and terrible. He hit on George Harrison’s wife. Why do they put up with that dude? Why do they think he is a league with the Beatles when he’s fucking Eric Clapton? You can’t trust a guy who looks that pervy and does that much cocaine. It’s like, “You’re not a musician. You’re my accountant.”
AVC: “Wonderful Tonight” is also incredibly heavy-handed.
ST: Oh yeah. It’s like fucking children’s books for adults, dumb adults.
AVC: When I heard this was your pick, I thought it might be controversial. Like, “How dare you pick a song about a dead toddler?”
ST: Yeah, but it doesn’t really feel like he cares. It’s like, he might have when he wrote it. When he wrote the lyrics down, he was like, “That’s deep.” But then the performance is like, “I don’t give a fuck.”
Did I hate it well enough?
AVC: You hated it well enough. You just took Eric Clapton down a peg, and you didn’t even have to mention his new album, Old Sock.
ST: Old Sack? S-A-C-K?
AVC: S-O-C-K, like socks in shoes.
ST: “Old Sack” is a way better name for an album. Or “Sad Sack.” Or “Sad Sock.”