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: Dean Ween, a.k.a. Mickey Melchiondo, was founding member and lead guitarist of Ween, one of the most polarizing and beloved cult bands to emerge from the alternative-rock heyday of the early ’90s. When news broke of Ween’s sudden and sad dissolution last year, Melchiondo simply shifted focus to his other love: fishing. A licensed captain, Melchiondo runs seasonal charters full-time off the Jersey Shore. In addition to an upcoming reality fishing show with Les Claypool, he just finished the fifth record for his long running, dirt-rock band Moistboyz, titled Moistboyz V Medusa.
The hated: 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up?”
The A.V. Club: “What’s Up?” was released as a single on June 23, 1993. Do you have any recollection of the first time you heard the song?
Dean Ween: I don’t remember where I was, or what I was doing, but I remember hearing it and thinking, “This is the most obnoxious fucking hollering I’ve ever heard in my life.” I could envision the horrible, horrible female that was singing it, and I knew that it was gonna be a hit, just by how bad I hated it. I knew that it was going to be played for years by every fucking bad girl band that came through my local bar, and sung on every karaoke night for the rest of time. I was just instantly overcome with a sense of dread, and of course it’s all come to pass. Then I saw the video for it, and the people that I imagined would be so loathsome as to make such a piece of shit of a song looked identical to what I imagined them to be in my mind.
AVC: In the video, Linda Perry and the bassist both have horrible dreadlocks, and Perry has that ridiculous hat with the goggles.
DW: It’s as bad as music gets. The pinnacle of the whole thing is when she does this powerful “Revolution!” What the fuck does this have to do with revolution? Wow, powerful stuff, asshole!
AVC: This album was out almost right around the same time as Pure Guava. While you weren’t in chart competition, were you pissed that “What’s Up?” and “Push Th’ Little Daisies” were both considered alt-rock darlings, vying for attention?
DW: That’s totally not true, first of all. [Laughs.] We weren’t competing with anybody. If you compared the level of commercial success we had with “Push Th’ Little Daisies” to that, I don’t think they’re even on the same radar. I can’t write music bad enough to be that popular.
AVC: You immediately hated the song, but did it get worse with the video and radio overplay? Does your hatred continue to grow?
DW: It grows to this day. If it was on in a bar or a restaurant, I would go out of my way to make them turn it off. There’s all kinds of bad music out there, but everything about the song makes my ears bleed. The over-singing, the awful lyrics, and the guitar. There’s a guitar solo in it that’s like what you learn the first week you get a guitar and take a lesson. They show you a blues scale, and that’s what is being played on the song. Everything about the song is so awful that if I sat down and tried to write the worst song ever, I couldn’t even make it 10 percent of the reality of how awful that song is.
AVC: As a musician, is that what particularly offends you?
DW: I’ll tell you what it is: At the high-school talent show when I was growing up, or the elementary talent show, there’s always that obnoxious girl whose parents or the theater coach told her she’s really talented, and she goes up and sings a song from Annie. [Singing.] “The sun’ll come out tomorrow!” Overdoing it. I knew the song was going to be the new that when I heard it. [Laughs.] And it is.
AVC: There were a lot of quirky, one-hit wonders around that time.
DW: There’s some good stuff too! I don’t hate music. I love music. And you know what? There’s all kinds of bad music out there that’s ignorable. Bad is relative. My local bar, John And Peter’s in New Hope, does bands seven nights a week. Most are bad. It’s bands who can only play in bars that hold 40 or 50 people. I will watch a bunch of 17-year-olds that are bad if they’re out there giving it up. Then there’s bands that are bad, like nerdy, indie, alt shit out there—that, to me, is clueless. Music is really wimpy right now. Not all of it; there’s great stuff out there. But I would rather watch the horrible band, where they can’t play, than see something that is insincere or faux-powerful. I’m by no means criticizing that era of music because there’s a million great singles from that era of indie, alt-rock. Not indie, but the alt-rock early ’90s. There’s a lot of great singles from one-hit wonder bands that you never heard of again.
AVC: That’s funny. Remember—
DW: I’d like to fight the whole band. That’s how much I hate the song. I’d like to fight them.
AVC: But remember “Feed The Tree?” That’s a nonsensical one-hit wonder song that works.
DW: Who did “Feed The Tree?” again?
DW: That’s right. Belly. Or, [Singing.] “I smell sex and candy.” I think that was later on, but there’s a lot of good alternative-rock hits. Remember [Singing.] “Do you wanna die!?” The Toadies. That’s one of the best rock ’n’ roll singles ever. I don’t want to ever come off as bitter about music, or like I hate everything. If I don’t like stuff, then I change the channel. There’s stuff that can be ignored. Then there’s stuff that’s so inexcusable, I would go out of my way if their van [4 Non Blondes] was parked by the club to slash the tires and kick the door panels in. Or their bus. Probably their private jet. Fuck.
AVC: I think a lot of song hatred can come from a girlfriend, or friends who overplay it. Did you actually know anyone who liked the song when it was popular?
DW: Yeah, the lesbian bartenders in New Hope.
AVC: Linda Perry went on to write “Beautiful” for Christina Aguilera, and Pink’s “Get The Party Started.”
DW: Did she really? See, I don’t even know any of this stuff.
AVC: Do you have any begrudging respect for those tunes, or her latent songwriting abilities?
DW: [Laughs.] I don’t know. You just dropped all that on me. I’m certainly not a big Pink fan. What was the other one?
AVC: [Singing.] “You are beautiful…”
DW: I can’t believe the same person wrote both those songs. That’s just sort of a Beatles-y kinda anthem. But anyway, you’re trying to fool me. [Laughs.] We’re talking about the other song.
AVC: When I was 11, in 1993, my Mom and I bought the 4 Non Blondes tape, and we would blast “What’s Up?” on the way to soccer practice. I have a begrudging, sentimental love for this song.
DW: Well, you’re a dick!
AVC: Do you have any secret-shame songs?
DW: Oh God, of course. I love that Maroon 5 song, that first single. [Singing.] “This love has taken its toll on me.” I love that song.
AVC: 4 Non Blondes? Aren’t there more egregious evils like “Macarena,” or some dance song, that you could have picked?
DW: The entire Black Eyed Peas catalog. Everything about them is totally offensive. Their mere existence embodies everything that is wrong in pop music.