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 Alkaline Trio’s frontman, Matt Skiba has spent the past 17 years in punk-rock purgatory, releasing an album about every other year (the latest, My Shame Is True, is out now) and spending countless hours in the van on tour listening to boring, non-adventurous rock radio. As such, The A.V. Club thought Skiba might have some pretty strong opinions about what songs are so terrible that they get instantly vetoed on the road, no matter what, and sure enough, he did.
The hated: Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes” (1991)
Matt Skiba: One of the reasons I hate this song is because of how popular it actually was. I’ve spoken to friends of mine about this interview, and they’re like, “Goddammit, it’s stuck in my head now.” That song was forced upon us as a people.
I understand what the song is supposed to be about, but it just represents, like, the opposite of Bob Marley or Billy Bragg or something. It’s “white people without problems” music. I just envision hippies in a VW driving around San Francisco like, “Weee!” in the ’90s.
The worst part of that song is, “Just go ahead now.”
The A.V. Club: They say it a lot.
MS: “Just go ahead now.” What the fuck does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just garbage.
One of my friends said his least favorite song would be “Dancing In The Streets,” but at least that has Mick Jagger and David Bowie. With Spin Doctors, it was hard for me to pick the worst of the worst. “Pocket Full Of Kryptonite”? Holy shit. “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” Oof. Those lyrics are definitely about nothing.
AVC: It’s not entirely clear what the “Two Princes” lyrics are about either.
MS: My friend Mark explained it to me. He’s sticking up for it and explaining it to me like I’m missing something. [Laughs.] I don’t miss the point that it’s two guys vying for the attention of this one girl, and one guy has money and one guy doesn’t or whatever. But the delivery and the choice of words and all of it, it just makes me want to throw up in my mouth. And the way this song starts is just like a fart in a moonsuit. It’s just… [groans]. There are so many things wrong with it.
AVC: There are also so many covers and alternate versions to this song. It’s in a ton of movies, and it was on Sesame Street for crying out loud.
MS: God, it was such a huge hit. There are a lot of bad tunes that have come out over the years but “Two Princes” is just so white and safe and shitty. And so hugely popular. Granted, I’m not pissed off about it. They’re not hurting anyone. It’s just offensive to me. I’m sure they’re nice people or whatever. But it’s just like, “Oh man, that song is the enemy.”
AVC: That’s the other thing: It’s not one of those songs that came and went. Pocket Full of Kryptonite came out in ’91 and Spin Doctors were on the cover of Rolling Stone in ’93.
MS: And I think they were on Lollapalooza at some point.
AVC: They were on Lollapalooza and they were on H.O.R.D.E.
MS: Yeah, the hippie festival. And, you know, I kind of understand. There was some real bad alternative—“alternative”—stuff that came out in the ’90s that’s completely cringe-worthy. But that songs sticks out to me like such a humongous sore thumb. It’ll be stuck in your fucking head for the rest of the day. I’m sorry. I’m sorry about that.
AVC: Once your publicist said what song it was, I knew I was doomed to that fate.
MS: [Laughs.] I thought of it right away. I thought maybe “Arms Wide Open” by Creed. Terrible, terrible song. Terrible band. But some really hilarious, great shit came out of it. So there is that irony to it. That’s just fodder for comedy. He’s this high and mighty Christian getting blowjobs from hookers backstage with Kid Rock and berating the crowd out of his mind on booze and drugs. That’s awesome. Don’t die on us or anything, but, fucking-A, that ruled. But Spin Doctors, there is no twist. It’s not good for the wrong reasons.
AVC: There’s not even an ironic way to listen to it.
MS: There’s no rub to it. It’s just bad.
AVC: Musically, can you tell me what you don’t like about the song?
MS: [Sings opening riff.] That opening riff, it’s just like, oh, God. You know what’s going to happen. They come in that first line. It’s just so obtuse and awkward to me. And then it just goes to shit from there. But still somehow—I will give them credit—it’s totally infectious. Everyone knows that song.
AVC: It’s kind of unfortunate.
MS: Everyone’s probably done karaoke to that song, myself not included. It’s a huge hit and good on them. But, fuck, what a bad song.
AVC: They probably made a reasonable amount of money.
MS: I’m sure they did.
AVC: The cadence of the song is so off-putting.
MS: And then he starts scatting. [Scats, then groans.] His whole delivery and the cadence, it kills me. And it’s the very thing that made it a hit. I want to start a class about it at the university. It’s crazy.
AVC: John Popper from Blues Traveler was originally in the Spin Doctors, and that’s why they toured together so often in the ’90s.
MS: It makes sense, because Blues Traveler has that same kind of appeal. Obviously they’re more bluegrass, folk, hippie stuff, but they were appreciated by musicians. They’re great players. I’m not a Blues Traveler fan, though. I get it, but it’s not for me. John Popper, is that the singer from Blues Traveler?
AVC: Yeah. He wears the harmonica vest.
MS: He’s got a great voice, the guy can play, whatever. But none of their songs stick out like “Two Princes,” man. Fucking hell. Well, nothing does to me, anyway.
AVC: “Two Princes” was popular for about two years. Think about what that would mean now. It would be like if “Gangnam Style” was in the collective consciousness and, if not critically respected, at least on the radio for two solid years.
MS: It sucked. Oh, man. Even then I wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid. I was like, “What is this? Why are they on Lollapalooza? Keep that shit over there. Nine Inch Nails and the Spin Doctors are playing together? Are you fucking kidding me?” It’s weird man. It’s really interesting, though.
AVC: “Two Princes” is a good pick. If you didn’t go for it, someone would have eventually.
MS: I had to go back and research it, and I’m not even kidding you, it made me sort of queasy. When I was watching the video where that guy just bounces around all happy and shit… The beanie he knitted the night before. It’s just like, “Goddammit, no.”
AVC: Now I’m just so angry about this song.
MS: Good. At least we’re on the same page. People are trying to stick up for it and I’m like, “No, you’re not going to change my mind on this one.”