In no particular order because I write as I think of them. Appropriate Cringe level advised where noted.
- “Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture 8 Mile,” Various Artists.
Cringe Level: Minor/Meme Level-Severe Depending on Level of Fanboying
Original release: November 8, 2002
Containing more than just the first rap song to ever win an Oscar, MFAIBTMP8M (please try saying that in your head as an actual word because the thought of it amuses me) is one of the first soundtracks I ever actually got into. When I discovered this I was in the last half of my junior year and had just joined a rap conglomerate when I discovered the film. “Lose Yourself,” of course, is one of the most recognizable and arguably one of the best songs of all time mostly thanks to white boys who can’t name a single album by Gang Starr. The story of personal redemption and upcoming as a someone young and hungry in the game-whatever game you’re trying to get yourself into, whether that be rap, writing, or a job interview like a fucking poser-is timeless and immediately sticks with you the first time you hear it. For a while I have planned to have the title tattooed on the underside of my left arm, my first, when the first book sells. That alone is worth Cringe Points.
Speaking of Gang Starr, the track “Battle” is a throwback to their early braggadocio records and solid production values let Guru’s laid back style still come off as in-your-face and menacing. You wouldn’t wanna battle him.
Nas’ “U Wanna Be Me” is my favorite song from his feud with Jay-Z with some of the most brutal bars. If you want to hear Jiggy be compared to a yeast infection, this is one for you.
“Rabbit Run,” a hookless 3:12-long banger by Eminem, is my favorite song by him to date. A walk-up anthem like no other, it will surely get the blood pumping and the gears spinning in your head with a beat based off of sinister organ chord tones and a clucking bell.
In less musical terms: This song is better than Lose Yourself. Try it.
- “Weathered,” Creed
Cringe Level: Massive/LOL Kill Yourself
Original Release: November 20, 2001
I was sixteen when I got into Creed. Like, just turned. Besides the punk days (more to come on that) this is the most emo I ever got. They’re a preachy Christian band at heart, and it shows in several songs from here that I can’t stand and won’t mention. I was an agnostic in high school so I ignored most of those thematics. I was there for the edge and come back now for the nostalgia and a few solid tracks.
“Weathered,” the title song. Whenever I was bitter and covered in skin (all the time, skin is very annoying) especially on the way to a school I didn’t like going to or going to a home I didn’t like going to I would turn to this to validate those emotions. At times bitter, pop-angry and desperate, I still dig it sometimes, but usually only for the hook before I switch it.
“One Last Breath,” because Scott Stapp hints at suicide for one measure in the hook and the backing music makes him sound convincing.
“Lullaby,” soft and sweet with a stripped-down approach.
The rest were either unimportant or too Cringe to mention.
- “The Resistance,” Muse
Cringe Level: Minor/Too Obscure to be Meme Level/Possible Hipster Points
Original Release: September 15, 2009
The album that did so well in a year that they had to copy its sound across every album since. I discovered this album through a friend when I was fifteen and dug it. Most songs slip past or sound the same, but I like two of the solid ones.
“Uprising,” the one you will recognize immediately upon hearing the swooning organ followed by the syncopated bass and rather impressive drum work (they are a drummers’ band). Also the music video has a teddy bear army.
The title track, a rebellious love ballad that prepares you for every song they released afterwards.
- “Best of,” Chris Isaak
Cringe Level: Major/Possible Hipster Points
Original Release: May 9, 2006
A different friend introduced this to me. I was also fifteen. That friend called this blues. That friend is a liar. I believed him regardless because I listened to whiny music 24/7. I could classify this as “Sad Surf Acoustic Rock,” “Low-Tempo Rockabilly,” or “California Country Music,” but I won’t try to single out a label for an artist whose every song somehow sounds completely different and exactly the same at the same time and let you decide for yourself.
“Wicked Game,” that eighties romantic ballad with a music video starring That Model and That Dude Who Tries Way Too Hard To Look Like Elvis But Totally Doesn’t. One of those songs with possible Ironic Hipster Points that I have to be in the mood for otherwise I’ll skip.
“Somebody’s Crying,” bitchy yet whiny as hell and strangely hilarious.
“Only the Lonely,” a great fucking cover.
“Forever Blue,” which defines his sound. I actually like this one. Link is to acoustic version found on this album.
Special mention to “Two Hearts,” which starts off admirably and then descends into utter croon madness before finishing into a siren’s wail of a falsetto.
- “Gershwin’s World,” Herbie Hancock
Cringe Level: Minor to None/Total Hipster Points
Original Release: October 20, 1998
A long, long time ago and in a classroom far, far away, I tried learning how to play actual songs on the piano and took a jazz class that somehow didn’t fail me despite my total inexperience due to the fact that I’d only been able to read melodic notes for a year and still struggled with chord tones. Herbie Hancock was one of the artists I was told to try and I love him dearly to this day. I went to the library to try and find one of his albums (because I didn’t know where to start and hadn’t tried pirating any “school” music yet) and this was the first one on the shelf that caught my eye.
“Cotton Tail,” absolute be-bop mania. If I ever try to hit the keys again I will try to play this song and then fail spectacularly.
“St. Louis Blues,” favorite cover of this standard. Complete with vocals.
“The Man I Love,” sweet, romantic, soft piano jazz that’s okay according to people who have no idea what jazz can sound like. Soft spot for this track. Complete with vocals.
“Embraceable You.” See previous entry.
- “Extreme Behavior,” Hinder
Cringe Level: Major to Massive/LOL Kill Yourself
Original Release: September 25, 2005
No excuse for this one. I was sixteen and wanted more non-punk dirty mainstream rock and walked past this album on a Walmart shelf and went on Grooveshark later on and listened to it and liked it.
“Lips of an Angel,” is a song that you can already guess sounds like based on title alone. How it hasn’t become a major meme yet is beyond me. Possibly the only song alive to Cringe for memes. I liked it. Still do sometimes but have to be in the mood for it otherwise massive skip before I start wondering why I still have this as an .mp3.
“Get Stoned,” a party anthem I discovered before I pretended to go to parties or actually smoked anything more severe than cigarettes.
The rest is not worth mentioning. It was one of the worst rated albums of 2005. It went platinum in 2006.
- “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” Buddy Guy
Cringe Level: None/Total Hipster Points/Anyone Who Talks Shit About This Album Will Be Sent Straight to Gulag
Original Release: early/mid 1991
One of the first actual blues records I got into. Ripped the songs from the library’s copy of the CD and never looked back. This is his most pop record as well, and a good starting point for anyone trying to get into blues music (Chicago’s brand especially-city, not the band). Very recommended.
Title track, one of the meanest and bitchiest blues songs I’ve heard until I discovered anything by Guitar Shorty and funny in its own way.
“Black Night,” still one of my top piano-based blues songs to date. Soft and moody as all hell. Listen when three bottles deep at three in the morning. That stuff about his brother being in Iraq is on-the-nose and a little Cringe but I can like it if in the mood
“Rememberin’ Stevie.” A jam session recorded in honor of Stevie Ray Vaughan in a darkened studio shortly after his death. No words within because it doesn’t need any. The pain is in the music.
- “No Jacket Required,” Phil Collins
Cringe Level: Medium to Severe/LOL Kill Yourself I Guess
Original Release: February 18, 1985
Once upon a time I liked Phil Collins way too much. This is my favorite album from his solo career. Here’s some links then we’re moving on and pretending we never saw this. Cool? Cool.
“Don’t Lose My Number.” No idea why I like this song. Cuz it’s pissy, maybe, and PC is better when he’s mad? Probably. The music video about trying to make a music video is stupid and worth Cringe Points by itself.
“Sussudio.” Will listen when in the mood. Just say the word. Worth Cringe Points despite Normie Memeable status.
“Only You Know and I Know,” same as the first entry but with more horns.
“Take Me Home,” liked when I was forced into an inescapable situation throughout my high school years. Irony Points for when I was a hobo. Forgot I didn’t have this. Off to download. Minor Cringe Points for layers of cheese towards end.
Honorable Mention to “I Don’t Wanna Know,” one of his bitchiest tracks, as well as “One More Night,” which bores me to death so much I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it in its entirety. Could be a metalcore breakdown in the final third and I wouldn’t remember. Because I’d be asleep. Or dead. Because bored. Yeah, you get it. Moving on.
8 9. “The Blue Album,” Adolescents
Cringe Level: Minor to Moderate
Original Release: April 1981
The album that singlehandedly got me back into punk after the dryspell when I was fifteen and sixteen. An underrated band.
“Kids Of The Black Hole,” song personally responsible for pulling me back into it. A little on the nose when I first heard it because it directly mentioned being a hobo but I didn’t care. Still dig to this day.
“Amoeba,” better known as “That song in GTAV that every white boy skips over because they’re stupid.”
“House of the Rising Sun,” a really weird cover that fools you by starting off so normally.
Honorable Mentions go towards the rest of the album because it is punk heaven.
- “Priceless Jazz,” Keith Jarrett
Cringe Level: Minor to Moderate/Total Hipster Points
Original Release: February 10, 1988
Second compilation on this list. Second jazz album on this list. Found the same way I found “Gershwin’s World”: Part of the recommended listens by a jazz teacher slowly losing faith in the entire class and all of humanity not on his massive record shelf. Only full album I’ve listened to by Keith Jarrett, who ranks as one of the most insane jazz acts of our modern times.
“De Drums,” twelve wonderful minutes with many melodic and key changes interspersed with exemplary musicianship. Always wanted to learn how to play the opening minute but probably never will because I suck.
“Treasure Island,” the only time you will ever hear him on what sounds like an electric piano because once again he is fucking nuts but the song is perfect for travelling as long as you aren’t driving or allergic to augmented chords.
Honorable Album Mentions, Also With Cringe Ratings:
“Ready to Die,” Notorious B.I.G., No Cringe Because Classic And I Will Cut Whoever Says Otherwise. Not added to list because not appreciated in full until after graduation. The opening line to “Juicy” may also be tattooed in due time and the song remains one of my favorites of all time including cheesy hook.
“Marshall Mathers LP,” Eminem, Minor to Severe Cringe Depending On Level Of Fanboying. Still discovering new things about this album everytime I listen to it. Probably my favorite non-collab from his career. “Stan,” “Kill You,” and “Kim” are good in their own right. “The Real Slim Shady” has Minor Cringe because cliché. Linking even if you know the damn song and if not will recognize it immediately and then switch it off.
“Save Rock and Roll,” Fall Out Boy, Moderate to Severe Cringe. Pop-punk pioneers returned and it didn’t suck. Sure, “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” deserves Cringe both for the long fucking title that probably rebroke my destroyed little finger while typing it because it sure fucking feels like it and “The Phoenix” which is based off of a Russian symphony and deserves Hipster Points but I didn’t fully ingratiate myself into this record until the neighbor who would drive me to work listened to it every day for four months straight after I graduated and thus bash it into my fucking skull like a pop-punk/post-emo brick.
Some of these albums will be appreciated forever. Some deserve to be forgotten. Off to jam out to some of these for nostalgia’s sake. Not telling you which ones. I’m not nearly that dumb.