Thursday, February 21, 2019

Titles And Honorifics: Two Princes

Spin Doctors: Two Princes

The Spin Doctors’ song “Two Princes” is catchy, fun and was a huge worldwide hit. It got a Grammy nomination, for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group (it lost to Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the Edge,” ugh). It was ranked No. 41 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of the '90s. And yet, over time, a visceral hatred of the band, and this song in particular, has festered. Blender ranked it No. 21 on its 2004 list of the 50 worst songs ever. Although it appears that this assessment was based mostly on the fact that the writer didn’t like that the band looked like a bunch of “scrabbly beared [sic], questionably hatted, red-eyed stoners.”

Google “spin doctors hate,” as I did, and you will find many articles like this, or this, or this, describing the writer (or interviewee’s) hatred of the band and the song. But you will also find this article, from Popdose, defending the band, and pointing out that there has been, inevitably, a backlash to the backlash. There's this, by someone who listened to the song 100 times in a row, and loves it.  And although the band finished eighth in a 2013 Rolling Stone reader poll of the 10 worst bands of Nineties, the writer noted:  "Also, they really aren't that bad and don't belong on this list."

Interestingly, most of the complaints about “Two Princes” are based on some combination of “the song was overplayed,” “it is simplistic,” “the singer’s voice sucks,” “the lyrics are repetitive,” and “the singer does some silly scatting.” But couldn’t you say that about many, many songs that are popular, beloved and even respected?

Were Spin Doctors a great band? No, but they were pretty good for a while, and fun to see live (which I did, in 1992, I think—but that’s another story). They put out a couple of good albums and a bunch of good songs (and Pocket Full of Kryptonite, which spawned “Two Princes” was filled with a few other gems, including "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" which would also fit this theme). Is “Two Princes” a great song? Probably not, but it is certainly a very good song.

I’m going to speculate that the hate started as a reaction from the jam band community, which saw Spin Doctors’ popularity as a sell-out, and unjust, because there were “better” bands who had less success. That was picked up by more mainstream critics, who were also able to mock the band for their latter-day hippie image. And at some point, it became part of the culture, like ragging on Nickelback, or saying that “We Built This City” is the worst song ever. (Both of those, though, have merit).

At the end of the day, I have to agree with this comment from Paste: “The decline of hippie-pop three-hit wonders the Spin Doctors from Top 10 to snorting punchline was swift, brutal and not entirely just.”

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