The 20 Worst Songs of 2010, #6: Salem, "Trap Door"

F2K10 is a countdown of the 20 worst songs of 2010. Track our progress here.

salemmyspacepic-550.jpg
The face of rap in 2010. Photo via MySpace.
Here are five compelling reasons why Salem is the worst new band of the year:



1. They really, really, really, really don't care. About anything. And not in a cool, nihilistic, destructive, deconstructive Sid Vicious way. More like, "I have no passion or pride in my own music. [Fart noise]. Are you going to eat those fries?"

Salem is the type of band who sleeps through their New York Times interview; and then gives answers so waffley and non-committal that I'm convinced they're too stupid to function as humans let alone musicians. The infamous videos of them performing at the Fader Fort include the band doing what they do best--looking like a mix between nervous, aimless, and totally confused; poking and prodding at their gear like it's going to bite them; fetching cigarettes in the middle of a song; and somehow making their "breakout star" a white person who can stand in front of a room of people and freestyle an atonal, arrhythmic Southern-rap minstrel show. I have no idea how these talentless fuckups sleep at night EVER, let along through Ben Ratliff's phone calls. By the way, yes, they got booed by a bunch of people at the Fader Fort only there for free jeans and bragging rights. Good work indie rock. Your tireless persecution complex about not being invited to the cool parties in high school is now making underground music a parade of people too unemployable for the fashion industry!

2. It's embarrassingly easy to do what they do. Hey, look what I made!

3. They are the living, breathing, American-Apparel-clad definition of white privilege. Because I'm seconds away from throwing my computer through the window, , I'll let our man Brandon Soderberg do the heavy lifting here:

"The slowed down vocals do not only have the effect of bringing the vocalist's voice down to stoned crawl, they make the white performer sound black. This, coupled with lyrics that are content-wise, what my grandmother thinks rap's about (murder, rape, misogyny, repeat) and the problematic, conscious 'hip-hop' pronunciations underneath that vocal effect, makes Salem's music pretty egregious. This is a group of white kids who've screwed their vocals down to 'sound black,' and then use that screwing-down of vocals to say things they wouldn't-and couldn't-say otherwise"

In the case of "Trapdoor" it's some dude who looks like he's trying to sneak in the back door of P.S.1 talking about how "I seen a bitch run but I doubt she know why." What romantics! Anyway, I had a friend speed up this song. Finally, this dude once again sounds like the try-hard dorkus malorkus whiteboy he really is. You can hear that here.

4. They are a unique combination of many genres, all executed poorly.
Rap! - I mean, its hilarious that rock critics are doing backflips for Salem when actual rappers are making transcendent, suffocating ooze (see Waka Flocka Flame, DJ Paul, Juicy J, Nappy Roots, 8Ball & MJG). But of course getting a rock critic to listen to anything that one of the big three publicists doesn't hand them on a silver platter is like herding cats. Really sad, lonely, basement-dwelling cats. There's rapping in cereal commercials better than "Trapdoor" and at least Barney Rubble doesn't pitch down his voice to sound like a hipster-junkie version of Bun B.

Shoegaze! - All their drones are as hilariously simple and monochromatic as letting your cat nap on your Casio. Anyone who gets lost in their sonic world would probably get lost in a Pizza Hut.

Noise! - True noise artists use hacky car crash sounds from sound effects records. Good job, geniuses!

5. There's like a million great bands you should probably be listening to instead. Sorry to get all "positive" for a second here. My 79-minute anti-Salem mixtape hasn't been taken down yet, which I can only assume is a tacit endorsement from a music industry who also quietly believes this band blows balls. Go download it and never think of this band again--which I assume won't be the hardest thing come 2011.


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60 comments
jaymilleranormalhuma
jaymilleranormalhuma

I am so glad that everyone else hated your article as much as I did. You are the definition of a TERRIBLE AUTHOR. It is a true sign of someones lack of talent as a journalist when they purposely spend (waste) time writing about things they hate. This whole article seemed more like a drunken rant I would write on facebook at 3 AM. Fucking Childs play.

alex_smith93
alex_smith93

"I'm convinced they're too stupid to function as humans let alone musicians-" I'm convinced you're too stupid to function as a writer- spewing this hateful, dismissive all around horrible article. You literally devoted your time to point out the flaws in others, you perfect flawless bastard.

hoffmanh
hoffmanh

CHRIS WEINGARTEN IS A GARBAGE WRITER AND AN IGNORANT PERSON IN GENERAL.

hoffmanh
hoffmanh

Dude you're a fool. Salem is legit, and so is Trapdoor... "They are the living, breathing, American-Apparel-clad definition of white privilege." 


Hmm... really? Pretty sure these dudes aren't from privileged backgrounds. In fact, one of the guys was addicted to drugs and prostituted himself while going to art school... Doesn't sound too spoonfed to me. It's a dope group, and you're just a reasonless hater. Sucks to be you. Stop writing, start reading.

thom.meyer793
thom.meyer793

you're a joke, you clearly know nothing about anything you're talking about. Do you honestly think they're trying to sound like "romantics" when they made that line, or any of their music full stop? Anyhow any credibility you had went out the window when you, hopefully accidentally, called Juicy J and Wacka Flocka Flame actual rappers. If you don't understand any of the meaning "Trapdoor" tries to communicate i suggest you watch The Place Beyond the Pines, starring ryan gosling and brad cooper. The scene in which it's used is a perfect illustration of the theme and feel of the song. In the meantime probably don't write anymore articles about things you clearly know nothing about and probably just combined a bunch of words from various other articles rather than calling on your own thoughts and imagination, something else Salem is excellent at, originality.

blog-anglophonic
blog-anglophonic

"It's embarrassingly easy to do what they do. Hey, look what I made!"

No really...I'm laughing my ass off.

What you "made" was a jealous little music critique that jumped on another person's bandwagon for a $100 writing fee.

John and Jack make more money deejaying a single gig than you make all month.

Go fill out your 1099 and STFU.


rainbowsarecool94
rainbowsarecool94

You're a fucking pretentious douchebag. Salem is a group of talented, true Witch House artists. Witch House has its roots in Trap music, witch involves rap and Southern Rap drum-kits. Who fucking cares if they sound "black." They are not trying to sound like anything, they are just performing a song. I'm not African-American but this song is hard, regardless of what you may think. Salem continues to blow my mind with their music, and they do other kinds of Witch House other than rap. Fuck you.  

gringo
gringo

Trapdoor is not a great song but Salem does make a lot of real heartfelt music. They may have become an easy target for the snarky hipster music press but that hasn't stopped them from being one of the most influential and innovative musical acts of 2010; probably the most influential. Progressive artists have always drawn criticism from people with narrow minds and little imagination, so articles like this are just proof of Salem's significance.

fistupurass
fistupurass

piss poor article, is its so easy why aint you at the top. fuckin fishdick

fistupurass
fistupurass

piss poor article, is its so easy why aint you at the top. fuckin fishdick

chrimbro
chrimbro

fuck yuou. i will kill your asshole!!!

IM INTO SOME EVIL SHIT
IM INTO SOME EVIL SHIT

We could burn this article.......All it takes is matches and just a little juice.....

MintyBalls
MintyBalls

I actually really like the trapdoor song, his rapping style or 'flow' is actually good i think. It sounds like some hazy trip on some bad shrooms...love it!

Praisetarts
Praisetarts

Holy shit, Salem trolled the shit outta this guy. He actually took the time to make 2 different songs to show why this band sucks.

jetdog
jetdog

salem sound good to me so whatever

njoyzthesilence
njoyzthesilence

it's music, and all music is subjective to the listener. not everyone is gonna like it but if it makes you happy it doesnt hurt anything

Herpadepr
Herpadepr

Chris is really buttpained, u mad chris? u mad cause SALEM be swaggin on ya?

ghiselin
ghiselin

I think Trapdoor and Redlights are really special songs... I haven't been able to relate to any of their other music at any real level. Of course their image is silly but there's no performing musician today about whom you couldn't say the same thing. Would I see them live? no. Is my experience of the world richer for having heard those two tracks? yes, very much so. Do I care if the guy is appropriating black crackheadedness or something? No. who gives a fuck, whoever wins that fight is the real loser. 

The Pinball Occult
The Pinball Occult

how can you NOT like this? trapdoor is easily one of the most interesting and progressive songs ive heard in a while? it certainly beats thoughtless crap like mumford and sons or the strokes or any of the other white privileged swill thats cursed the airwaves for the past two decades. if salem ISNT good, then what is? serious question. 

mistergraham
mistergraham

I don't disagree with you on much of this; however, I will point out that sentences like this: "I mean, its hilarious that rock critics are doing backflips for Salem when actual rappers are making transcendent, suffocating ooze (see Waka Flocka Flame, DJ Paul, Juicy J, Nappy Roots, 8Ball & MJG)" ...are the kind of thing that give music critics a bad name. "[T]ranscendent, suffocating ooze"...? What does that even mean? Is it positive? if you ran it by your rap-averse grandma, would she "dig" your "thing" there?This is in or around enjoying the music of both Salem and Eightball & MJG. Space Age 4 Eva, motherfuckers. As much as I love DJ Screw, Michael Watts' take on that record is outSTANDing.

guesty
guesty

hahaaaaaa this review is so silly

Teselations
Teselations

You are so right about everything but it still sounds great and innovative. Sorry dude you are missing the point. You can intellectualize music all you want but at the end of the day they are still filtering the energy of the world in a way that is mesmerizing. They are on to something despite their irreverence for the rest of society.

yesismokecrack
yesismokecrack

The fact that they've been voted one of the worst bands of 2010 is a good sign. It means they're actually doing something interesting. If they were one of the millions of dubstep groups or radiohead/mymorningjacket-esque bands, they wouldn't have made a splash at all and they wouldn't even be on this list. They are the most interesting act I've heard in the last 2 years. There is a whole movement based on their style. (See White Ring, oOoOO,) Your little chopped and screwed remix is piss poor and to someone who actually listens to that music, sounds like an uninspired, shallow attempt at DJ Screw's style. While Salem is influenced by DJ Screw's sound, They do not specialize specifically in just slowing down and adding glitches to other people's music. They write almost all of it including their own samples. It takes a lot more talent than you give them credit for and unless you can write a song like theirs from scratch instead of slowing down a gucci mane track, you should shut the fuck up.

Salem has admitted they are not good live. They are a studio band. Just like most of the music coming out today... Just like most of the bands you give great reviews...

The sped up version of Trapdoor is just that. It is not sped to the original recording speed, it is way faster. Naturally, any rap sped up that much sounds corny. You can listen to the live version of Trapdoor to hear what his voice really sounds like. Yeah it's slowed down a little on the recording but he sounds nothing like your sped up recording so that was a very unrealistic thing for you to throw out.

They are far from trust fund hipsters. They grew up in inner city and poor rural environments. I think it's sickening that you would make fun of the guy for prostituting himself. And seriously, your going to get on them for talking about drugs and violence in their music? Seriously? If that bothers you, go back to listening to Creed and DC Talk.

You're entitled to your opinion and all that shit but I'm just saying you are not portraying them honestly. You obviously don't listen to that genre or anything close to it, so it doesn't surprise me that it all sounds the same to you. Honestly, I wouldn't give a fuck if they were rich, douschebag, hipsters. Has nothing to do with the music. They are creating innovative and emotionally powerful music in the opinion of many people. They are obviously doing something right, because their are dozens of groups following in their footsteps and the number of people that dig them is growing exponentially. Keep listening to New edition, duchess leo, gucci mane, and whatever other boring talentless shit you listen to. I'll keep listening to music with a soul. fucking cock

a human music fan
a human music fan

this is the most pointless, hating article ever. the fact you cant enjoy salem shows how humanly inept you are, striving to expose a singer that uses vocal treatment. dont be so pathetic. and to try think shoegaze has rules? its an expression of layers and dynamics as much as melody, there isnt a standard. and as for attitude, the music doesnt need to reflect on them. i could enjoy salem never knowing where there from, what they look like or how they vaue thier music. your article is overly bitter, and i think you need to quit journalism if you are going to approach new, developing music with such attacking, irrelevant comments.

RobE
RobE

""I have no passion or pride in my own music. [Fart noise]. Are you going to eat those fries?"

Which apparently makes them the Jesus of slackers. And like most slackers, they are perpetually late, their whole druggie pose being at least 30 years late to the ball, where it was already played out by then.

Chris Kirkham
Chris Kirkham

I think this song made me sterile. Yeah, I'm pretty sure of it.

Capitalist Lion Tamer
Capitalist Lion Tamer

Here's the issue as I see it: like 'em or hate 'em, it doesn't matter. Whether it sounds like a cat on a Korg or like staggering genius (emphasis on "staggering") to you, SALEM couldn't care less. Between their outre drugginess and inability to hold up their end of an interview, SALEM are pretty much the most "rawk" thing going on in a world where rockstars are partial to protest marches and veganism. (Although the New York Times anecdote would seem to prove Lebowski right: nihilism IS exhausting.)

But the troublesome part of this beatdown is Soderberg's assumption that SALEM is doing the pitch shifting just to sound "black," and by extension, get away with cheap misogyny and etc.

Point 1: They're fans of the Houston rap scene, particularly DJ Screw's remixes. Sure, Jack Donoghue's piss poor rapping sounds "black" when slowed to 33-1/3, but so would anyone. The "screw" is the key here, not his desire to sound like the biggest, blackest rapper ever.

Hell, other witch house/drag bands are doing the same thing, most of them all touching the same Houston sizzurp scene with at least one hand. (The other is placing the cat on the keyboard.) Grill Grill, for instance. (No, I'm not opening up the Character Map to insert the little cross thingies.) White Ring does it, too, but their distended vocals sound more like demons caught in a faulty VCR than the Biggie Smalls fronting a Cevin Key side project.

Christ, even Glitter Bones does it (check out "Ceremonial Secrets") and they're way more chillwave than codeine thug. And something that sounds suspiciously like "Go and get a hug" comes out of the tail end of the pitched down 'rap" insertion. Not exactly the sort of thing that builds up your bonafides in a hurry.

Point 2: As to white boys rapping and white faux-rappers pitch shifting themselves into the playa's ball, where it's ok to spout off on killin' and bitches as long as you sound "black": What the fuck? Is the assumption here that it would be ok to be violent and misogynistic (and offend Grandma) as long as the offending parties were actually black?

If so, that's at least as a disturbing notion as JD's minstrel show. "Misogyny is cool as long as you're black." I know this is an extremely truncated assumption/conclusion but from what Soderberg says, it seems to be what the real problem is: Donoghue's whiteness.

Rock and roll has been a fucking minstrel show since day one, when white producers to black songs and gave them to non-offensive white boys to re-record and sell the everloving shit out of someone else's hard work. Sure, U2 may throw B.B. King up on stage now and again and Jon Spencer may slum it with R.L. Burnside for an album/tour, but really it's all just a quick show of "Hey, we're cool, right?" to smooth over years of the man doing what he always does best: stickin' it to someone.

Now, does this ultimately make any difference in your opinion or mine or Soderberg's? Probably not. It sure as hell doesn't matter to Donoghue and the rest of SALEM, who will continue to crank out great tracks, lousy tracks and very, very occasionally, perform live in a mostly credible fashion.

As for the critics near-unanimous praise of "King Night"? It's a solid album, in my opinion. And the collective critical opinion is that the two tracks where JD raps are dead weight low points.

Trust me, I'm not here to proclaim SALEM the "new" anything. I dug their album and some of their previous singles. I just wanted to clear some air on the pitch shifting and my perception of Soderberg's criticism.

Somebody's got to do it. Lord knows the SALEM kids can't be bothered.

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

"Salem is just out there reminding the non-yuppie, non-upwardly mobile, non-happy young offbeats that it's still OK to take drugs, vibe out to dark music, and fumble your way out the K-hole." - Justin Mathews

If only they could have done so by making music worth a shit.

This is godawful. All of their stuff is godawful. It sounds like Wesley Willis on sizzurp, but less creative and likable. What a terrible, terrible thing to inflict upon people.

Ethanlovesyou
Ethanlovesyou

You're youtube doubler was almost as bad as those parts and labor albums!

Wnddwrrr
Wnddwrrr

this song isn't from 2010

Justin Mathews
Justin Mathews

Salem is the anti-hipster band. The ICP of hipsters, I should say.

They're unpretentious and appealingly druggy. They're music for those of us who see that damn car commercial with the singing hipster girl and boy and want to shoot ourselves. (http://www.grayflannelsuit.net...

I know it's difficult to believe, it being 2010, but there are still disaffected, disenfranchised, and generally dissatisfied youth out there. Not everybody wants to jingle some fucking bells for Hyundai.

And some of these dissatisfied youth are white. To call Salem's use of hip hop trappings "appropriation" is to completely miss the point; Justin Bieber is appropriation. While Biebs swindles his way into the pop/R&B/"urban" hivemind, Salem is just out there reminding the non-yuppie, non-upwardly mobile, non-happy young offbeats that it's still OK to take drugs, vibe out to dark music, and fumble your way out the K-hole.

God bless 'em.

dkadflkl
dkadflkl

First of all.....I think that DIRT is amazingly executed as a video. That was how i was introduced to them, on the internet. I felt it was real and horrifying.

I really don't have a problem with salem,the beats they make, their attraction to bounce and self destructive southern crunk........... shares alot with synth music in the fact that when you go to guitar center and pick up a synth you are sharing the same musical pallatte as your hip hop counterparts. Cash Money ripoffs and goth doom kids are playing in the sandbox. They WILL identify with each other on some level...THIS is the product. Shit man, just let it happen...SALEM has soul, especially through REDLIGHT.... worth consideration.

jaymilleranormalhuma
jaymilleranormalhuma

@IM INTO SOME EVIL SHIT This made my day. Salem is fucking legit as fuck son.

Gu
Gu

Shoegaze obviously has rules! Argh! Somebody beat this guy over the head with CDs of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride and Lush!

Tony Ortega
Tony Ortega

I'm a week late on this - but I'm pretty sure Soderburg isn't saying it's cool to rap about this shit if you're black. Let's not take these logical leaps, or we won't get anywhere.

I think Soderburg would think that ANY shit this trite and moronic sucks. I don't think he champions the Gravediggaz, for instance. I'd think making shit this embarassingly bad is horrible in any case, regardless of whom (who? is this objective or nominative case?) the artist is.

The fact that these kids are posing as some nu-school art grads, however, just makes it worse. Rapin' bitches and stabbin' foos is tired, depressing, and unflinchingly moronic no matter how you look at it, unless you're at least joking and being a little subversive, which is what I think Odd Future does (someone contrasted the groups above). Salem is doing quite the opposite of embracingly joking about this shit - they're dipping their toes into the water, laying some bullshit ghetto epithets down on wax, and, when they're tired of slumming it or sincerely approached about their music, shuffling off any commitment to any of it (The NYT interview is ridiclulous). Are they experimenting with edginess or living the drug-life they rap about? Salem's answer is "meh."

DISCLAIMER: I like the track "King Night."

Hgh
Hgh

i'm from chicago. jack is THE MOST pretentious piece of shit i have ever met...he surrounds himself with insecure art institute kids (all of which rip his 'i don't give a fuck' attitude and bleach their hair). He can't go to a party in Chicago without getting the shit beat'n out of him for acting like a douche. He is as clueless as the people he surrounds himself with.

Phoenix.
Phoenix.

By 'appealingly druggy', are you referring to the fact that they go on and on about doing meth, crack, heroin, etc, being a former male prozzy (not making that up, either), completely blowing gigs, etc? I actually do like some of their music- the good stuff's thin on the ground for me, but still- but I think it's weird that people laud Salem for being crackheads. It'd be like following Scott Wieland for being a (possibly former) junkie, or ODB for dying at 36 from a life of drugs. You'd think, or it might just be me, that drugs would be incidental to the music, rather than something to get excited about, and that maybe the music oughtta come before the 'prestige' of being fucked up 24-7. But I might be old-fashioned.

Sarcasmlost
Sarcasmlost

Just listened to "dirt", and watched the vid. I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement "Shit man, just let it happen...". I think it is authentic, and very unusual.

dkadflkl
dkadflkl

on anothr topic....not really following the ODD FUTURE shit, unless there's an 8-ball involved. Then im sure shit would be crystal!

Capitalist Lion Tamer
Capitalist Lion Tamer

Yeah, it's a logical leap but it's somewhat presented that way by Soderburg himself. Granted, the comments on his site help explain his side a little more and had I read his comment thread before posting this, I would have altered a little of what I said.

Still, it comes off to me as more personal that just musical/societal criticism. I'm wondering if Donoghue ever pulled it together enough to make a statement like "I'm just trying to emulate Z-Ro" if he'd be let off the hook. I doubt it.

Of course, if they're just pushing buttons and trying to make some people uncomfortable, they've got that nailed down as well. The rapping on the mentioned tracks offends me not in the least. But it is some very seriously weak-ass rapping, hence I usually skip the tracks when they come up.

I don't doubt there may be something ugly beneath the surface there, but from what I read the kids in SALEM seem to be pretty much incapable of subtext. But what gets said in "Trapdoor" is no worse than Eminem's "Kill You." It's just done with no particular level of talent or verbal flair.

jaymilleranormalhuma
jaymilleranormalhuma

@Hgh LOL. I am also from Chicago and would like to take a minute to laugh at how fucking full of shit you are. "Hahahaha". There, that felt good. Now, I have to ask...You jelly bruh?

Justin Mathews
Justin Mathews

Have a heart. It's hard out there for anybody trying to make music nowadays and having to contend with personal attacks just makes it harder.

Davidandrewcutney
Davidandrewcutney

I think that it is exciting as a drug user to listen to peoples music who have similar interests.

Justin Mathews
Justin Mathews

Look -- picture being at a bar with U2, Animal Collective, and Coldplay. They're all sitting around, quietly agreeing to disagree on some particular philosophical point; perhaps all expressing strong feelings for the locally brewed cask ale.

Then in bursts the "male prozzy," eyes bloodshot, Benjamins in hand.

"What the fuck is going on with you guys? Let's down some Four Lokos and make piss paintings on the High Line."

...

That's Salem, to me. Punk for 2010. Somehow making great music and having a wild ride. We still need people like that. Certainly need people like that more than we need goddamn critics.

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