“Jumping the Shark” is a term originally used for failing TV shows, where ratings are down and the show does something absurd to try to get viewers back. Specifically, it points directly to the Fonz jumping his motorcycle over a shark near the bitter end of the TV series Happy Days. However, while driving around town and listening to my iPod on beloved shuffle play, my wife and I recognized a few rock bands' shark jumping tunes. So, I decided to put together a list of said songs in no particular order (OK, sort of alphabetical after a few). As always, I'd love to see comments and welcome any songs I may have missed as most of this comes from my personal collection:
Mr. Roboto – Styx. Seriously! If there ever was a band that took things in a horrendous direction, it was Styx with this craptastic song. It was cheesy from day one.
Jump – Van Halen. Even with Diamond Dave at the mic, this song made them look like a bunch of wussies. Although the rest of the album 1984 was pretty decent, Jump was certainly not a typical VH tune, thus leading to the departure of David Lee Roth and Van Hagar was (gack) born! Anyone remember the Gary Cherone months?
The Unforgiven – Metallica. Just as Metallica was hitting their underground, speed metal peak, the Black Album came out. The true Metallica fans (myself included) went to the midnight release, all pumped up to hear what we've been waiting for since ...And Justice For All. The songs on this album were short and sweet – not a typical Metallica album at all, and then there was this, um, ballad. Metallica is not a ballad band! Or, at least they weren't until they decided the Black Album needed to be commercially successful, and it was, which disappointed the majority of their fans, but made the band HUGE. They put out a few more albums afterward including Load and Reload (AKA, the crap that wasn't good enough to go on Load, but they were feeling lazy). Next thing you know, they were playing with a symphony and bassist Jason Newsted had enough and left. The band attempted to go back to their garage roots with St. Anger, which was pretty good, but their producer Bob Rock filled in on bass, which hurt. Better than the album is the documentary Some Kind of Monster, the story of the band recording St. Anger. Metallica is now trying to please all with Death Magnet. The jury is still out.
You're the Inspiration – Chicago. These guys were pretty cool for a while, and even had some rocking tunes (25 or 6 to 4 is still one of my favies, and it pissed me off that Green Day stole the riff for Brain Stew), but this ballad made the band, well, lame as crap. Why is it always the ballads that kill the bands? Speaking of which...
I Want to Know What Love Is – Foreigner. Because the album 4 was so awesome, they were forgiven for Waiting for a Girl Like You. However, the next album Agent Provocateur, produced this awful ballad with the cheese-ball gospel choir singing and clapping in the background during the video. It was all downhill after that.
We Built This City – Starship. In a desperate attempt to go from psychedelic 60's to trendy 80's, Starship (formerly Jefferson Starship, formerly Jefferson Airplane) went for the pastel colors and a just plain awful song that we all could have lived without.
Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band. Known mostly as one of the best (OK, one of my favorite) classic rock bands, the 80's yet again destroyed a good band. Why try to blend when you already stand out?
A Tout Le Monde – Megadeth. No idea what Dave Mustaine was thinking here, but the album Youthanasia produced this painful “ballad” where Dave sings the chorus in French. The band's real downfall was the “alternative” album Risk, which lead to the firing of Marty Freidman – the best guitarist Dave ever worked with and a HUGE overreaction on his part (later, he would make a bigger mistake by dumping bassist Dave Ellefson) and the band has never been the same. Not willing to let this horrible single die like it should, Megadeth released the song yet again on an album called United Abominations (appropriate) as a duet with Cristina Scabbia of the band Lacuna Coil. It didn't help.
Cryin' – Aerosmith. This classic rock band somehow adapted into the 80's (Permanent Vacation is still one of my all-time favorite records) and 90's, but the ballad did in yet another great artist. Not even a video with jail-baitress Alicia Silverstone could help this lame track!
Kokomo – the Beach Boys. Making vacationers vomit across the globe.
Uptown Girl – Billy Joel. OK, Billy, we get it. Yer nailing the hottest girl on the planet (at the time). But did you have to write her the cheesiest song on the planet? I'm surprised she didn't divorce him right then and there. Why wait?
Amanda – Boston. The album Third Stage was relatively weak to begin with, and this (yet another) ballad didn't help. Although I did play it on my guitar for my German class in 11th grade for some reason...
Drive – the Cars. Do you see a theme here? Yep – another ballad kills a band. Ric Ocasek left after this album and the rest of the band currently greet people at Wal-Mart's all over Boston.
Don't Be Cruel – Cheap Trick. Here's a new trend – trying to re-establish the band with a quirky cover tune. And it never works.
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day. Didn't these guys used to be a punk band that sang with fake British accents? When did they turn into a bunch of acoustic guitar strumming pansies? Oh, right here!
Love Bites – Def Leppard. And so does this song! I know they've overcome a ton of tragedies, but that's no excuse for exposing us to this rotten ballad.
Are You Experienced – Devo. Even my heroes tried to make themselves relevant again with a crappy cover. Fortunately, after disappearing for a long time, they are making an ultra-cool comeback, with some classics and NEW songs featured in ads (don't mention the Swifer commercial), a few tours this decade, and even a new album this fall!
Layla – Eric Clapton. The only artist I can think of that took his OWN awesome, classic song, remade it and ruined it completely!
Hold Me – Fleetwood Mac. Christine McVie is the Devil with bangs and should have stayed quietly hidden behind the piano.
Land of Confusion – Genesis. Yes, I love me some puppets. However, this song (and video) may have been cool for about 5 minutes. This was a sign that Phil Collins was destroying this avant garde band systematically, only so he could write songs for Disney movies that are complete rubbish. Not that Sussudio wasn't painful enough...
Vacation – the Go-Go's. Didn't they LITERALLY jump a shark in this video? I just remember the matching outfits as they water skied around. They had some great songs (Head Over Heels is one of my favorites), but this wasn't one of them!
Jeopardy – Greg Kihn. Sometimes when Weird Al parodies your song it's a compliment. Sometimes.
November Rain – Guns N' Roses. GnR was on top of the world when they released their much anticipated Use Your Illusion albums. OK, so they thought their poop was ice cream. Axl was so conceded that he thought he could write a power ballad, so he shat out this gem of a painful tune. It wasn't ice cream and it took him almost 20 years to get his poop together and put out another album.
What About Love? - Heart. What about you stick to your old rockin' selves and give us another Barracuda?
Come Dancing – the Kinks. Because when I think You Really Got Me, Lola and All Day and All of the Night, I think of ballroom dancing.
Lick it Up – Kiss. I'm just going to say this once: never should have taken the makeup off! Especially when your guitarist looks like Vinnie Vincent. Not that Ace Frehley was better looking, but still. It's not so much that the SONG destroyed the band here, but the whole concept of letting people see the band without makeup on this album pretty much destroyed the entire image they had built and they were never the same.
When It's Over – Loverboy. ...And it was.
The Impression That I Get – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. One of the coolest underground ska/punk bands IMO went commercial. Bad idea, even though the public bought it. See, the issue (yet again) is that when a band does this, their true fans get pissed and kind of disown them for selling out. Sure they get some success, but it's always short-lived. So, now they've alienated their fan base and the people that got into them for their commercial success are on to the next new thing. Say goodnight.
Hello, I Love You – Missing Persons. Goodbye, we miss you. Another bad cover helps the band commit suicide.
Home Sweet Home – Motley Crue. Why God WHY? Vince Neil “playing” piano? Somehow the metal heads ate up this horrible ballad with a piano riff written by a 4-year-old. I think the original lyrics were, “I'm on my way / home sweet home / but I'm really drunk / I think I just ran over a guy / on my way / home sweet home!”
Sister Christian – Night Ranger. Unfortunately, this great hard rock band is known for this song. They had SO much more to offer! Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis were two of the best dueling guitarists at the time. Songs like (You Can) Still Rock in America, Eddie's Coming Out Tonight and Touch of Madness were AWESOME. In addition, Don't Tell Me You Love Me has always been one of my favorite songs ever! The guitar solo still gives me goose bumps! Yet, everyone knows them for this lame ballad.
Stand – REM. Quite possibly the dumbest and most annoying song ever written.
Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers. Again, a punk band goes commercial. Flea's talent was totally wasted on a song like this – dude is one of the greatest bass players of his time.
Wind of Change – Scorpions. These winds changed this rock band, who actually did some cool ballads before this, into just another wimpy has-been metal band trying to gain commercial success with yet another bad ballad. Which was pretty depressing to me, because I had to buy World Wide Live 3 times on cassette in high school as I kept wearing it out in my car!
With or Without You – U2. I was into these guys early, when they had one-word album titles (War, Boy, October) and a very original sound. Then they went downhill and became a huge success. Maybe it's me?
Is This Love – Whitesnake. No, it's just a crappy ballad!