Every so often an album so colossally bad is unleashed upon mankind that critics literally salivate in anticipation of tearing it apart. They use these excoriating reviews as opportunities to really let loose and flaunt their ornate, flowery vocabularies. Some no doubt get a thrill out of knocking the artists down a few notches too. The bigger the musicians (and the bigger their egos), the more fun it is to rip them apart in a bloody vivisection. Bret Michaels, one of the very few hair metal rock stars still thriving years after the collapse of the genre, released just such an album at the beginning of the summer.
This album, entitled 'Jammin’ with Friends,' really is deserving of all the critical vitriol it has received, but there is no joy in this review. Michaels really does seem like a genuinely nice guy. Despite his fame, he’s not full of himself (like, say, Gene Simmons, Nikki Sixx, et. al.) and he really works his butt off to ensure his fans get their hard-earned money’s worth at his concerts. But still, this album is an affront to the human race. I’ve tried to listen to it all summer long in an ultimately vain attempt to find something worthy of praise. Alas, 'Jammin’ with Friends' will turn off even the most insanely hardcore Bret Michaels fans. Indeed, most of the “friends” on this album probably consider Michaels their enemy now.
As I said, Michaels works hard, and instead of the usual eight to ten-song album, he gives you 20 songs to hate. There’s a caveat however: there are only a handful of originals here (which is probably a good thing). 'Jammin’ with Friends' is a sort of catch-all, a ragtag hodgepodge of cover songs (most of them belonging to Poison’s catalog), live tracks and remixes in addition to the originals. There’s even tracks here recycled from his previous solo albums. No matter what type of song it is, however, they are without exception staggeringly horrible.
Just as the album title promises, almost every song features at least one guest musician. There are a lot of big names here too, from all over the musical spectrum. Artists as diverse as Ace Frehley, Edwin McCain, Lil John and Jimmy Buffett show up, and you have to hope they at least got paid handsomely for embarrassing themselves. How else did the queen of country, Loretta Lynn, get talked into singing a duet with Michaels on a cover of Poison’s 1988 mega-sappy “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”? And who exactly is the target audience for Michaels’ collaboration with rapper Lil John on “Nothin’ but a Good Time”? Hair metal fans will hate the rapping and hip hop fans won’t like the rest of the song. Even more tragic, rock legends Ace Frehley and Michael Anthony perform on the track too. Don’t worry though: if you don’t like either of these two songs, Michaels covers both of them again later in the album.
The originals are just as bad too. “Get Your Rock On” is a very generic-sounding party anthem that wouldn’t out of place on a Tim McGraw album. Indeed, several songs on 'Jammin’ with Friends' have a distinct honky-tonk flavor to them. Don’t be too surprised if Michaels records a country album in the very near future. Getting back to the present though, not even a smoking guitar solo courtesy of Def Leppard’s Phil Collen can save “Get Your Rock On”… or its clone at the end of the album, “Get Your Ride On,” either.
But as bad as those two songs – as well as the lyrically embarrassing “The App Song” – are, nothing can prepare you for “You Know You Want It.” It is inarguably one of the absolute worst songs in the history of music. It’s ranks right up there with Starship’s “We Built This City,” Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” and anything by Nickleback. Michaels tries – and fails – to emulate Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back,” a wretched enough song in its own right, but also a perplexingly huge hit as well. The end result is so catastrophically abhorrent your eardrums might commit suicide just to stop the torment. Songs like this actually make the world a worse place and give the listener a bleak outlook on the human race while they ponder the futility of life since we’re all just going to die anyway. Hours of black metal cannot even match the grim despair generated by “You Know You Want It.”
Bret Michaels will survive this gargantuan miscalculation however. He is a reality television superstar, he has his own line of pet products, and Poison will continue to play packed arenas until they decide to call it quits. I did not have any fun writing this review, but it was still infinitely better than actually listening to the album.