Everyone Has That One Song They Hate

Photos by Jarred Figgins

I had a friend in high school who hated the song “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane. I am not crazy about it myself (the beginning, especially, and actually all the bits, and just the concept of Jefferson Airplane and all Timothy Leary-adjacent things), but this guy pure detested it. He’d hear it and go all weak and despairing, clenching his fists at the fact that the song existed in the same world he did. He became like an angry man in a poem. That he could not fully account for his response only made it stronger. Sometimes a man just has a feeling. Sometimes a man just has a feeling, which maybe he is not able to articulate yet, and the song is simply a mechanism for the delivery of the feeling. Many things can bring it on. Certain types of cars. Certain types of empty restaurants. Certain types of houses bring it on: the dread, the low-grade depression, the embarrassment, the sense that the world is basically not that great of a place.

Songs are a good place to start, though, because nearly everyone has a a song which gives them an inordinately Bad Time. I know someone who gets just LIVID at the mention of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and someone else who cannot speak of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” without going into serious all-caps mode. Also “Funkytown.” Also someone who can’t be in the same room as “Material Girl.” Also “HOUSE OF THE FUCKING RISING SUN.” Also anything by Tom Jones, Pink, the Goo Goo Dolls, Anastacia, the Lighthouse Family. Some of them I can’t even write down without squirming around in shame and fury (for example “Waka Waka” by Shakira). I love asking people this question because it always yields responses that are simultaneously vehement and incoherent (a friend, talking about Lenny Kravitz: “he sucks in a way that is difficult to describe but that song ‘American Woman’ for example makes me nauseous”). You ask them to explain and they cannot. They just want it stopped. Everyone knows this feeling.

I have a lot of these songs (a lot), but there is one in particular I find unendurable: “The Little Drummer Boy.” That song gives me a hard time. It makes me pull a certain kind of face, and feel a certain Way. The song makes me weak. O God, I hate it. O Christ, I hate everything that it represents. It makes me think, “Oh Jesus, this again.” And by this I mean Christmas, and fucking Boxing Day, and something very particular about being a white English-speaking South African, and having a fight with your whole family in a house made out of yellow facebrick, and forced cheeriness, but still feeling sad in the supermarket on Christmas Eve, and ham, and old people feeling lonely, and it’s very hot, and someone is watching a dumb movie and laughing and enjoying themselves, and you are reminded once again of your inability to be in the moment, to just participate in the stuff that lots of other people like, because you are embarrassed by ordinary things, and crippled by the false sense that you are not like everyone else. This is only to scratch the surface of how that song makes me feel. I just want it stopped, that’s all.

These feelings are not afforded the respect they deserve. They are like nausea, or dread, or walking into a glass door, in that they are full-body experiences. I hear that song and I am transported into a world where I am permanently embarrassed, just flushed, and the only movie playing is Anchorman, the only friend you are allowed to have is your old head girl who had a mom haircut and who was excellent at all sports, the only kind of party you can go to is a bachelorette party where you have to wear a sexual sailor outfit, the only trees are no trees at all, the only grass is buffalo grass, the only day is Boxing Day, the only dogs are old vicious Alsatians whose hair is coming out in tufts and with sticky bits in their corners of their dispirited eyes, and the only building material you are allowed to use is yellow facebrick.

Ah, yellow facebrick. If “The Little Drummer Boy” is the particular soundtrack to my Christmas dread, then yellow facebrick is the house that it built. It is, again, the mechanism for the delivery of a feeling. To describe it in material terms is to do a disservice to the chord that it strikes within me, but I can try: it is mostly yellow, with some darker brown bits, and the texture is more rough than seems plausible. If you lean against it you can get a small tear in your shirt. It is used all over the country, in all sorts of places, but I have noticed that it really comes into its own in coastal holiday towns.


I have also noticed that holiday houses made out of yellow facebrick tend to not have a lot of windows, or put too much store by even the notion of a sea view. Holiday houses made of yellow facebrick don’t care about that stuff. They often have tiny, tiny balconies, or they dispense with them altogether. Frequently there will be some kind of unusual situation going on with the stairs, like maybe you have to go up or down two stairs to get into the kitchen, and you always trip and it hurts, a bit, but what hurts more is the feeling: the dread, the depression, the embarrassment, the sense that the world is basically not that great of a place.

A house made out of facebrick will often, often have a trampoline in the back garden, one of those ones embedded in the ground that I don’t think you’re even allowed to build now, because of the way they break children’s legs. A holiday house made out of yellow facebrick will never have a ghost in it, or it will be a rubbish kind of ghost. A ghosts which walks around describing the misfortunes of others in a boring voice. A house made out of yellow facebrick will often smell like my old nursery school. It will remind me of the song “Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day” by the band Morcheeba, a song which I hate so much my face is getting all hot as I type. I have noticed this.

I have also noticed that every single time I have stayed in a holiday house made of yellow facebrick, I have had a huge fight with someone, and then subsequently felt guilty for years. Not even guilty, embarrassed. Like I am a much worse person that I had previously allowed myself to imagine. Like I got extremely sunburned while lying in the buffalo grass on a wet towel, listening to “Karma Chameleon” on repeat. Like all my friends are having an extremely fun time somewhere else, and I was specifically not invited. Like someone who is never going to have a truly terrible time in this world, but is never going to have a great time either. Just a medium time, and eating hot Christmas food in the middle of summer, and the pool has too much chlorine in it, and I walked into a glass door many days ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it, and somewhere there is a tufty old Alsatian barking its horrible old head off at nothing, and I am just blushing away, just finished, crippled by the utterly false sense that I am different, somehow, from other people.