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8 Lamest Pop-Classical Crossovers in History

Photo Illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: WireImage (Bolton, Costello, Sting), Getty Images (Danzig), Corbis (String Quartet)

Tonight at BAM, indie-rock geography buff Sufjan Stevens premieres The BQE, his seven-movement, half-hour-long symphonic tribute to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. “A lot of it is written in canon form,” Stevens told New York’s Karen Schoemer about the piece. “There are repetitive sequences of chords and melodies that start to overlap and form a round. There are fugue elements as well. It introduces themes and then deconstructs them later on.” In other words, he’s in way over his head here. But that’s okay! We like Sufjan, and though we haven’t yet seen The BQE, we’re pretty sure it has to be better than the vainglorious rock-star blunders on our list of the Lamest Pop-Classical Crossovers in Music History. After the jump, we celebrate the ambitious pop singers who definitely should have known better.

8. Paul McCartney, Liverpool Oratorio (1991)

McCartney’s first major classical work was this oratorio with a story loosely based on his own life. Unfortunately its scathing reviews did not prevent him from writing three more orchestral albums. It’s doubtful we would have let Ringo get away with something like this.

7. Roger Waters, Ça Ira (2005)

The French Revolution has inspired more than its fair share of boring operas — including this one by the bassist from Pink Floyd! At least it was better than The Wall.

6. Elvis Costello, Il Sogno (2004)

Few artists in pop history have asked more from their fans than Costello, whose résumé includes an album with the Brodsky Quartet, one with soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, and an opera based on the life of Hans Christian Andersen. Worst of all is this nap-inducing ballet based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

5. Glenn Danzig, Black Aria (2006)

The former Misfits singer’s second foray into symphonic music (it was a sequel to 1992’s Black Aria) is just more shapeless, unmelodic orchestral meanderings (played mostly on keyboard). Still, it is one of the few classical albums whose cover features a topless self-mutilating nun, so points for that.

4. Michael Bolton, My Secret Passion (1998)

Prior to this album, we’d always assumed that Bolton’s secret passion was annoying the living bejesus out of us — turns out it’s actually singing classical arias.

3. Billy Joel, Fantasies and Delusions: Music for Solo Piano (2001)

Sadly, when Billy Joel promised to retire from pop music following 1993’s River of Dreams he wasn’t kidding around. Astonishingly, this aptly titled 2001 collection of nineteenth-century classical piano compositions is even worse than River of Dreams.

2. Asian Dub Foundation, Gaddafi: A Living Myth (2006)

Many feared that this British electronica band’s opera, based on the life of the Libyan dictator, would play like a real-life Springtime for Hitler — luckily it was completely incomprehensible!

1. Sting, Songs From the Labyrinth (2006)

When we heard Sting was recording an album of songs by seventeenth-century lutenist John Dowland, we wondered: Could it possibly be as bad as that sounds? In the above clip, we found our answer. (Yes, it is exactly as bad as it sounds.)

8 Lamest Pop-Classical Crossovers in History