The 20 Worst Songs of 2010, #9: Santana featuring Scott Stapp, “Fortunate Son”


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

If you were here when we last embarked on this quest, you may remember the “Carlos Santana reworks the ‘Black Magic Woman’ riff while an overexposed singer warbles nearby” formula, which is one that Sony Music Entertainment has been flogging since Rob Thomas sang about oceans and moons some 11 years ago. But 2010 brought an even crasser take on that equation into the world, and we probably have the late-aughts success of Guitar Hero and albums by the likes of Shinedown to thank.

Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Tracks Of All Time is like Santana’s Supernatural (and the albums that followed it) in that it features Santana riffing alongside relatively known vocalists; the key difference this time around is that all the songs contained within are classic-rock-radio staples. (Maximizing the potential radio exposure is, after all, important for a product so essential to a company’s bottom line.)

Presumably the fact that the songs are billed as great guitar tracks is why so many of the vocalists wrangled for the occasion are kinda B-minus-list. We are, after all, talking about the album that brought the world the turgid Gavin Rossdale-assisted cover of T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On),” the performance of which during November’s American Music Awards probably would have been greatly aided by the corpses of Marc Bolan and/or Robert Palmer being exhumed for the occasion. Other highlights: the guy from Train channeling David Lee Roth; Chris Daughtry busting a blood vessel during his Auto-Tune-assisted Def Leppard cover; and the young woman who won a chance to be ogled by T.I. and Justin Timberlake on the Grammys broadcast in 2007 assisting Nas on a cover of “Back In Black.”

The least appealing track, however, is a cover of “Fortunate Son” that features none other than rock music’s No. 1 punching bag, Scott Stapp, playing frontman. (It was saved for the deluxe edition of the album, which doesn’t seem very nice to those people who actually wanted to lay out more than the $11.98 list for this thing.)

2010 could have been a fantastic time for some enterprising rock band to unleash a fiery cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 broadside against upper-class warmongers and rich anti-tax types, what with this country’s ever-more-hopeless political situation. But this one ain’t it, despite Stapp’s affinity for using music as a weapon (or at least a t-shirt slogan). His and Santana’s take on “Fortunate Son” is instead a mess of licks and posturing, although one consolation comes from the former Creed vocalist being placed very low in the song’s mix — the only time mind’s-eye images of Stapp in his Jesus Christ pose are conjured is during the unfortunate mid-song break when he, uh, scats.

Of course, that might have been a better decision had Santana’s band decided not to turn up the “choogle” setting on its collective volume knob. The overwrought, groove-addled arrangement not only tacks on an extra 1:26 to the original track’s lean running time, it sounds more inspired by the Wrangler-ad-snipped version of “Fortunate Son” — which prizes its opening-line celebration of America over, you know, all the icky politics –than anything else. Well, except perhaps a cash register or two.