Oh, it’s bad. Hauntingly bad.
So ghastly is Fall Out Boy’s new theme to “Ghostbusters” that if, after first listen, you vaporized it, pumped it into a tank, locked it in a safe and buried it under the Empire State Building, “Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid)” would still flatulently seep to the surface to torture millions.
It’s so bad that it makes the original Ray Parker Jr. version seem good, no small feat. It’s so bad that not even a blissfully delivered Missy Elliott rap about being chased by ghosts can make up for the monstrosity surrounding it.
In its defense, Fall Out Boy didn’t have much to work with. Parker’s ubiquitous original remains a dim song that for the past 30-plus years has been a pox on those of us susceptible to tortuous ear-worms. With lyrics seemingly written during a bathroom break, its singsong rhymes and cheesy ‘80s production haven't aged well. Brass arrangements blast through the song as Parker sings about seeing things running through heads and an invisible man sleeping in beds. The only reason the original song steamrolled up the charts at the time was due to the success of the movie. Without that, the song would have been as bankable as the theme to “C.H.U.D.”
But at least the original was built on a cool post-disco synth jam. Fall Out Boy knows little of groove and nothing of funk, so adapts the original in service of all-caps ROCK and riffs the size of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. That makes sense. This isn’t a soft solo Patrick Stump jam, it’s Fall Out Boy, a band that understands its distorted mission and can transform cool ideas into memorable songs. To wit: the band’s great rejiggering of the riff from the theme to “The Munsters” for its song “Uma Thurman” made it leap out of the speakers with each listen.
The “Ghostbusters” theme, on the other hand, dribbles out of the speakers like slime. Humor? Joy? Surprise? Nope. Just Stump bellowing like King Diamond while the band stirs up a digestive rumble. If the band spent more than a day in the studio on this, somebody got taken.
Perhaps worst is the collateral damage to Elliott. The rapper, who stepped away from the spotlight in the ‘00s but who’s been having a mid-career resurgence of late, is the track’s major selling point, but her verse is mediocre at best and includes this coda.
They roll up to my house, they knocking at my door
They come busting in, kill all them ghosts
It's so strange in my neighborhood
Look out the window and it ain't too good
I ain't afraid, so let's get to it
Smoke these ghosts like backwoods
Like backwoods what, Missy? Backwoods brush? Backwoods tinder? Oh, yeah, you needed to rhyme it with “good.” How about “Smoke these ghosts like hickory wood,” “Smoke these ghosts like Snoop Dogg would” or “Smoke these ghosts like Gozer could.” It’s not rocket science. It should just take more effort than the sweat required to endorse the back of a check.
Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit