If you go back to your college days and remember your Dante, he wrote a poem called The Inferno, describing a voyage through hell. In Dante's Inferno, hell is comprised of nine concentric circles, with each smaller circle representing another, darker layer of hell, until you get to the center, which is where Satan lives.
Each circle contains sinners who are punished for all eternity with the sins they've committed (if you were a glutton, you're force-fed food, etc.), with the sins (and sinners) getting more intense and nasty the nearer you get to the center. The first five circles contain the self-indulgent sins and sinners (lust, greed, gluttony, etc); the next two are for the violent sins (heresy and violence), and the last two are for the malicious sins (fraud and treachery).
In about 1993, when I was much more music-snobby than I am now, I was having one of my many conversations about music with my similarly over-music-obsessed and under-employed friends. I created the Nine Circles Of Musical Hell as a result of that conversation - it started from the simple, incontrovertible premise that The Eagles are the worst band in the history of music (as far as mainstream successful bands are concerned, anyway), and it spiraled out from there.
Doing it this way is much more interesting and fun than just drawing up a list called ‘THESE ARE BANDS THAT SUCK'; it allows for some flexibility over time (my Second and Third circles are totally different now than they were, and my Fifth has been refined to include more modern artists), and also represents the varying gradations of bad without resorting to a numbered-list ranking system, which is a really bad way to articulate one's musical likes.
After I mentioned my Circles in a thread the other day, I figured it might be time to revisit the list, so I dug it out of my brain and started thinking about it again.
These are solely my opinions (except for The Eagles being the worst band ever, that's a scientific fact). Yours will almost certainly differ. That's what the comments are for! I probably hate bands you like. I probably like bands you hate. This is what I meant when I said I was "much less music snobby now" - this list is meant to spawn a discussion, not to condemn or mock your particular tastes. It's also not an exhaustive list of every band in each category (with the exception of the innermost two circles) - in each, I just named a few representatives that came to mind.
So after thinking about it and playing around with it a bit, here we have the Nine Circles Of Musical Hell, 2013 edition:
FIRST CIRCLE: Disposable pop. Your Carly Rae Jepsens, your Taylor Swifts, your One Directions. As hell goes, it's not terribly unpleasant; I wouldn't want to linger in this circle forever, but it's inoffensive enough if you're just passing through.
SECOND CIRCLE: "Modern alternative" music. Your Matchbox 20s, your Collective Souls, your Gin Blossoms. The only thing this is an alternative to is interesting music. Or staying awake.
THIRD CIRCLE: Modern, radio-friendly country. Kenny Chesney? Toby Keith? Lady Antebellum? They live here. You don't want to.
FOURTH CIRCLE: Prog rock. Rush, Boston, ELP, early Genesis, and the like; it's airless, soulless, more about craft than passion, and completely uninteresting. If not for the existence of The King Is Dead, The Decemberists would live in this ring as well, but that album allowed them to escape by the skin of their teeth.
FIFTH CIRCLE: Sensitive Beardy Guy Music. Bon Iver, this category is custom-made for you, but you didn't originate it - Gordon Lightfoot, America, James Taylor, and what used to be called "easy listening" did. There's nothing easy about listening to any of the bands in this circle.
SIXTH CIRCLE: Jam bands. Phish, Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, all of ‘em. Except one, about which more later.
SEVENTH CIRCLE: Rap metal. Limp Bizkit, Korn - I'm looking at you. You know what you did. You made it possible for Disturbed and Godsmack to exist.
EIGHTH CIRCLE: Morrissey/The Smiths. Yep, that's right, they get a circle all to themselves. Just how Morrissey would want it, except there's steak in here that he has to eat to survive.
NINTH CIRCLE: The Eagles, The Grateful Dead, and Santana. They're Satan's next door neighbors, and honestly, I'd rather listen to Satan yowl for all eternity than any of these three.
So...who's in your circles?