Perhaps the most expressive pop culture phrase I’ve ever heard is Douche Chill.
Until I heard it first uttered in 2002 on the Howard Stern show I had been without an accurate term to describe that cringing embarrassment I frequently felt at other people’s foolish, boorish or dorky behavior.
When comedian Artie Lange explained it to me on that Stern show that day, I had an immediate “aha” moment.
Anyone who had even a slightly rough emotional and social patch during adolescence knows what I’m talking about. Its that cringing, eye-rolling…douche chilling feeling you got when:
- Your dad said something stupid, or silly, or embarrassingly candid in front of your friends
- A friend of yours went a little too overboard with a bad joke
- You caught your brother lip syncing to a record in his bedroom
These are all moments of Douche Chill. “Chill” describes the icky feeling of embarrassment. “Douche” refers to the person you’re embarrassed of.
I’m convinced the reason that Douche Chills are such a universal experience is that, in our embarrassment at others in these moments we are actually projecting ourselves onto – and identifying with – that person. We have the feeling that there but for the grace of god (and a few more beers) go I. If it were otherwise, we wouldn’t feel embarrassed, we’d probably just laugh.
Since I am a musician and composer with a very particular and masculine aesthetic sense, its only natural that I experience many Douche Chills listening to certain music.
It is without further ado that I list my top 3 Douche Chill moments in music:
3. Metallica – Nothing Else Matters
These guys have gotten their fair share of critical beat-downs in the past. This 1991 power ballad from their turning-point “Black” album was the beach-head in their assault on good taste in metal music. Many horrible, ill-advised “soft metal” compositions came after this one, but nothing stings like that first taste of Douche Chill coming from a band that up until then possessed such hard, extremely hard brass balls, musically speaking. Listen to this clip, cued up to the most Douche Chilling moment of the song:
2. Five for Fighting – 100 Years
Oh, I almost just vomited listening to this song again. This is what a guy with a bad, Kermit-the-frog voice and marginal talent sounds like when he tries and fails to mimic Al Stewart and Christopher Cross at the same time.
1. Jewel – You Were Meant for Me
This one was just awful. I was a junior in college when it came out, and it was all over the college radio station, MTV, etc. Young coeds could be heard unison-singing its awful, syrupy, fake and affected verse lines in any given dormitory hall. Jewel is the quintessential douche chill folk songstress.
I rank this #1 not because I give two shits about Jewel or her music, but simply because of the depth of aural scarring I endured when this song was so over-played in the mid-90s. The world seemed to briefly go mad when everyone accepted this over-emotional dreck as real music, instead of shunning it.
Just listen to the first verse and I challenge you not to gag: