MTV Unplugged (Virgin)

Like many landmark hard-rock groups, nü-metal godfathers Korn will never earn mainstream respect as serious musicians — and MTV Unplugged, a disc baffling in its utter badness, won't help. (Long story short: Bongos are best left to hippies.) In the band's defense: Alice in Chains' Unplugged shouldn't have worked, as Alice's metallic dynamics were rooted in tension between its electric-grunge and acoustic undercurrents, but the stripped-down set became a chill classic. Korn, on the other hand, simply drapes its rap-metal songs over coffeehouse arrangements that any open-mic bohemian could have cobbled together. Two guest appearances crystallize Korn's misguided ambitions: Evanescence's Amy Lee has one of radio's great voices, but her backing vocals on "Freak on a Leash" — where she warbles and howls like a world-music alley cat, while singer Jonathan Davis repeatedly burps "Go!" — are downright comical. Meanwhile, a cover of the new-wave nugget "In Between Days" features a cameo by the Cure's Robert Smith; he wrote the book on how to do dull things with an exciting band. The band then goes all emo for a limp cover of Radiohead's "Creep," and the line, "I don't belong here" finds sad new resonance.

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