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Coming to Grips With ‘Hotel California’ Through Covers of ‘Hotel California’

Can I learn to love an American classic by listening to its imitations?

I hate the song “Hotel California.” Before you scoff and cry, “millennial!”: I’m not alone. The Ringer’s Shea Serrano once wrote about how much the song sucks for the Village Voice, accurately stating: “Everyone knows it’s the worst, but somehow some people still think it’s the best.”

On 2007 edition of 60 Minutes, The Eagles’ Don Henley described “Hotel California” as “a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.”

This would make more sense to me if the song weren’t itself six minutes and 30 seconds long. I have places to be, Henley.

I’ve always thought it was too corny and overwrought, and it plays way too many times on the radio in the place where I currently live — Los Angeles, California. One time, after accidentally ingesting all six minutes and 30 seconds while sitting in traffic, I thought to myself, Have I been unfairly hating this song? Have I been unfairly placing it within the realm of Dad Music, denying it a fair chance? Groaning when it appears at karaoke outings because of its length, denying its possible substance?

This seed of doubt sent me on a YouTube tailspin, furiously listening to every cover I could find. Would I find one that redeemed the West Coast anthem? Or would I remain hopelessly furious every time I heard the opening notes? Only time (six minutes, 30 seconds) would tell.