YMMV / Elvis Costello

  • Americans Hate Tingle: He's had a fairly successful career in America, but his albums have been far from blockbusters. The "N-word" incident hurt his early commercial momentum there.
  • Archive Panic: He's made over 30 studio albums - plus a number of compilations containing B-sides, cast-offs, and the like.
  • Award Snub: Infamously beaten out for Best New Artist at the 1979 Grammys by A Taste of Honey. Though given that the Best New Artist award is considered, as Todd in the Shadows put it, "the Madden Curse of music," it's probably all for the best.
  • Awesome Music: Pretty much everything he did between 1977 and 1982, especially My Aim Is True, This Year's Model, Armed Forces, Get Happy!! and Imperial Bedroom.
  • Broken Base: Politics wise. Many people love him, but the far right have nothing but hatred and anger towards him for his anti-Margaret Thatcher songs and also for boycotting Israel, and would probably break out the bubbly if he were to pass away tomorrow.
  • Covered Up:
    • Made Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love, and Understanding" his own.
    • Dave Edmunds did the definitive version of Costello's "Girls Talk".
    • Linda Ronstadt covered many of Costello's songs in the late 1970's and early 1980's, including "Alison", "Girls Talk" and "Talking In The Dark", which helped bring his songwriting to a new audience. At the time, Costello did not appreciate these versions, but eventually came around and felt bad for criticizing her.
    • Robert Wyatt's version of "Shipbuilding" is better-known than Costello's original.
  • Critical Dissonance: Imperial Bedroom is considered one of his best albums, but it was a commercial flop.
  • Ear Worm: Many, but especially "Oliver's Army".
  • Even Better Sequel: Although all of Costello's first three albums are highly acclaimed, This Year's Model is generally regarded as better than My Aim Is True thanks to the Attractions. And Armed Forces is often regarded as better than This Year's Model due to its increased musical complexity and the presence of Signature Songs "Accidents Will Happen", "Oliver's Army" and "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding".
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" became truly ironic twenty-five years later with the popularity of Blue Collar Comedy. Apparently, some people find the idea of peace, love, and understanding extremely funny.
  • Genius Bonus: Even Silly Love Songs are often peppered with literary and historical references, and his lyrics in general feature a lot of clever wordplay.
  • Hype Backlash: Costello feared this trope would come into play when his American label, Columbia Records, promoted his 1982 album Imperial Bedroom with the tagline "Masterpiece?". Ultimately, the trope was averted; the album is regarded as one of his best by both fans and critics. In his memoir, Costello describes the company's tag choice as:
    "In the recipe book of disasters, that comes shortly before the instruction: First take your lion. Insert foot. Insert leg. Repeat with other limbs until fully consumed."
  • Moment of Awesome: In 1977, Saturday Night Live held a contest for the Guest Host spot on that year's Christmas episode. The winner was Miskel Spillman, an octogenarian grandmother from New Orleans. After learning that an old lady won the contest, the SNL production team tried to get the Sex Pistols on as the musical guest to drum up more publicity and because it would be, y'know, fucking hilarious, but visa problems caused them to pick Elvis Costello and the Attractions instead. NBC and Costello's record label insisted he play "Less Than Zero", but instead he dramatically stopped the Attractions during the second line and began playing "Radio, Radio" - a song he was specifically told not to play - instead. For this he was banned for several years from the program, but SNL now actively embraces the incident as one of the coolest things to ever happen on the show. To prove this, the show asked Costello to "crash" the Beastie Boys' performance of "Sabotage" during the SNL 20th Anniversary Special. After said crashing, Costello and the Beasties performed, of course, "Radio, Radio".
  • Never Live It Down:
    • Once, in a drunken rant, called James Brown and Ray Charles "niggers"; he later explained that he was trying to bring a tiresome conversation in a bar with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett to a swift conclusion, not expecting his comments to appear in the newspapers. Charles publicly forgave him, saying "...drunk talk doesn't mean anything." The incident has been mostly forgotten now, but it severely hurt his career in America at the time. He didn't tour the States again until 1981. Costello felt guilty about the incident for a long time afterwards, turning down an offer to meet his idol Charles out of embarrassment.
    • His perception as an "angry" singer-songwriter, which is truer of his earlier work. He's mellowed considerably with age.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • "I Want You". Starts off sounding very gentle and innocuous, but then does a kind of musical Face–Heel Turn with the lyrics getting creepier and Costello sounding more and more deranged, until you can almost picture him climbing into the woman's bed and breathing down her neck. One critic described Costello as sounding like he was 'on the end of a noose'.
    • "This Offer Is Unrepeatable" from The Juliet Letters. It's supposed to represent an extreme form of junk mail (in keeping with the album's theme of correspondence), where the receiver is promised power of life and death over the rich, amongst other things, and is asked to sign the letter in blood.
  • Sophomore Slump: Averted with This Year's Model, which is considered one of his best albums.
  • Tear Jerker: "Tramp The Dirt Down''. The sheer bitterness and anger in his voice and in the lyrics is heartbreaking, especially to people who have less than positive memories of Margaret Thatcher.
    • Veronica is about Costello's grandmother suffering from late stage Alzheimer's, to the point where she's no longer sure of her own name. The chorus even dwells on how easy it is to get frustrated with her, and assume she's just playing a joke when she doesn't recognize him.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: "The Only Flame in Town" has a duet between Elvis and Daryl Hall. But it's still one of the better songs on one of his most maligned albums.