turn around, bright eyes

4/27/04

By now, most of you have seen the list of the 50 Worst Songs Ever list put out by Blender magazine, and several of my favorite blogs, like Stereogum and Betty Rocker, have amended these choices and put out their own.

At this time, however, I would like to say that I totally owned the Worst Song List back in the fall of 1988, when I was writing the Wednesday’s Child column for the DTH at the University of North Carolina, and it always got me in more fights than anything else.

Here’s my list of the Top 20 Worse Songs Ever, but keep in mind that it was written almost 16 years ago:

20. “Superman” – REM

19. “Wild Thing” – The Troggs

18. “Wild Thing” – Tone Loc

17. “Rock On” – Michael Damian

16. “Puppy Love” – Donny Osmond

15. “I Saw (Him) Standing There” – Tiffany

14. “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” – Great White

13. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler

12. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham!

11. “Hangin’ Tough” – New Kids on the Block

10. “Makin’ Love Out of Nothing At All” – Air Supply

9. “In The Navy” – The Village People

8. “Wild Boys” – Duran Duran

7. “Shake Your Booty” – K.C. and the Sunshine Band

6. “All I Need” – Jack Wagner

5. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – Whitney Houston

4. “Angel of the Morning” – Juice Newton

3. “Rock Me Amadeus” – Falco

2. “Cum on Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot

1. “Electric Avenue” – Eddy Grant

Now, having just retyped this list for the first time since Reagan was president, I have to say I stand by almost all of them. I’d take K.C. off the list, perhaps “In the Navy” and of course, I would certainly not disparage Falco anymore, may he rest in peace. And it could be said that Great White has suffered enough.

But top to bottom, “Superman” still sucks balls and “Electric Avenue” is ONE GODDAMN CHORD. What’s worse, my friends in LA live on Electric Avenue, and there’s no way to drive on it without that fucking song pounding through your head.

egrant.jpg

Eddy Grant, who I am sure is a nice enough guy

It’s interesting that Blender chose “Hangin’ Tough” and others have “Muskrat Love” in place of “Puppy Love” (I’d say they’re about equal), and Carla also chose “Rock On.” The blogosphere seems to despise both “Love Shack” and “Take on Me” (both of which remind me of happy times, but I guess those tunes can get pretty annoying over the years).

I realized that I had forgotten my least favorite “pop” artist ever: Bob Seger. That fucking guy has made me sick to my goddamn stomach since I was a toddler, and I’ve fucking had it. When Ford made “Like a Rock” its signature tune, I wretched into my 3-leaf binder. “Old Time Rock and Roll”? “Against the Wind”? “Turn the Page”? “Rock and Roll Never Forgets”? Is any man in music history – including Salieri and Stockhausen – more boring than this man?

Blender’s choice for worst song ever is “We Built This City,” but Starship actually had a worse hit: “It Ain’t Over (‘Til It’s Over),” which was the least-inspired hunk of burning catshit since… well, since “Electric Avenue.” I did like “Sara,” you know, “storms are brewin’ in your eyes.” Some songs get a pass because they put you back in a place you remember with exquisite fondness.

What would I add today? That’s really hard, because I think a lot of the hip-hop and full-ahead rap on the radio right now is hard to calibrate: if you hate one song, generally you’re going to hate them all. Hip-hop and sexually-charged R&B, which dominate the charts right now, marks an important shift for music lovers (and critics) currently in their 30s like me: either you got on the train around 1996, or else you haven’t been in a record store in years.

That said, I would like to add these songs to the list:

“If It Makes You Happy” – Sheryl Crow (nails on chalkboard)

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Deep Blue Something

“Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell (lyric about the I.R.S. may be the worst ever)

“Just a Friend” – Biz Markie (no, I don’t think it’s funny)

…and I’d look up the various hits by Bush, Live and Matchbox 20, but seriously, who has the time to fight chicks in 9th grade?

Bonus Category:

Best Rap Interlude in a Song by White People:

Q-Tip in Deee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart”

Worst Rap Interlude in a Song by White People:

KRS-ONE in R.E.M.’s “Radio Song”

I suppose my feeling is this: almost all songs these days are kinda bad; focus-group-tested, uninspired, yet pleasing enough. In the ’80s, you had artists really trying, which gave us some flashes of brillliance (“Life in a Northern Town,” “Head Over Heels,” “How Soon is Now?”) and colossal failures (“Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive,” “Method of Modern Love,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Bad Medicine”).

I know which era I’d pick.

23 thoughts on “turn around, bright eyes

  1. kent

    I think you’re being uncharitable towards a few songs here. “Superman” is a great 3 chord song and A) it’s a cover of an obscurity and B) they let mike mills sing lead. This was never a hit so it never got pounded into your head, so quit yer bitching.
    Quiet Riot “Cum On Feel the Noize” — Rotten because of the performance, but the original by Slade deserves some respect. They were spelling song titles funny way before Prince.
    And wait — you forgot “Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jacks? “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot? “Electric Avenue” has more chords than “Sundown.”
    And Country Music has gotten a complete pass here; you can hear songs this awful 5 times an hour on Country radio.

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  2. Emily

    I think that maybe all POPULAR songs these days are kinda bad, most bands (or “artists,” if you will) can’t write any lyrics more creative than just saying what they think – no metaphors, no poetic elements whatsoever. My personal favorite of the moment is Death Cab for Cutie, and you will definitely not find them on mainstream radio.

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  3. scvecc

    funny how debbie, excuse me, deborah gibson (out of the blue, only in my dreams, foolish beat, shake your love) has triumphed by staying off most lists. i think i was the only one in my state growing up that had her cd’s. still do!

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  4. Just Andrew

    Pretty impressive list (yours, not blenders) – stands up well vs time. The Bob Seger bit is sooo funny, just because Chevy has spent sooo much money advertising with it and you still didn’t know it wasn’t Ford. Guess they are advertising to the same crowd that even remotely cares that Dodge brought back the Hemi and are using it as a major selling point.
    I have 2 additions to the list:
    The enitre Steely Dan catalog – I could write about 2 pages on why these guys are horrific and have set back music 30 years.
    Also the song that starts out ‘do that to me one more time, once is never enough, with a man like you…’ – I mean, what the Hell does that mean? She’s obviously saying that he doesn’t satify her and she’s singing about it, poor schmuck.
    Much of the pop pap I’ve never heard, so can’t really comment on. I’m more inclined to do a 15 worst artists ever – hmmm, how to avoid working today…
    In other news, the greatest band ever, Camper Van Beethoven, who is playing together again, have recorded some fantastic new demos.

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  5. cullen

    “We had joy, We had fun, We had seasons in the sun, but the sun burned our balls, so we wore our overalls.” (modulate)
    It’s a much better song/vocalise with these only somewhat adolescent lyrics.
    Many of the up-tempo choices on these lists were mainstay ‘Strut Skate’ selections when I was popping zits at suburban N.C. roller rinks. No wonder I hate them; I could barely hold hands and make it a few laps around for the couples only ballads. I kicked ass at foozeball and Centipede though (no spinning allowed).

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  6. David Ball

    “Night Moves” justifies the whole Seger oeuvre.
    Woke last night to the sound of thunder
    How far off, I sat and wondered

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  7. rhonda

    Todays entry is too funny. Much of the music i’d include on a best or worst list would be from the 80’s as that was high school and college for me. I’m pathetic about remembering names, enough to admit that I generally don’t know the artist name unless I like them enough to add to my collection. When I read the list immediately the lyrics to “come on feel the noise” popped into my head. My taste in music is a mystery to me. I listen to popular country in the car (makes my husband crazy…he just doesn’t get it) when driving with the husband we’ll listen to his choice of classic rock because I like that in the same way I like country… nothing to twangy or squreechy and i’m good. While working this morning it’s prince’s 1999 cd. A posting above made me laugh…”we had joy, we had sun” – we had to turn the channel.

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  8. Ian

    Bob Seger, rhyming “thunder” with “wondered”… that’s just unspeakable.
    And JustAndrew, that is pure heresy with Steely Dan, but you’re right on with “Do That To Me One More Time,” especially since it was The Captain & Tennille. The thought of The Captain doing ANYTHING to Tennille, especially TWICE, is horff-tastic.
    I actually had the 45 to “Seasons in the Sun” which is probably why Kent hates it so much. I played it incessantly on my Fisher-Price all-in-one record player when I was five.

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  9. Piglet

    I’m confused. I thought it was universally agreed that “MacArthur Park” was the worst song ever, bar none.
    And not even ONE teenage death song? Not even “Teenage Suicide(Don’t Do It)”? Ah well.
    Piglet

    Abra, Abra Cadabra, I wanna reach out and grab ya.

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  10. Tanya

    Ian Darling,
    It was “Ian’s Delightful Early 80’s Mix” that brought us together so many moons ago. :) (That, and a very early version of Instant Messaging, courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) From that experience alone, I’ll always dig the 80’s…

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  11. Bud

    Ian, you touched on the vital point about three times: for most folks, it’s not the tunes per se, but the memories and emotions associated with them.
    For instance, while I agree with many of your choices (and Blender’s) intellectually, that doesn’t at all change the fact that I smile every time I hear “Electric Avenue,” because I had so much fun shaking my booty to that (and several of the other “worst songs”) at the short-lived teen club here in Statesville. Ah! 1985! Was there ever a better time to be a clueless teen?
    Likewise, if you’d been with me on my New England roadtrip in 1996, I’m sure even you would feel good when you heard “If it Makes You Happy.” It’s all subjective, concerned with memories and emotions, so for me this sort of list is ultimately pointless.
    I’ll bet you could start another (similarly pointless) subjective argument about the worst time periods in pop music. My votes would go for 1986-90 and 2001-now.

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  12. Ian

    Tanya, indeed that mix brought us together. That ’80s tape was the first of its kind. As I recall, the illegal proceeds of that tape went to pay for new glasses for me. Can you believe I put “Change” by Tears For Fears on that mix? How rocking is that?
    Bud, 1985 was a good year to be a clueless teen, but I would think 1964 and 1999 were pretty awesome too.

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  13. Annie

    I agree with those who protest the inclusion of “Superman,” and agree even more heartily with the late appointment of “We Built This City” (“Someone’s always plaaaayyyingggg, corporation games” being the most annoying melody line the human imagination could possibly conceive), and must weigh in on a few other matters.
    “Night Moves” by Corncob Seger not only should never be allowed to be mentioned, for any reason, anywhere, but it is absolutely and utterly the OPPOSITE of a justification for BS, in fact I would say that even if he actually had had some GOOD songs, the mid-80s emergence of “Night Moves” disqualifies him forever as a recording artist (“Workin on a night moves”—I beg you to consider, what could it mean?)
    There are some songs that must be added to the worst of the worst, and y’all gotta agree that no list of this sort would be complete without an entry of The Dead. Their version of “Good Lovin,” an at best unimaginative crap-pop tune to begin with, sinks to a new low, with somebody’s unbearable vocals and a rhythm section that farts forward with all the grace of a city bus.
    “The Warrior” by Scandal (unavoidable memory of the MTV video undoubtedly contributing to this–remember the flaming makeup-hair), “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie W. (it should be impossible for someone so brilliant to have had anything to do with this song), and “Hold Me Now” by the Thompson Twins all deserve a mention.
    I confess I have always had a weakness for “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”–but then again, I have a weakness for Mariah Carey too.
    I also find it interesting that Ian didn’t include “Boogie Oogie Oogie” on this list (it used to be one of his favorite songs to hate) and that one of his actual favorite 80s tunes is that indescribably weird and grating piece of britpop, “Right Round” (as in, “You spin me right round baby right round like a record baby right round round round”)

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  14. kent

    “The Warrior” by Scandal? Pure effing genius. That chorus is great, and it came out as something with some bottom in the tinny linndrum dx7 80s.

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  15. Ian

    Hey Block, I mentioned “Bad Medicine” – isn’t that good enough for you?
    “Shooting at the walls of heartache – Bang Bang!
    I AM THE WARRIOR.”
    I suppose the next blog should be about bad lyrics, because that’s an entirely different department.

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  16. Greg

    Last year (or maybe the year before, I’ve lost track of time since we had a child) I had the misfortune of seeing an artist (sic) called Stella Soleil open for the GoGos at the 9:30 club in DC. My friends and I will forever rank anything attributed to her as being amongst the worst things ever produced. Supposedly she was getting play on MTV at the time – not that I’d know, I stopped watching MTV when they stopped playing videos.
    I object to including Superman on the list, but I’m an REM apolagist.
    I’m surprised no one included “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin… I wouldn’t include it because I think he’s friggin’ brilliant.
    Does anyone remember a song from about ’80 called “Swangin'” My recollection places it amongst the worst things ever to grace the airwaves 8 times an hour in central Arkansas.
    Groove is in the Heart always recalls a column that ran a year or two after you graduated by the two guys (Scott & ?) that were sports writers for the DTH. I will forever think of someone having sex while hanging from a chandelier and listening to that song whenever I hear it. (Anyone here know what the hell I’m talking about? – I can’t believe I’ve forgotten their names, I saw them constantly at the DTH and they threw great parties…)
    No inclusion of any songs by REO Speedwagon, Survivor, or Kansas? (I HATE “Dust in the wind”, but maybe I’m just in denial)
    I’m now going to fall asleep to the sound (in my head) of electric avenue. For that I have decided to temporarily hate you.

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  17. Piglet

    I sit corrected.
    “Boogie Oogie Oogie” gets BONUS bad song points. They passed over Elvis Costello to give THAT one the Grammy.

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