originally published January 31, 2014
It’s time once again to clear the room of friends, family and suspicious strangers by cranking up the worst of the worst. You know, the most urethra-scrapingly awful thing about these terrible songs is the fact that they have each achieved a grotesque level of popularity. People who toil for eight, sometimes sixteen hours in a day, who often pay only the minimum payment on their Visa bill and who have likely contemplated buying the store-brand mayonnaise in order to save a little extra money for lottery tickets have nevertheless flushed some of that precious cash down the crusty-sewage-lined pipes of the recording industry to own these.
And we know these songs are awful – we all do. I’m not talking about stuff like Chicago’s “You’re The Inspiration”, which is more harmlessly schmaltzy than outright offensive, or “Ice Ice Baby”, which grew exponentially more ridiculous until Vanilla Ice turned Amish and the tune shifted into ironic-nostalgia country.
No, these are the inexcusables. I’m pulling off of Blender magazine’s “50 Worst Songs Ever” list, one which I’m loathe to trust, due to its inclusion of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence”, Huey Lewis’s “Heart of Rock & Roll” and The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” But despite these grievous errors, the list makes a few points. It also puts Starship’s “We Built This City” at #1, so kudos for that one.
Number two on the list is inarguably more insipid, more soul-draining than Starship’s 1987 trudge through knee-deep fetid hoopla. Yes, I’m talking about Billy Ray Cyrus’s biggest single, a song so astoundingly wretched it is now considered to be an attempted mass murder in three states if someone tries to perform this as a karaoke number. “Achy Breaky Heart” is the song whose video introduced the 90’s fad of line dancing to popular culture. Remember when people used to make fun of the Ramones because their songs only contained three chords? This one features just two: A and E major.
For those of you who bemoaned the irrelevancy of the Grammys last weekend, you should be aware that this song was up for Record of the Year (thankfully it lost). Honestly, for excreting this 3:23 glop of aural torture upon the world – not to mention suggesting that line dancing is anything other than a symptom of a medical condition – Billy Ray should be publically flogged.
And speaking of flogging, was there any more blatant a sign in 1997 that pop music had found the drain beneath the drain than Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”? I get it – it’s a commentary on materialist, superficial culture. So is “Can’t Buy Me Love”, and that song doesn’t make me want to impale my own ears with a pair of fondue forks. Mattel, who wasn’t impressed that Barbie and Ken were being placed upon the pedestal of shame to get this point across, sued MCA Records, claiming trademark infringement. The case was tossed out of court.
Nevertheless, more than eight million copies of this single were sold around the world. As of November 2012, the song remains the 13th-best-selling single in the United Kingdom. It physically pains me that the majority of people who bought it did not do so ironically, or as a gag gift for a co-worker they secretly can’t stand. This probably means that a number of scowling faces are reading this article right now, grumbling, “What the hell does this guy know? That’s a great song!”
I hate to break it to you, but it’s not. It’s more obnoxious than a drugged-up squirrel playing “My Heart Will Go On” through the bagpipes at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Though lest you think my accusatory finger of shaming is pointed solely at the drek of 90’s hits…
I am physically unable to throw something at someone whenever I hear the song “I’m Henry The Eighth, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits. This was an old music hall number from 1910, made famous in England by the goofy Cockney singer Harry Champion. His schtick was running through the chorus at maximum speed whilst flailing his arms and legs about comically. Unfortunately, Herman’s Hermits’ version goes slower and takes longer to get through, and somehow this was liked enough to have become their second chart-topping hit.
I don’t know if there are more lyrics, but this version (which was sung by Hermits’ guitarist Derek Leckenby) is simply the same chorus sung three times over. With the right song, that can be a forgivable repetition, but this is belted out in a way that suggests the content should be humorous. Except nothing about it is funny: he’s married to a woman who had previously been married to some guys also named Henry. Hilarious. I hate this song more than I hate most communicable diseases.
Oh Gerardo, how grateful we all were to you for having given us a face with which we could definitively attach the term ‘douchebag’ as it applies to a male human. Let’s have a look at some of your lyrics:
“Would you rather have me lie / Take a piece of your pie and say bye / Or be honest and rub your thighs?”
That’s a lot of options to choose from, Gerardo.
“There’s not a woman who can handle a man like me / That’s why I juggle two or three / I ain’t one to commit, you can omit that bit / You pop the question, that’s it.”
“Rico Suave” was a top-10 hit, despite the fact that it was four non-ironic minutes of audio misogyny, set to the unfortunate desecration of James Brown’s “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose.”
While Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” does appear at #39 on the Blender list, it doesn’t cause quite the vomitous swell within my ear-guts as the other songs in this article. Perhaps that’s because when the song came out back in 2000, the internet existed, I was a light year away from youth culture, and I had adequate means at my disposal to ensure I would hardly ever have to listen to the thing. But once again, let’s go to the lyrics:
“Your rap sounds like a diamond map to the stars / Yeah, baby.”
“’Cause she looks like a flower and stings like a bee / Like every girl in history.”
I don’t know if Ricky was using ‘rap’ because this mystery woman is spouting off some Beastie Boys lyrics, or if he’s going with the colloquial jargon of the hippie era, as though the sound of her talking is like a… a diamond map… to the… shit, I just don’t get it.
The song was co-written by Desmond Child, whose other songwriting credits include KISS’s “I Was Made For Loving You”, Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine”, and Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady”. So the guy is a hit factory, and “She Bangs” was one of his more successful products. Of course the song took on an entirely new mystique in 2003 when American Idol hopeful William Hung sang it as one of the it’s-funny-because-he’s-awful auditions.
Strangely enough, we haven’t heard much from Ricky Martin over the past few years. My fellow Edmontonians can, however, head to a bar downtown tonight to check out William Hung live. I deeply wish I was making that up.