“My Heart Will Go On” 1998
And on and on and on…
Lop off all but the first 20 seconds of this monster ballad, and it
still merits a slot on this list for the unconscionable crime of adding
pan-flute solos to the pop lexicon. But it doesn’t stop there: With a voice
full of ornamental quivers and trembles, Canadian dynamo Céline Dion pushes
arena-size schmaltz into the red, first cutting her syllables preciously
short, then strangling each one out. Never has a song about all-consuming
love sounded so trivial and been so inescapable — it powered the Titanic
soundtrack to a year-topping 10 million copies sold, and made millions more
pray that an iceberg would somehow hit Dion.
Worst Moment The third chorus, where she goes from soft to eye-bleedingly
RIGHT SAID FRED
“I’m Too Sexy” 1992
The answer to Spinal Tap’s question “What’s wrong with being sexy?”
Right Said Fred were horrible, bald novelty Brits whose one claim to fame
was a song that announced that they were “too sexy” for most things, from
“New York” to “my cat.” Alas, singer Richard Fairbrass resembled Midnight
Oil’s Peter Garrett, and was therefore “too sexy” for precisely nothing. The
song spawned a welter of grating catchphrases starting with “I’m too sexy”
repeated endlessly by annoying people: “I’m too sexy for my tractor,” etc.
Disturbingly, the Freds, as nobody calls them, are still going.
Worst Moment The so-called chorus, in which, instead of mumbling,
Fairbrass tries to sing. Stop it. Stop it now!
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” 1968
You can practically hear them gritting their teeth
The Beatles proved conclusively that there were two things they could not
do: play reggae and feign enjoyment. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” was a ska track
recorded at a point during the White Album sessions when the Beatles would
happily have beaten one another to death if only they had had some clubs on
hand. As a result, this sounds less like reggae than the desperately chirpy
songs Cockneys used to sing to keep their spirits up while the Luftwaffe
rained death on them during the Blitz.
Worst Moment The woefully unconvincing laughter in the final line:
“If you want some fun — heh-heh-heh-heh! — take ob-la-di-bla-da!”
“The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You” 1996
It’s Great-Uncle Disgusting — from Canada!
When Adams chose to do sexy after 15 years of chaste, aw-shucks rockin’,
even his fans were stunned — as if they’d just seen a stag film starring
Richie Cunningham. “I don’t look good in no Armani suits,” he leered in the
song’s only believable moment, before suggesting he’d rather “wear” the
song’s female protagonist over a blues riff like someone explaining ZZ Top
to an accountant. This wasn’t the creepiest track off his album 18 Til I
Die; that accolade goes to a song called “(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear.”
Worst Moment “…There’s only one thing that fits me like it should.”
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
“Hangin’ Tough” 1989
It sucked the Swing out of New Jack, bleached the Blues out of Rhythm &, and
featured white boys calling themselves “funky” despite some very unfunky
denim vests. This Boston quintet triggered a hormonal rush among 13-year-old
girls and intense confusion among their boyfriends, and paved the way for
megaselling boy bands who ran low on talent and high on dumb hats. This 1988
hit was all crossed arms and scowls, but the tuff-guy routine didn’t gel:
These nancy boys make the Sharks and Jets look like G-Unit.
Worst Moment The boys warn: “Don’t cross our path or you’re gonna get
JA RULE FEAT. ASHANTI
The most hated man in hip-hop — for good reason!
Many rappers sing poorly, but none as irritatingly as Jeffrey Atkins. In
2001, he went from a raise-da-roof club grunter who treated women like car
doors to a tone-deaf warbler who swore he worshiped them — and cried in his
videos to prove it. On this 2002 duet with the reliably transparent Ashanti,
he can’t contain his horny side, repeating a cracked-voiced mantra about
“Your lips/Your smile/Your hips/Those thighs” and admitting his “fetish for
fucking you with your skirt on.” Gains points for honesty; loses many more
for coming off like an ogling doofus.
Worst Moment The two-note chorus, which is a laundry list of female
“I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” 1993
Bitch-titted balladeer seeks dictionary
Forget that this song comes from Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell
and that pop albums can’t really have sequels. Forget that it’s 12 minutes —
and crammed with pianos, choirs and every over-the-top adornment that
producer Jim Steinman could get his hands on, it feels twice that length.
No, this epic chunk of histrionics’ worst offense is that it doesn’t make
any sense. You wouldn’t do what, exactly? It’s OK for rock songs to
be dumb. But not stupid.
Worst Moment Shamelessly aping “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” the
boy-girl duet kicks in at around the nine-minute mark.
“Follow Me” 2000
Sleaze-rap DJ goes solo, blows like Hootie
Breaking out on his own, the leading light of Kid Rock’s “Detroit playas”
reneges on his boss’s promise to “cause chaos” and “rock like Amadeus.” He
does, however, cause nausea and rock like Muzak with his
nobody-saw-it-coming lite-FM stylings, hummin’, strummin’ and practically
promisin’ to tuck you in at night. The unexpected bonus? It gives hope to
everyone awaiting the Terminator X collection of Air Supply covers.
Worst Moment Knowing every rhyme before it happens — the first time
you hear the song.
SIMON & GARFUNKEL
“The Sounds of Silence” 1965
If Frasier Crane were a song, he would sound like this
From the terrible opening line, in which darkness is addressed as “my old
friend,” the lyrics of “The Sounds of Silence” sound like a vicious parody
of a pompous and pretentious mid-’60s folk singer. But it’s no joke: While a
rock band twangs aimlessly in the middle distance, Simon & Garfunkel thunder
away in voices that suggest they’re scowling and wagging their fingers as
they sing. The overall experience is like being lectured on the meaning of
life by a jumped-up freshman.
Worst Moment “Hear my words that I might teach you”: Officially the
most self-important line in rock history!
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” 1989
Can you fit a cultural history of the twentieth century into four minutes?
Despite its bombastic production, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” resembles a
term paper scribbled the night before it’s due. As the song progresses, Joel
audibly realizes he can’t cram it all in: The ’70s get four bellowed words
amid the widdly-woo guitars and meet-thy-maker drums. The chorus
denies responsibility for any events mentioned, clearing up the common
misconception that Billy Joel developed the H-bomb.
Worst Moment “China’s under martial law, rock & roller cola wars!”:
No way does conflating Tiananmen Square with Michael Jackson selling Pepsi
trivialize a massacre.
COLOR ME BADD
“I Wanna Sex You Up” 1991
These Oklahoma R&B smoothies looked like rejects from a Benetton ad and
sounded like flunkies from the Keith Sweat School of Horny Jamz. This is one
long string of fake falsetto moans — there’s more heat in an Herbal Essences
commercial — and the imagery ranges from perplexing (“We can do it till we
both wake up”) to downright unpleasant (“Makin’ love until we drown”). Not
recommended for the bedroom, unless your bedroom also features leopard-print
picture frames, mirrored ceilings and a five-gallon tub of Astroglide from
Worst Moment Toward the end, la-la-la’s creep in under
whispered phrases like “Lay back and enjoy the ride.”