« Who do you Believe? | Home | AIEEEE! »

June 30, 2004


Worst Song Ever +

Aimee Mann has helpfully brought a topic of passionate and ever-evolving debate to the public forum, during a recent show in Northampton, MA. What is the worst song ever? This might seem like a frivolous issue about which everyone will have a differing but equally valid take, like the issue of the best song ever. Let me make this clear: these two topics are completely dissimilar. The best song ever is determined by personal taste, experiences, associations, whether you think Genesis was better before or after Peter Gabriel left, and many other individual factors. The worst song ever, on the other hand, is a song that taps into our innate collective humanity, much in the same way that common phobias do. Nearly everybody will be able to identify the worst song ever as overwrought and full of unnecessary instrumentation and, often, lyrics that make overuse of "oooo" and "ohh-whoa-whoa."

Anyway, Aimee Mann and her band decided that the worst song ever is "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Other members of the band had proposed "Lady in Red" as the worst song ever. Both of those choices, while certainly representative of very bad and maudlin songs, are incorrect. I have long held that the worst song ever is in fact "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago. Just reading the lyrics, particularly the "oo oo oo" part, explains my choice of this song. I stand by this selection, even though Emily once offered a compelling challenger in the form of the live version of "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton, though I contend that it is specifically the live video version of this song that is really exceptionally bad, particularly the part when Eric Clapton closes his eyes. The song itself is an abomination, but maybe not actually the very worst song ever.

I'll enable comments on this post, please feel free to offer your nominations. Serious candidates only, please. -Amy

As much as I respect the views of my esteemed colleague, I respectfully must say that in this one case, she is wrong. "Wonderful Tonight" is unquestionably the worst song ever, as evidenced by the deep and visceral ache in the intestines induced by the high note in the line "So I give her the car keeehhhys...". Additionally, the half-sung, half-whispered delivery clearly indicates that even though you cannot see Clapton closing his eyes, you know they are closed, which is just as bad.

One mitigating factor of "Wonderful Tonight" is that it is hilariously misinterpreted by drippy brides and prom committees across the nation; the lyrics are about a man getting wasted at a party, only to slur at his long-suffering lady while she's pouring him into bed that she sure looked terrific while he was making an ass of himself.

Hm. Maybe it is an appropriate wedding/prom song after all. - Emily

categories: Music
posted by amy at 2:39 PM | #


It may just be the editor in me that objects, but I think Alanis Morrisette's Isn't It Ironic? is in the running for this. Just the fact that she's got a whole generation of kids crooning about irony when, in point of fact, most of the things in her song aren't ironic at all makes it a terrible song. "...like rain on your wedding day...good advice that you just didn't take"?! Has she ever heard of bad luck? She wants to sound smart and comes up with this. Isn't it ironic... don't you think?

Posted by: MSosostris at June 30, 2004 4:45 PM

First of all, If You Leave Me Now wins. Also, a friend of mine has a theory that all bands whose names have to do with place or travel suck (Journey, America, Chicago, Boston) so Chicago get bonus points. Also, I'm very curious as to what exactly *is* the biggest part of me. Boobs, ass, spinal column.
Second of all, I seem to recall something about a prom, that god awful Eric Clapton song, and some members of the 'bot. No, nope, the memory has gone. Must have been a bad dream. I might allow it to be the 2nd worst song ever.

Posted by: cushie at June 30, 2004 4:50 PM

As a fan of Chicago, as much as one can be these days, I have to say that I don't think If You Leave Me Now is the Worst Song Ever. Lady In Red is far, far worse. As is Wonderful Tonight, partially because it was, in fact, my prom theme. And Emily will doubtless be gratified to know that the only reason it was my high school prom theme was because the students - for the first and last time - were allowed to vote on a prom theme. The winning song was "Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC, which is not the Worst Song Ever, but is probably the Most Unlikely Prom Theme Ever. Under pressure from the faculty, the students' voting rights were rescinded and, to make a long story short, I now have a champagne flute with "WNHS 1990 Wonderful Tonight" sandblasted onto it.

As tempting as Lady In Red is, I have to say my nominee for the Worst Song Ever is Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. That only beats Louie, Louie and Shout! because, unlike those two songs, even the pathetic and arhythmic at Mormon weddings and Buffalo Bills games don't get excited when they hear Brown Eyed Girl.

Brown Eyed Girl was the song that the frat brothers played at rush because they confused Van Morrison with Cat Stevens. It is the song that blares out of the bars on 19th Street (in Washington) south of Dupont Circle as they try to lure people in for happy hours. It's a classic rock anthem for people who have never heard of the Steve Miller Band, hell even the J. Geils Band. Like Shout! and, tragically, much of Motown, it is a song of enforced group fun. Like Louie, Louie, no one knows what the hell it's about, and like Lady In Red, no one cares. But worst of all, it has a singalong part that tone-deaf people can shout along to. I think to be a truly terrible song, a song either has to be completely unsingable (Barry Manilow's Could It Be Magic, but not the Donna Summer remake), or something nauseatingly group-singable (the Beatles' Hey Jude - I know I'm out on a limb here). Brown Eyed Girl has unsingable verses (all the bits up to ". . .remember, we used to sing") and then it has a part that people feel obliged to shout along with. And most importantly, unlike McArthur Park (for example), the singalong part is not so bizarre that the song acquires a camp cachet.

Does it not also contain the lyric "skippin' and a jumpin'" sung by a grown man? That alone should sound warning bells.

I expect there will be some debate about this, even though Amy thinks this is a slam dunk decision. I would say that the Best Song Ever is an empirical question that everyone of course would have the same answer to: S.O.S. by ABBA. Music was thus perfected, and everything has been downhill since.

Posted by: Jim at June 30, 2004 5:08 PM

While I agree that Brown Eyed Girl is an insufferably overplayed horror of a song, and that shrill guitar riff makes my fists clench, I do want to point out that most of your reasons for nominating it as the Worst Song Ever are not about the song itself, but rather because of the reactions that the song often provokes in its listeners. Other songs also fall into this category, such as Sweet Caroline--sure, not a great song (and its listeners also feel compelled to sing along with the verses, which are so unstructured as to be unsingable) but the real agony comes from the good old boys who bellow out the chorus. The "singin' and a-jumpin'" line makes me wince, but I don't think I can agree that Brown Eyed Girl is really the Very Worst Song Ever, in itself. And though my foolish love for humanity makes me want to believe otherwise, I bet that there are a good number of people out there who would include Brown Eyed Girl on their list of Best Songs Ever. Isn't it ironic, Alanis?

But I'm with you 100% on the S.O.S.

Posted by: Amy at June 30, 2004 6:14 PM

hands down, the worst song ever is 'if you ever really loved a woman,' by bryan adams.

every bar, every note, every 'really' - torture.

Posted by: bob at July 1, 2004 8:30 PM

The very very very worst song ever is "Freedom" by Paul McCartney, and no other song is close. Maybe "We Built This City."

That song made the pain & horror of 9/11 just that much worse.

Sir Paul also wins the dubious honor of Most Precipitous Drop by a songwriter. How is it even possible that the same person wrote Paperback Writer and Freedom.

To wit:

This is my right
A right given by God
To live a free life
To live in freedom

Talkin' about freedom
I'm talkin' 'bout freedom
I will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

Anyone tries to take it away
They'll have to answer
'Cause this is my right

I'm talkin' about freedom
Talkin' 'bout freedom
I will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

I'm talkin' 'bout freedom
I'm talkin' 'bout freedom
I will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

Everybody talkin' 'bout freedom
We're talkin' 'bout freedom
We will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

I'm talkin' 'bout freedom
Talkin' 'bout freedom
I will fight
For the right
To live in freedom

I'm talkin' 'bout freedom
I'm talkin' 'bout freedom
We will fight
For the right
To live in freedom


Posted by: Foster at July 2, 2004 12:55 PM

There's a recent article in USA Today that, based on a survey, ranks We Built This City as the worst song ever.

My personal entry: Achy Breaky Heart. Oh, and can we please burn every single effing copy of 4 Non Blondes' What's Going On?. Thank you.

Posted by: krish at July 9, 2004 1:35 AM

Speaking of irony and Aimeee Mann, the real irony lies in the fact that a performer as bland and trite as Ms. Mann thinks she can comment on the worst song ever! He said shut up! He said shut up! Oh god can't you keep it down?

Posted by: kurt_vile at July 9, 2004 8:00 PM

Oh, I neglected to mention that besides the entirety of Ms. Mannn's and husband Mr. Penn's catalog, the worst song ever is, without a doubt, "If you don't know me by now" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

Posted by: kurt_vile at July 9, 2004 8:06 PM

Most of these are great songs. A song that is SPECIAL enough to stick in your jealous, ignorant, misguided craw is worth a lot. Particularly wonderful and mistreated here are "If you don't know me by now," "brown-eyed girl," Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Idealism, and FREEDOM -- which is not a political concept. FREEDOM cannot be co-opted by Bush-Cheney Republicans, and it should not be bastardized by angry liberals. Freedom is essential, and it is always worth talkin' 'bout.

Posted by: darren doran at October 20, 2004 10:40 AM

The worst song ever recorded is Disco Duck! When I was in college people would finish eating, then play the song on the juke box and leave, torturing us mercilessly.

It end on day when the tackle from the football team push the juke and scratched the record so it would play anymore.

Posted by: amtorti at September 29, 2005 11:45 PM

How has no body said Europe the final countdown the words that come to mind are SWEDISH MEATBALLS this in the Villian of any rock band that has taken pride in been rock stars I hate it and hope they all die a horrible and painful death then they may have some idea of the pain they put us through

Posted by: Fugilist at October 12, 2005 7:57 AM

That was sooooo corney and chesey don;t send me a soat of it agin i could through up

Posted by: at February 9, 2008 11:54 PM

Yes I think disco duck is a solid contender for worst song. Some of the others, like "wonderful tonight", "Brown eyed girl" and "isnt it Ironic?" I think are just overplayed. I was a DJ and personally I am tired of, "shook me all night long"

The song I wish to nominate is "Gold" by spandau ballet. It just reeks of a desperate attempt to make a pop song. It sounds like an overplayed toothpaste commercial. Terrible from the first time I heard it.

Posted by: Zhric at November 21, 2008 10:21 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)