What Songs Do You HATE? My 10 Worst Songs Of All Time

What songs do you HATE?

Music is such a personal matter. The same song can inspire completely different feelings from person to person.

I was reminded of this last week while listening to NPR’s insightful, hilarious “All Songs Considered” episode called “The Worst Songs of All Time?

It all started when a member of the “All Songs Considered” staff wrote a column called “Leave ‘We Built This City’ Alone!”

Here’s a bit of what Stephen Thompson had to say:

I’m not here to defend “We Built This City,” though I hardly think it’s the worst song of all time. Instead, I’m here to urge every music fan to dig deeper and interrogate his or her own definition of what makes a song terrible. I feel like we pile on “We Built This City” because it’s too feeble to fight back; because we as a community of music-lovers accept that it’s the worst song ever the way we accept that Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper or A Love Supreme or Blue orBlood on the Tracks is the best album ever. That is to say, we accept these opinions as truth because they’ve been accepted that way before most of us even got here.

I do think the aforementioned best-albums-of-all-time rank among the best albums of all time, just as I think “We Built This City” is kind of a lousy song — albeit too over-the-top silly to truly despise at this point. But I encourage people to interrogate their musical tastes and biases and feelings a little bit more aggressively. It’s easy to say, “The best album of all time is [an indisputably classic record].” But what’s your favorite album? What records do you love in your bones? What records do you turn to when you need to feel better, to feel centered, to feel human, to feel alive? Those aren’t decided by consensus; they’re personal and often based on who, what and where we were when we heard them.

The same process is useful when we analyze what each of us views as the worst music of all time. If everyone says, “Duh, ‘We Built This City’ is the most appalling song ever,” then the discussion is over, and we’ve stopped exploring what makes music obnoxious or offensive or unoriginal or otherwise bothersome to us. We haven’t just short-circuited a fun debate at parties; we’ve also skipped out on an important discussion of what makes us recoil and why.

“We Built This City” is bad, and I hate the fact that it’s now in my head.

But it’s not among my personal list of the worst songs of all time.

Nor are any number of songs by Michael Bolton, Chicago, Richard Marx, Creed and Nickelback. I just wanted to put them all on notice. 🙂

Taking Thompson’s lead, I’ll do my best to give some explanation of why I find these songs so terrible. The reasons are admittedly not always deep. Sometimes, you just have a gut reaction to a song, and it sticks.

Between Tom Petty’s voice and the chorus, “I’m learning to fly/But I ain’t got wings/Coming down/Is the hardest thing,” the song drives me insane. It sounds so dead on arrival, as if the soul was sucked out of it before it was even recorded.

I could really fill up a good portion of this list with songs from the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack. I can’t even recall anymore whether I’ve ever seen the movie in its entirety, but listening to the radio in the 80s, it was impossible to escape its soundtrack. “She’s Like the Wind” and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” both made me want to spontaneously combust, but for whatever reason “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen is the worst. Maybe it’s because I still hear it on occasion, while the other two have mostly faded into the ether. It’s also the hardest to get out of your head. The chorus has that earworm quality that can destroy a man. “With these hungry eyes/One look at you and I can’t disguise/I’ve got hungry eyes/I feel the magic between you and I …” I wish those hungry eyes would eat Carmen’s mouth and stop this song.

I don’t care for The Eagles, but Don Henley’s solo material takes my distaste to another level. It’s really hard for me to pick just one of his songs for this list. I mean, there’s “All She Wants to Do is Dance,” “The End of Innocence” and “Dirty Laundry” in his discography. But the song I had to listen to most was “The Boys of Summer.” The synth line mixed with the guitar noodling, which then leads to Henley’s voice, makes for a toxic mixture when it enters my brain. I just want summer to be over so these boys will go away.

I liked Genesis. I really did. “Invisible Touch” got a lot of play in my house. The “Land of Confusion” video fascinated me to no end. But then they released this abomination in 1991. It’s only in recent years that I’ve begun to forgive Phil Collins for “I Can’t Dance.” He’s made some great music in his career, but this one song almost eclipsed it all for me. It was always on the radio, and it was so bad. “I can’t dance, I can’t talk/Only thing about me is the way I walk/I can’t dance, I can’t sing/I’m just standing here selling everything.” What is he talking about???

I realize The Beach Boys are often credited with making one of the best albums of all time with “Pet Sounds.” But in the 80s they released a little song called “Kokomo.” It’s a place I never want to go, because I would not be able to shake this song. This tune makes me think of many things I don’t care to think about in my spare time: mindless sunbathing, Jimmy Buffet fans and old people copulating. No thank you.

I don’t think this song’s inclusion needs any explanation. It was a “Titanic” song that I could not avoid.

This song was released in my junior high years as my social calendar was beginning to heat up with all kinds of dances. Bryan Adams was a staple. In fact, I remember nights when “Everything I Do” was just put on repeat so as to not interrupt the slow dancing everyone wanted to do. While some young ladies were generous enough to dance with me, I still hated this song. It was corny to begin with, but it takes on a whole new level of absurdity when you’ve heard it a couple hundred times through no effort of your own.

It’s not just that I find this song embraces a sort of soulless patriotism. It’s that it always becomes popular during times when its jingoistic qualities are most pronounced, such as after 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I know this song has a profound impact on some people, but I find it cloying and unlistenable.

So this is where some readers will really begin to question why they read this blog at all. But it’s true — I don’t like “Sweet Caroline.” I’ve never cared for Neil Diamond. But this song has taken on a somewhat unparalleled status where you not only have to listen to it, but you’re also supposed to take part in a group sing-a-long if it is played. Of course, this just makes me dislike it more. Now, I’m not only on the outside for not liking the song, but the isolation is made worse by the fact that I cannot genuinely participate in the communal displays of affection for it. Yes, pity poor me. I’m the boy who never fell in love with “Sweet Caroline.”

If you asked any one of my friends to name a song that I cannot stand, they would all respond with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” When that piano intro starts playing, I shrink into the shadows. I know what’s about to happen. I’m going to hear that icky, full-thoated voice. And then everyone is going to hop on the midnight train and go crazy. I’ve disliked the song for as long as I can remember, but since it was revived by “The Sopranos,” it follows me everywhere. “Don’t Stop Believin'” is like the body I tried to bury, but the spirit of that city boy from south Detroit keeps haunting me. Just when I think I’ve put it to rest forever, the song appears again to torment my soul. As with “Sweet Caroline,” the fact that “Don’t Stop Believin'” is so beloved by so many just makes my distaste stronger and more isolating. It is not the obscure songs that you never really have to hear that you HATE. It’s the songs that you cannot escape that make you want to fill your ears with cement. That is “Don’t Stop Believin'” for me …

8 thoughts on “What Songs Do You HATE? My 10 Worst Songs Of All Time

  1. Come Dancing-The Kinks
    I love the Kinks. I think the Davies brothers are awesome. Come Dancing is an atrocity taking everything horrid about 80’s video rock put it in one big happy pile of crap. Great bands feeling compelled to make poppy video music is one of the worst parts of the 1980’s. This also brought the “cool” kids running to their library and then complaining about the awful versions of You Really Got Me and Where have all the Good Times Gone only know the Van Halen versions prior.

    All I want to Do is Make Love to You-Heart
    For my money Ann Wilson is the greatest female Rock Vocalist of any generation. She can convey more emotion in her lilt on Dog and a Butterfly than Celine Dion can in her entire catalog. This is another of the horrid 1980’s become relevant for MtV songs that haunt some of my favorite 1970’s acts. (See also “The Flame” by Cheap Trick or anything Genesis did post Abacab) What a complete waste of talent

    Hard Habit to Break-Chicago.
    I’ve got a great idea. Let’s take this group of amazing musicians that have created one of the most iconic sounds in American music and let David Foster rework them into the wank fest project for Peter Cetera…let’s even bring in his brother to sing with him and let’s hide the horns. Who listens to Chicago for the horns? Asshats. I hate what MtV did to music.

    Satellite-Dave Matthews Band
    I’m a DMB fan and I’m not afraid to admit it. I don’t even say it ironically. I did jazz arrangements, I dig horns, dig musicianship. I hate this song. If this would have been the first DMB song I heard I wouldn’t have listened to any other DMB.

    Everything by Pink Floyd. Yes…everything. I think they are over rated and over worshiped. I don’t get it. Bad music for pretentious assholes that think they have the answers to everything in the universe. You don’t…you just took bad acid.

    Why hasn’t someone tied the lead singer of Rascal Flatts to a bumper and drug him down a country road someplace? The Rascal Flatts remake of Life is a Highway is horrendous. Seriously bad. It is from the movie Cars…my 6 years old boys favorite movie. The movie that has been played in my house more than any other movie in the history of movies.

    I wonder just how scared and lonely and hurt Rob Thomas really is, because he doesn’t tell us NEAR enough in his songs. 3 AM is one of the worst pop songs in the last 30 years. It is boring and trite and any 6th grade Junior High pep band can do a better version of it. I hate his whiny voice and I hate that song. I seriously hate that song.

    Is it me or does Beyonce sing flat in every song she has ever performed. I will freely admit to being a pig, as if I am channel surfing and see her on the TV I will stop and mute the volume and watch her for days. She is stunning. Gorgeous. She oozes sex. I think that her voice is more annoying than the baying Beagles my neighbor leave outside for 12-14 hours every day. I think that on the elevator to hell her song (Who run the World) Girls is playing on a continuous loop.

    The fact of the matter is the worst song in the history of all known music isn’t by a bad 70’s arena pop band led by Steve Perry, a Canadian Rock group whose lead singer looks really creepy next to his wanna be punk rock wife or even by the Black Eyed Peas. The worst song ever recorded is by the King of Pop Michael Jackson. Bad sucks. Can we all just stop with the worship and admit it? It is a boring, repetitive pile of hooks. Weird Al’s parody version Fat told a more compelling story. It’s an awful song.

    Okay Nathan…I’m out. Great post (as usual).

  2. Ooooh … Pink Floyd. That’s going to be a controversial one, Shane. But I agree that they are overhyped. Rob Thomas. Dave Matthews Band. Agreed.
    I can’t speak ill of Beyonce, though. She’s royalty. Her husband on the other hand — he needs to stay out of her songs!
    I’ve always thought “Bad” is bad, too. Definitely preferred Weird Al’s version. I’ve got to say, though, “Man in the Mirror” and “The Girl Is Mine” just might be worse … 🙂

  3. Oooo. Good topic. Thanks.

    The Worst? The Absolute 100% Worst Ever?! Anything by the Beegees! I cannot stand them! Horrible, whiny falsettos, stupid lyrics, pathetic videos of their hair. OMG! I always mute them.

    My nieces, who were 4 and 6 at the time, loved “We Built This City.” They listened to it endlessly and sang along with great enthusiasm! As a doting aunt, I couldn’t smash their CD without permanently traumatizing them. So I was a suffering martyr.

    “We Are the World.” Okay, it wasn’t bad, but it was played waaaay too much. I got awfully sick of it.

    The Rolling Stones. They had some good early songs, especially Paint It Black. Now Keith Richards brags about having sex with young women. I look at him, all drugged and boozed out, and the image of him with an 18 year old just creeps me out. I can’t listen to them without that image now. I mean, isn’t he about 70 now? Icky.

    Can I tell you my favorite Favorites? Mamas and the Papas, Indigo Girls, Peter Paul and Mary, the Animals, Jefferson Airplane, Procol Harum and lots of blues bands and singers, plus some jazzers too. That’s all I can think of at the moment.

    Again, thanks for the topic. I feel better after having the opportunity to rant against the Beegees.

    • It’s interesting that Jefferson Airplane fell so far during 20 years in your estimation:)
      The Bee Gees have definitely tried my patience on many occasions, but I think I’ve grown more accepting of them as I get older. Still, you won’t hear them on my headphones …
      I understand your perspective on the Rolling Stones and how the artist can influence your feelings about the music. I was so mad/disappointed/sad about Kurt Cobain’s suicide that I wasn’t really interested in hearing Nirvana songs for the better part of 10 years.

  4. I’m so glad you hate “Don’t Stop Believin'” too. That song is the biggest piece of dog excrement I’ve ever heard and Journey had some pretty awful stuff in there. Most anything mid 80s or later by Chicago, Peter Cetera makes me want to projectile vomit, too.

    It’s weird that some of Chicago’s early stuff was actually sorta funky in a slightly interesting way with the big horn sections,complex chords, misguided pseudo-psychedelic lyrics and yet they became such smarm-masters at some point that I can’t stand their stuff.

    Jewel also makes me want to claw my ears off my head along with anything sung by John Denver (but especially the awful “Country Road” song or worse the “Feather Bed” song), Neil Diamond (yeah, he’s so bad he’s hipster fodder now and people love him “ironically”–which means they love him but don’t want to really admit it). Barry Manilow is just so obviously bad that he’s kind of an easy target and does anyone really like him aside from medley writers?

    I’d almost say anything by ABBA, the Swedish Super Group. But they’re so earnest and catchy I almost can’t resist them, even though I know they’re sorta bad. It must take some kind of talent to write stuff that is so horrifically catchy.

  5. I think Learning to Fly and Boys of Summer are great, and Sweet Caroline is an enjoyable, harmless guilty pleasure. The rest make sense, though.

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