Music is one of the great topics of discussion that will see opinions become more forceful the longer the conversation continues. And one of the main issues a music listener or (more often) musician will have with a music reviewer is the question of why they get to decide if something is good or not. Look no further than this blog – so often the comments stoop to entertain this cliché. People asking for my credentials; they never ask when they agree with you. And when it comes down to it, for all the genres in the world of music, there really are only two kinds: good and bad.
The problem with that is everyone has an opinion – Colin Bowles flexed his literary muscle and sharpened his wit in a very opinionated and often hilarious book that announces his decisions relating to the worst 100 songs of all time. The title comes from a Johnny Cash song and in and around the always funny dissections of songs that would quite possibly make anyone’s list (Achy Breaky Heart) there are some interesting and amusing distraction lists (worst bands, biggest scandals in rock – remember Milli Vanilli, when the world found out they didn’t sing.)
But, as is the case with opinions, it would be impossible to agree with everything in the book – and I certainly don’t think that Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sounds Of Silence is one of the worst songs of all time, but Bowles is a great writer and he does have a bit of a point when mocking the cloying sentimentality (“the most pretentious lyric in musical history”) and I love his description, “this song is the musical equivalent of having a finger waved in your face” and “listening to The Sounds Of Silence is like being lectured on morals and the meaning of life by a teenager”. I don’t however agree that “it’s Britney Spears trying to write a Dylan song” but hyperbole is often a music writer’s greatest tool in provoking debate.
I’ve Been Flushed From The Toilet Of Your Heart will remind you of aural assaults like Elton John’s remake of his own Candle In The Wind (as England’s Rose). It might have you reassessing your own feelings on epics like Stairway To Heaven but, regardless of how often you agree, Colin Bowles’ book provides plenty of laughs. It’s a lighthearted look at the world of bad songs. And there are plenty more he could have chosen…
I was tidying some books in our study this weekend and spotted a copy of I’ve Been Flushed From The Toilet Of Your Heart. It was about three years ago that I read the book cover to cover, often laughing at the selections and at Bowles’ descriptions of these dud tracks.
So, I thought a nice easy start to the week might be clearing the decks and admitting to five songs you consider to be among the worst you’ve heard. Songs that are toe-curlingly bad; that you cannot even ascribe a kitsch value to and just be happy you don’t have to hear them beyond some right-place/right-time scenario.
It’s interesting looking at various lists of hated songs. There are some that seem universal – I’ll include at least one of those on my list below. I agree with Bowles on one obvious pick – I’m sure you can guess which one it is. And I see from checking out this Wikipedia entry that Rebecca Black’s Friday was quick to make the list. I think it’s much easier to avoid such lightweight viral offerings. I think, instead, of the residual hatred that forms with time; with not being able to escape a song. I’m not saying Rebecca Black’s Friday is a good song. What I am saying is I’ve never heard it the entire way through. I can’t say the same for Achy Breaky Heart though – that was unavoidable growing up in Hawke’s Bay. It was on breakfast radio for what seemed like years. Probably still is.
I’m going to share five songs I just can’t stand. Five songs I’ve heard far more than I ever wanted to. And then I want you to do the same. All for a bit of a laugh of course. We can compare and contrast our choices. Here’s my list:
1. The Cranberries, Zombie – “…with their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns…in your head…in your head…” I wish Dolores had kept it in her head. You may remember I described The Cranberries as a band that made me sick. And a big part of that ill-feeling and ill-will comes from this song.
2. Dire Staits, Walk Of Life – I happily raved about Dire Straits’ self-titled debut. But the band’s biggest selling album, Brothers In Arms, is the nadir as far as I’m concerned. And a big part of the blame must go to this song. This is just so awful. And it was everywhere when I was growing up. It’s never okay to like this song.
3. Starship, We Built This City – a little bit of me dies every time I hear this song. I can’t enjoy it. It’s a song that suggests the foundation to be rock’n’roll and then unfolds in a completely un-rock’n’roll way. And that is just the start of this song’s problems.
4. Black Eyed Peas, Where Is The Love – sure I could pick one of at least a dozen songs by this band but Where Is The Love was the very start of the slide. It was the first single from the first album with Fergie; the announcement that the Black Eyed Peas considered making money to be far more important than making music. This betrayal to an audience that had supported them across two very decent albums and great live performances is one of the worst 180 degree turns in recent music history. The start of very bad things.
5. The Naked And Famous, Young Blood – okay, so this one is a bit more recent. I had a reaction to it when I first heard it. It’s just such a false sound – a faux-anthem. It’s dead-behind-the-eyes songwriting. Its hold-a-mirror-to-its-nose musicianship. It’s a giant nothing. Emperor’s New Clothes. And because we love to celebrate mediocrity it’s a song I’ve had to hear a lot more than I could have ever wanted. (I had a few more things to say about the band back here).
So, that’s the first five that came to mind for me. Five songs I loathe. Now it’s your turn. What five songs would you flush from the bathroom of your heart?