Saturday, October 15, 2011

What was the worst song of the 1980s?

I might be the world's biggest '80s music fan. If a song was in the Billboard Top 100 during that decade, chances are that I can tell you not only what year that song was popular, but which season of that year.

I therefore took great interest the other day when Rolling Stone magazine released a list based on a reader poll of the ten worst songs released in the 1980s.

What can I say? I agree with some of the choices; some I don't. Here is a rundown of the list, along with my thoughts:

10. Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up (Winter 1988)
I'm not sure if this one belongs on the list. It is definitely high up on the cheese-o-meter, but it has a beat and you can dance to it. The most memorable thing about this song was the reaction from people when they saw the video. The deep baritone that people heard on the radio had everyone assuming that it belonged to some black Motown singer. Imagine everyone's surprise when they saw that voice emanating from a waif-ish, wimpy Brit who looked like the skinny version of a Bob's Big Boy statue.

9. Taco - Puttin' On The Ritz (Summer 1983)
This one so belongs on this list. In fact, I believe this song should be in the #1 spot. How bad is it? Take a Jazz Age song, synthesize it and add some Eurotrash vocals, then make it sound like some jam session where the studio engineers were making stuff up as they went, and Voila! You have what I believe is the worst song of the 1980s.

8. Toni Basil - Mickey (Fall 1982)
Yeesh! Oh Mickey, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind.... While Toni's mind is being blown, I am blowing chunks. I can't stand this song; never could.

7. Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry, Be Happy (Fall 1988)
I could think of other songs that should be on the list instead of this one, but this a capella stinker from the soundtrack to one of the worst movies of the 1980s - Cocktail - is still pretty bad. When your song has lyrics like this: Your landlord say your rent is late; he may have to litigate - it can't help but make people want to put the song on a "worst of" list:

6. Falco - Rock Me Amadeus (Spring 1986)
This song bugs me for three reasons. First, it was such a nakedly shameful attempt to capitalize on the success of the movie Amadeus, which had won the Best Picture Oscar the previous year. Second, the strange halting rap that Falco strains through during the song was his obvious attempt to cover up the fact that he barely spoke a lick of English. And third was the annoying bridge in the song where, while the synthesizers were still going strong, some strange far away voice begins listing Mozart's life accomplishments. Right in the middle of the song!

5. Men Without Hats - The Safety Dance (Summer 1983)
Whoever voted to include this song on the list ought to be ashamed of themselves. This is a great song.

4. Wham! - Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go) (Fall 1984)
This song is so impossibly happy, it is evil. Add in the short shorts that George Michael wears in the song's video, and there is just nowhere to go but down. This song does NOT make me want to do the jitterbug... oh do the jiiitterbug.

3. Chris DeBurgh - Lady In Red (Spring 1987)
The ultimate in '80s high school slow dance cheese. By the way, when I was a junior in high school, my prom date wore a red dress and we danced to this song. Cool huh? Of course, since Chris DeBurgh really laid on the thick British/Irish accent in this song (just like the Psychedelic Furs liked to do), my prom date wasn't "dancing" with me, she was "dah-ncing" with me.

2. Europe - The Final Countdown (Winter-Spring 1987)
The ultimate in pretentious hair band cheese. I don't think this song is terrible, but there is something about it that bugs the heck out of me. Obviously, it has the same effect on others, since it is in the #2 spot. If you want to hear a much better song from Europe, try Superstitious from 1988.

1. Starship - We Built This City (Fall 1985)
Oh the irony. The 1960s counterculture group known as Jefferson Airplane had, by the 1980s, morphed into a canned, corporate schlock factory called Starship. One of their biggest hits was this atrocity that includes a radio weather forecast/traffic report during the song's bridge. I think what makes me despise this song even today is not so much that it is so bad, but that it got so much radio airplay when it was released, that 26 years later, I am still sick of hearing it.

Since I expressed my misgivings about the presence of some of the songs on this list, you are probably wondering what I would have put there instead. That's easy. The following songs are so awful, that they are forever seared into my memory. Whenever I hear any of these songs on the radio, I immediately turn the station:

Blondie - Call Me (Winter-Spring 1980)
Irene Cara - Fame (Summer 1980)
Blondie - Rapture (Winter 1981)
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - I Love Rock 'n' Roll (Winter-Spring 1982)
Soft Cell - Tainted Love (Summer 1982)
Wall of Voodoo - Mexican Radio (Spring 1983)
Thomas Dolby - She Blinded Me With Science (Spring 1983)
Prince - Little Red Corvette (Spring 1983)
Donna Summer - She Works Hard For The Money (Summer 1983)
Pat Benatar - Love is a Battlefield (Fall 1983)
Night Ranger - Sister Christian (Spring 1984)
Mike Reno and Ann Wilson - Almost Paradise (Summer 1984)
Twisted Sister - We're Not Gonna Take It (Summer 1984)
Cyndi Lauper - She Bop (Summer 1984)
Stevie Wonder - I Just Called To Say I Love You (Summer 1984)
New Edition - Cool It Now (Fall 1984)
The Time - Jungle Love (Fall 1984)
Glenn Frey - The Heat Is On (Winter 1985)
Katrina and the Waves - Walking On Sunshine (Spring 1985)
Timbuk 3 - The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades (Spring 1986)
Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle - On My Own (Spring 1986)
Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone (Summer 1986)
Simply Red - Money$ Too Tight To Mention (Summer 1986)
Stacey Q - Two Of Hearts (Summer 1986)

Whew! That felt good to get off my chest. Any decade is going to have its stinkeroos. For the 1980s, those songs were definitely it!

On another note, I am happy to report that the 1980s sound is beginning to make a comeback! There are bands that are recapturing that happy, poppy, synth sound but with a post-modern angsty twist that we can't quite seem to shake these days, as the 2010s are not exactly Morning in America. One of the best examples is a group that is currently tearing up the sales called Foster the People. What great music they are producing! Another group making "new waves" is One Republic. I am happy to see music from these groups showing up on the charts and supplanting some of the dominance we have seen in the last two decades from shi*-hop and (c)rap music. I remember ten years ago or so when so-called music from that genre occupied every spot in the Billboard Top Ten. That's not the case nearly as much any more. My wife and I have both noticed a shift in music and we are tickled about it.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson


Darren said...

I didn't agree with all of Rolling Stones' picks, and I *certainly* don't agree with all of yours.

We Built This City is harmless fun. Sister Christian and She Bop? Really? And so many others.

Stray Cats/Rock This Town.
Total Coelo/I Eat Cannibals.
Power Station/Some Like It Hot.
There's my start....

Darren said...

Just to be clear, those three were my start for the "worst" list....

Sandy said...

My vote for #1 worst song goes to "Swingin." Makes me cringe just thinking about it!

Tracie said...

Worst son of the decade: She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals. A little part of me dies each and every time I have to hear the first few bars before I can hit a button ANY BUTTON to change it. Lucky for me a little Girls on Film or Freeze Frame breathes life back in.

Hube said...

That's a pretty decent list. I would have covered at least half of those in my own.

One I didn't see either in the post or reader comments was Duran Duran's "Wild Boys." OMG. :-P

LS said...

"Tainted Love" is actually a cover of the 1965 Motown-influenced song by Gloria Jones.

Darren said...

HATE Tainted Love. But that Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go mix? Love it.