Sunday, August 22, 2004

All-time overrated songs

Being as I am a fan of retro music (I’m almost never in the moment these days), I find myself very often having to wade through the same…overplayed…songs…in order to get to one I really want to hear. You might know the feeling: you see a compilation CD you really want, because of the two or three tracks that just can’t be found anywhere else. But in order to buy those three songs, you also have to pay for the other 12 songs that you already own on six other compilations! It’s a crappy feeling, not unlike buying a new CD with one or two good songs and the rest filler. Man, illegal downloading looks better all the time!

Before we see the list, a disclaimer: the following is not (generally) what I think are the worst songs ever. This is simply a list of tunes that fall in one of three categories: 1) Their places in history have been unfairly inflated; 2) Their over-presence on play lists; or 3) That people, in general, get really excited when hearing them for reasons that are lost on me. Here are the ones that immediately come to my head:

Amazing Grace—John Newton
When I hear this mother-of-all-hymns, I think back to the death scene in “Silkwood,” because that’s where I first remember hearing it. The reason it’s on this list is not because I want to go to hell, but because to sing it, you have to admit that you’re a wretch. That’s not good for your self-esteem.

The Star-Spangled Banner—Francis Scott Key
A poem about bombs, explosions and pseudo-apocalyptic flag-flying, set to the unsingable rhythm of an old British drinking song. Doesn’t America deserve better than this?

Stairway to Heaven—Led Zeppelin and
The End—The Doors
The two songs that made it safe for self-indulgent rock stars to perform long and incoherent epics and win praise for their genius. “The End” was our eighth-grade class song, for reasons I will never understand.

Brown-Eyed Girl—Van Morrison
Probably the best song on this list, but it still drowns in hype.

I Will Survive—Gloria Gaynor
This disco ballad is apparently one of those “you had to be there” songs.

Space Cowboy—Steve Miller
Why do people go so crazy over this song? Drug use seems to be a common denominator.

Lady Marmalade--Patti Labelle
Would have been on this list even if Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink and Lil’ Kim hadn’t inflicted us with that torture of a remake. "Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?" Mais oui, si tu fermes la bouche!

Come On Eileen—Dexys Midnight Runners
Some songs do well because they’re easy and fun to sing along with while drunk. That’s no excuse for the stratospheric popularity of this goofy song.

The Safety Dance—Men Without Hats
What can be said about a song whose video was medieval yet still contained a clearly visible telephone pole? And who can deny that there actually was no Safety Dance to speak of? “Pop Goes the World” was so much better.

Walking on Sunshine—Katrina and the Waves
Another good song that nevertheless makes this list due to its presence on every single 80s compilation ever made.

Prince is talented. This song has a cool message (you don’t have to be rich to be my girl, etc.) It’s still horrible. Give me “Money Don’t Matter” over this any day.

Red Red Wine—UB40
UB40's 26th-best song.

Smells Like Teen Spirit—Nirvana
This 1991 song is credited with setting off an era. Except that they’ve been saying that SINCE 1991.

You Oughta Know—Alanis Morissette
This 1995 song is widely credited with beginning the rebirth of an old rock staple: the angry girl who sings even worse than Michael Bolton. Alanis followed this up with “Hand in My Pocket,” which may be the single worst song ever committed to record.

My Heart Will Go On—Celine Dion
Leo made it difficult for a lot of guys to get laid in 1997-98.

Drops of Jupiter—Train
Just plain overplayed.

What would you consider “worthy” for this list? Unworthy? Drop me a line.


Shannon said...

I Will Survive? Heretic!

thehim said...

I'll vote for I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred and anything by Ace of Base.

Michael said...

I'm with you on "Amazing Grace"--the only time that song sounds good is on bagpipes, and then I can only handle it about once a decade.

Can't agree with you about SSB. The lyrics are lame, but the music is OK. Then again, I'm a tenor: high notes are not a problem for me, and I usually sing harmony anyway.

I've hated the "Voulez-vous" song ever since I learned French well enough to catch the fact that whoever wrote it didn't know it at all. "Go to bed" in French is a reflexive verb--and, to the best of my knowledge, the colloquial meaning of "go to bed with" in English doesn't carry over to French. The most common non-obscene French slang for "have sex" that I know is the verb "baiser," which technically means "kiss." Although these days, I think "va te faire Cheney" may be coming up quickly.

Lemme see, other rotten songs:

Any cover of "La Bamba"
"Love to Love Ya Baby" (or whatever that disco "ballad" was that featured ca. 10 minutes of non-stop moaning)

Flamingo Jones said...

"Come on Eileen?" Over-rated? Nope. Haven't you ever experienced a Molly Ringwalds concert where they play this song? Picture it: You're too drunk to reasonalbly sing along, but you try anyway. THEY'RE too drunk to reasonably sing along but THEY try anyway. They get to the really fast part and you spin and jump around like an idiot. It's fantastic, I highly recommend it.

I AM glad to see there's a couple of real liberals in Louisiana though. I was starting to think there was some sort of state statute out-lawing that sort of thing.

Ian McGibboney said...

If the Molly Ringwalds can add some life to "Come On Eileen," that's great. Songs are all about experience. For example, my experience with the original Dexys version is that of overblown radio airplay, overindulgence of my taped version and too much VH1 as a teenager. That's also the case with many of the other tunes on the list.

I have a different issue with The Star-Spangled Banner: while many people can indeed pull it off, I think that a national song should be something that doesn't require a trained voice to sing. I myself can't sing a note, not that it matters anyway. I wouldn't sing the national anthem in a Bush administration.

Michael said...

No, now is precisely the time you should be singing the national anthem--even if you do it off-key. Dumb-ya doesn't own that song, it belongs to all of us. He only gets to claim it if we let him.

oyster said...

This is a massive topic that could take years to explore.

For now I'll submit The Eagles, and specifically
"Hotel California"-- I find it tedious and just don't get it.

Liz "the Biz" said...

Very good choices. I agree with Oyster on "Hotel California", as for my own nominees I'd have to say "Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd (sp?) and "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffet.

Phillip said...

that list makes my head want to explode....i can't look through it twice, suffice it so say: kurt cobain did something frank black did years earlier, only got the attention for it.

"the world is bullshit!"

-fiona apple

Ian McGibboney said...
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Ian McGibboney said...

You know what? I forgot a HUGE one until tonight, when I heard it on my way home from my night class:

American Pie--Don McLean!

Feb. 3, 1958, "The day the music died?" Well, it seems to have largely done all right since then! On and off, at least.

Nick said...

Freebird is NOT overrated. Skynyrd is possibly the greatest band of all time. Freebird is a masterpiece.

Michael said...

Can't agree with you on "American Pie." For one thing, I can't say I've heard it anywhere in at least a decade. So "hyped," how?

On the other hand, if I have to listen to the latest "Zoom Zoom" Mazda commercial (complete with annoying cellphone ring tone accompaniment) one more time, I think I'm going to throw something through my television.

Ian McGibboney said...

I hear "American Pie" all the time over here. It's one of those songs I remember my parents constantly singing, and my dad in particular likes to ruminate on its meanings. It strikes me as a catchy song that Baby Boomers sing on karaoke after enough drinks. Its overplay and overanalyzation, in my mind, warrants its for this list.

And speaking of commercials, which by the way would make a great post, I'm sick to death of cell-phone commercials. They remind me of Super Bowl XXXIV (Jan. 2000), when virtually all of the commercials were from dot-com upstarts. Can we expect a similar cell-phone apocalypse to stem that tide as well?

Ian McGibboney said...
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Ian McGibboney said...

Oh, almost forgot, though I doubt anyone reads this thread anymore:

"Walk This Way"--Aerosmith (with or without Run-DMC)

Anonymous said...

Ian, just to let you know: That Space Cowboy song by Steve Miller is actually titled "The Joker." However, it doesn't change the fact that the song is VERY overplayed. However, I'm confused. Are you going for "overplayed", or "overrated"? Sometimes, they're the same, but sometimes, they are very different. For instance, "Stairway to Heaven" is definitely overplayed, but the reason is because it's a great song. Granted, one can get tired of it, but one cannot deny its measure of staying power.
Love your site. - A Molly Ringwald

Ian McGibboney said...
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Ian McGibboney said...

(Edited for forgetting to crop a pasted comment)

First off, Molly Ringwald, I want to say that I visited your site last night and am still laughing over the bios...good stuff, man! I wish I had come up with those! Thanks for stopping by here! I'll see you guys soon.

As for the overplayed-versus-overrated question, I think both apply to "The Joker." But for the purpose of this list, I lean toward overrated. If I'm among friends and it comes on, they all get in this zone. I feel like I missed a meeting or something, because I can't for the life of me get excited about that song. Maybe I'm too cerebral. But then again, I like "Tubthumping" and most mindless 80s songs like you guys play. So, yeah, overrated.

Anonymous said...

'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", "Teach The Children" and "Hotel California". All highly overrated. Pretentious garbage.