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April 24, 2004
The Worst Damn Song, Period

Everybody's talking pop music this week, as the entertainment magazine Blender released its highly presumptuous list of the 50 Worst Songs Ever, in conjunction with an upcoming VH-1 special in May. (You can find the list itself here.) Once the list rolled out, everyone started talking about it, including my friends Mitch Berg and James Lileks, in his Backfence incarnation. In fact, over at Mitch's, we're starting a rhubarb on the merits of "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band. No, seriously.

The problem with a list of 50 songs is that it will inevitably include something so stupid that it invalidates the entire exercise. It doesn't take long on this list, which mistakes mediocrity for badness. Even the #1 song on their Hit Parade, "We Built This City" by Starship, isn't bad as much as it was disappointingly commercial, from the remnants of what once was a great rock band. You don't find the first truly bad song until you get to #5, "Ice Ice Baby," by a guy who later got his ass kicked by Todd "Willis" Bridges on Celebrity Boxing. I mean, come on ... "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys? It's fluff, but it's not bad, unless you happen to be unlucky enough to have to hear them perform it live.

But Blender completely loses it when it gets to #42, where the writers and editors reveal themselves to be soulless twits who couldn't discern art from A-Ha. Stuck at #42, as if they wanted to hide it, is "Sounds of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel. The song, if you listen to it, warns against the mindless following of popularity and the seduction of glitz instead of listening for the truth. Here's the Blender explanation:

If Frasier Crane were a song, he would sound like this.

From the terrible opening line, in which darkness is addressed as my old friend, the lyrics of The Sounds of Silence sound like a vicious parody of a pompous and pretentious mid-60s folk singer. But its no joke: While a rock band twangs aimlessly in the middle distance, Simon & Garfunkel thunder away in voices that suggest theyre scowling and wagging their fingers as they sing. The overall experience is like being lectured on the meaning of life by a jumped-up freshman.

Worst Moment Hear my words that I might teach you: Officially the most self-important line in rock history!

Paul Simon's lyrics always ran closer to poetry than to simplistic pop/rock riffs, and apparently the only poetry that the folks at Blender can appreciate is "There Once Was A Man From Nantucket". Feh. I can understand not liking the song, but the forty-second worst song of all time?? Puh-leaze.

Besides, the worst song of all time doesn't even appear on their list. You can argue that bad songs will always be subjective, and that's mostly true, but you still will have a hard time justifying true dreck like "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" or "Yummy Yummy Yummy". And yet there is one that transcends all of the rest, that should rest unchallenged as the all-time loser: "Never Been to Me," sung in breathless and far-too-earnest style by Charlene, one of those pop figures who insisted on going by a single name despite their well-deserved obscurity. Here's a sample of the lyrics:

Oh I've been to Nice and the isle of Greece Where I sipped champagne on a yacht I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed 'em what I've got I've been undressed by kings and I've seen some things That a woman ain't s'posed to see I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me

(this part is spoken...) Hey, you know what paradise is? It's a lie.
A fantasy we create about people and places as we'd like them to be.
But you know what truth is?
It's that little baby you're holding, and it's that man you fought with this morning,
the same one you're going to make love with tonight. That's truth, that's love.

Complete the picture by imagining a lush strings section and a chorus of sopranos ah-ing all over the background, and you start to get the picture. This is the one record where it truly all came together in one spot ... sort of like the Waterloo of Pop. For those who have listened to this song, there is no other conclusion than this: Charlene is a minor demon from Hell who torments mankind, by causing "Never Been To Me" to reverberate in your head for days on end after exposure to it.

You tell me: what do you think are the worst songs of all time?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 24, 2004 7:31 PM

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