Obviously there is no shortage of bad music in the world. There are people who, like Paris Hilton, have no talent to speak of and can get away with making (or at least singing) less than stellar songs just based on their reputations and the fact that sometimes audiences are too stupid to understand that music is supposed to be an art. A lot of the drivel that’s out there certainly doesn’t live up to that name.
In the same way that I feel all people think they can write well just because they have a decent story in them, I also feel many people believe that making music is easy; that if they insert a couple of key lyrical concepts (mainly revolving around love) and a reasonably danceable beat, they’re golden. And being able to sing doesn’t make you good at making music. American Idol and The Voice have long since been the bane of my existence because it has nothing to do with the creative process of writing songs and feeling it from the heart. Instead, it’s pretty much glorified karaoke that gets the best or most popular (the latter of which has never been a great measurement of talent) singer a recording contract worth millions. And real artists get left in the dust.
That said, this is not a blog post about songs that I think are awful. That would take me probably ten years to write and would result in a book the size of the Oxford English Dictionary. This is a blog post about the songs that make me want to hurl myself out the window every time I hear them — and here they are from least heinous to most.
10. “Lucky” by Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat.
“Lucky” is everything a bad love song could possibly be. The lyrics manage to reach new astounding levels of insipid sappiness. It’s number ten on the list because it’s not quite as offensive as some of the others, but the lyrics actually make me want to puke. “Lucky to be in love with my best friend”? “Lucky we’re in love in every way”? My gag reflex just went haywire writing that. And that’s without having listened to the actual tune. The sparse instrumentals are reminiscent of a bad Jack Johnson song, and I really hate Jack Johnson. It’s the kind of song you might serenade your lover with on a ukelele if you hated them and wanted them to leave you. It’s the dopey surfer version of “Hey There Delilah.” And it probably doesn’t help that I think Colbie Caillat has a vocal style equivalent to Pac-Sun — a store, which for my friends on this side of the world, specialises in faux-surfer duds and is found almost exclusively in malls. She has a voice made for elevator music. And no one likes elevator music.
9. “American Boy” by Estelle featuring Kanye West
I can’t pinpoint exactly why I detest this song. I think it’s probably because the tune is just so grating. Estelle has the flimsiest voice ever, and although I generally really like Kanye, his rapping style in this song just went down the drain. It’s more singing along with the tune, which, if you remember from about two lines ago, is not good. It’s like a hip-hop easy listening song, and those two things should not mix. Not now, not ever. You will probably notice that in this list, there are a few recurring themes within the songs chosen. One of them is monotone vocals. Or at least vocalists that fluctuate between two or three notes like a retarded child playing a butchered rendition of chopsticks. “American Boy” is very guilty of doing this and it makes me die. Everywhere.
8. “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt
Oh god do I hate this song. It bothers me in the same way that “Lucky” bothers me, but worse. His voice disgusts me — it kind of sounds like the guy from Five for Fighting and a wild turkey mated and their unfortunate child started subscribing to the emo lifestyle. The video’s emo as fuck, too. He just strips awkwardly, looking all soulful and shit, and then jumps into the ocean because this beautiful girl doesn’t love him back. Get with the program, James Blunt, you’re not the only person who has wanted to date someone miles out of their league and has been spurned. This happens to me very frequently. But do I write bad songs and then strip and jump off a cliff? No. You know why? Because I’m not desperate. And Blunt sounds like a desperate guy, even though he’s famous and could easily snag a pretty lady if he wrote better music. Between his “soulful” caterwauling and inspired words, it’s no wonder he hasn’t got the girl. “My life is brilliant, my love is pure”? Sure, Blunt, we’ll be the judge of that.
7. “Fireflies” by Owl City.
Have you heard this guy’s voice? If you look up the term “whiny” in the dictionary, this asshole’s name would be the entire definition. Back in the day when emo groups were all the rage, Owl City may have fit in. He certainly sounds like someone’s been pounding him with a brick since he entered middle school. He was probably the kid who went home, cried about being bullied, and made “music” a la Ross Geller on his snazzy keyboard and computer. Every time he attempts to sing a vowel it’s like he’s trying to emulate a flock of Canadian Geese, both in timbre and volume, something not helped by the bad audio effects. And then we hear the tones he’s so carefully crafted into a song. It’s boring. He’s boring. And I swear to god he’s just a thirteen year old boy who did this instead of masturbating one day and he should have just stuck with the good old right hand. I could write a better song than this and I can’t write music for shit. I remember hearing this song once while skiing back home. I’d decided to take a rest because my legs were killing me. But Owl City’s wailing drove me from the beautiful cold bench to the slopes once more. And I preferred the ache in my legs heaps better than the brain aneurysm “Fireflies” would have soon caused me.
6. “Judas” by Lady Gaga
So I used to like Lady Gaga’s music a little bit back when it first came out. It wasn’t that it was anything that fresh; she borrows all of her material from Madonna and Bowie and Marilyn Manson, after all. But back in the day she wasn’t trying too hard. She just made danceable music that had weird lyrics. Then she got popular for her crazy antics and released Born This Way. This album itself isn’t exactly the most cohesive or coherent record that’s ever been made, but the track “Judas” takes the cake. First off, I’m sick of Lady Gaga’s “style” where she repeats vowels and then says her name. Like “Juda-a-a-a-as Gaga”. You know. That. I think the song started out okay — but then it just goes haywire after the first minute. “Judas” starts off like a dark rock song and then, without any warning, slips right into upbeat pop territory. Her little “oh oh oh ohs” in the background don’t seem to fit, either. And then have you heard around halfway through the song? If you haven’t, listen now — around 3:25 in this video. It’s like Gaga forgot what sort of song she was writing … again. I won’t even go into the fact that the instrumentals need some heavy work; they sound like that odd keyboard effect from way back in the day that made me think of a gorilla in a weird, synthesized jungle. Or a really bad fake bass riff. But then from that very weird departure into electro-land, she goes back to the pop song without any reasonable or logical transition. It’s as though she took all the scraps of melodies she recorded in studio, realised she needed one more song to flesh out the rest of her CD, and then hurriedly mixed and matched these little musical tidbits to create a bad song. Plus, can we just talk about how Lady Gaga is just totally trying to shock the general public? No one writes a song in which they state their undying love for Judas if they’re not gagging for attention.
5. “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas.
….There is really nothing good to say about this song. Honestly. Give me one good thing to say about it and I’ll punch you in the nose. Let’s start with the fact that I don’t like The Black Eyed Peas. They have no substance aside from singing about going to clubs and having sex and partying and whenever they do have a “deep” song, like “Where is the Love” (that was going to go on here, too, but I didn’t want to put two songs by the same artist on it. That would be cheap), it comes out as disingenuous. But while I really hate “Pump It” and “I Got a Feeling,” this song is leagues below their usual low standards in terms of maturity, lyrical sophistication, and melodic virtues. There is no acceptable lyric in this entire song. Not a single one. “What you gon do wit all that breast, all that breast inside that shirt?” is actually a line. No lie. And the most frequently repeated phrase in the entire track is “My humps,” followed closely by “My lump.” Not only are these horrendously unsexy terms for a lady’s parts, they’re completely nonsensical. And “milky milky cocoa puff”? Look, dude, we get it, you like sexytimes. Get over it. Plus, Fergie’s got a halfway decent voice (when she doesn’t sing notes that are way too high for her to hit), and to hear her just sing in the breathiest, whiniest voice known to man is somehow even almost as offensive as the rest of the song. There is no reasonable explanation for why this song was made or how it became so bloody popular, and I’d pay good money for it to disappear off the playlist of every bad bar mitzvah/wedding/sweet sixteen/prom DJ in America.
4. “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge.
First of all, I want to preface this one by saying how damn much I wanted to like this song and band. The video is deliciously eerie, their style’s a hundred percent my aesthetic, and the background music’s got a lot of potential. But then the singer. Oh, the singer. Most people know that nothing will ruin a song for me like a bad vocalist, and the lead singer of She Wants Revenge is one of the worst I’ve ever heard. This asshole sings in a complete monotone but he doesn’t even manage to be dull. It’s like a cheese grater to the head. It’s like the worst rapper and the worst rock crooner came together and forgot how to do everything. Even when She Wants Revenge’s singer does attempt other notes they somehow — magically — sound the same as all the other notes. It would fuck with my dad’s ear, and he’s got perfect pitch.
3. “The Beautiful People” by Christina Aguilera
Holy fuck. Holy fuck. The first time I ever heard this song I was at work, minding my own business, probably restocking some bath bombs or something … and this song came on. My head snapped up in awe when I heard the intro. Was it possible that Lush was playing Marilyn Manson in store? And then all my hopes and dreams were shattered when I heard Christina Aguilera’s voice soaring over the stolen beat. Now, look, I like covers. I have no problem with people covering songs. I really don’t. But this isn’t a cover. This is a bastardization. It’s cruel and unusual punishment to the ear. Aguilera — or whoever wrote this, because it is from the film Burlesque — changed all the lyrics to the song except the words “the beautiful people,” undermined the entire meaning, and made it shallow. She took one of the most iconic drum sequences and put this bizarre tune over it. It’s totally incongruous — the lyrics, the music, everything about it. It just does not make any fucking sense and it makes me want to slit open my eyeballs with scissors, to borrow a phrase from my sister. Like where did they get the idea to put that set of notes with this drum beat? Tell me. I must know. And who is responsible for this mess? How did this happen? What did Marilyn Manson do to deserve this absolute destruction of his song? I mean, granted, “The Beautiful People” is one of my favourite songs by him, and probably one of my favourite songs of all time, and this is most likely why this track horrifies me so fucking much, but … it’s not just because I like the original. It’s because Christina Aguilera did not do a very good job covering it. Or, you know, making it listenable. Or anything. I need to stop ranting about this one now because I could actually go on forever about it, it makes me that furious. So, next!
2. “Friday” by Rebecca Black
Yeah, yeah, picking on Rebecca Black might be too easy. But this is a list of the songs that make me want to kill myself, and “Friday” is … dear lord. I can’t express how much I hate it. I know she didn’t write it and that annoying black dude did, and I don’t necessarily blame Rebecca Black for this travesty, but let’s call a spade a spade: this song is easily one of the most aggravating pieces of shit ever. There are too many elements to trash here, but let’s start with the words. There has never been anything more stupid written, except maybe all the other songs this same dude made happen in his artistic ability. The depth is astounding. “Which seat do I take” is a classic existential question that everybody faces. I know every time I get into Craig and Lil’s Waka, I’m paralysed for a moment about the implications of the seat that I take — how will this choice affect the rest of my life? And then the spell is broken because I realise that in my few seconds of indecision, Ali has already called shotgun and I’m relegated to the back. Again. But I digress. “Yesterday was Thursday. Today it is Friday. We we we we so excited … Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards.” Really mind-blowing stuff there. But I guess aside from the stupid lyrics, there’s Black’s voice. I’ve heard she’s not actually half bad at singing, but this remains to be seen. The autotune on “Friday” is atrocious. And god, the way she actually says the title word is like an audio kick to the genitals. FRAWIIIIIIIIIIIDAAAAY. Just. Like. That.
1. “That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings.
The second this beat comes over the loudspeaker I want to run very, very far away. My brain shuts off. Or it tries to, but the horrible screeching of The Ting Ting’s lead singer permeates my brain and drills little tiny holes into it. Instead of singing — and the girl does know how to sing, as I’ve heard her on rare occasions actually hit some real notes — she yells like a cheerleader on crack. But the screeching … it haunts my dreams. It’s the Boylston Screech of music, and the Boylston Screech, for those non-Bostonians reading, sounds exactly like this:
And then there’s the clapping. Clapping plus high-pitched shouting equals more cheerleading. And who wants a song to sound like it belongs on the sidelines of a bad high school football game? Not me. I can’t stand anything put out by this band, but this song in particular is the one I’d describe as being my personal hell. In my version of hell, The Ting Tings are dancing around me, shouting this song over and over and over again until my skull explodes. Then my head reassembles and we go through the process again until the universe ends.