The Kings: The Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide
Not, under any circumstances, to be confused with The Kinks – on pain of death – the Kings were a one-hit wonder, and it was indeed a wonder that they had one hit, and that the hit, moreover, was this artifact of a bad bout of dysentery. A song like this might strike the casual listener as merely mediocre and worthless, which doesn’t suit our strict criteria, but you shouldn’t rush to judgment on a thing like this – listen to the “lyrics”. Hear it? This puppy contains a candidate for Worst Rhyme Ever, the most hotly-contested category in all of pop music cheesedom. Now, some take the view that nothing will ever beat Steve Miller’s Take the Money and Run, which vies for top slot with Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas/You know he knows just exactly what the facts is; you can see why folks would vote for that. Yet our last instalment showed how competitive this category can be with In the Year 2525, in which Zager and Evans warned us that in the distant future You won’t find a thing to chew/Nobody’s gonna look at you. See? Hard to say which is worse! Can even that, though, top the Kings when they exclaim:
You said to ring you up
If I was in Torannah.
No, I say. Nothing can top that.
Charlene: I’ve Never Been to Me
A gloriously evocative song of inner emptiness and failed striving for true self-discovery, or it would have been anyway, if it wasn’t such a shallow, empty-headed little jingle so flaccid that Donnie and Marie would have told their producer to try to palm it off on The Carpenters. Still, boy oh boy has this poor woman taken some walks on the wild side in her vision quest: she’s been undressed by kings/and seen some things/that a girl ain’t supposed to see!!! (Holy shit, really? Which kings? Was one of them that randy fucker from Jordan? Whatever did you see? Was it like, dear God, your Majesty, please put that armadillo back in your trousers?) It gets even more intense: I spent my life exploring/the subtle whoring/ That costs too much to be free. Whoa. Tell me that’s not rough. I mean, overt, notorious whoring is taxing enough, but that subtle shit really saps your precious bodily fluids – and oy, the cost! It’s hard to articulate how much this tortured cri to coeur is enhanced by being framed as a confession/harangue directed at a put-upon bystander who, unsurprisingly, seems none too keen to hear it: hey lady, Charlene exhorts, please lady please, don’t just walk away. Don’t listen to her lady! Flee! Run like the wind!
Paul Anka: You’re Havin’ My Baby
An overly obvious choice? Bit of a cliché? Sure, sure, but Jesus Bellowing Christ on Fentanyl, just listen to it with fresh ears, then tell me how it’s possible to assemble any sort of “worst” list and exclude this oily, breathtakingly misogynist tribute to willing chicks with good baby buckets and no desire whatever to have the damned things dealt with medically. She could have, yes, but she just wouldn’t do it, bless her swelling little midriff. Perhaps the most philosophically appalling thing ever to climb the Top 40, it’s one of those rare cultural touchstones that more than lives up to its hype. Everybody knows this is the worst thing ever, yet it really might be the worst thing ever. Or is it?
Minnie Riperton: Lovin’ You
Her name’s Riperton, and well, she really does let her rip, don’t she? I’m not sure what I like the best. The chirping bird sound effects? The “la la la la la” lyrics? Or the obvious crowd-pleasing bits, when she launches into a pitch so high that you wonder whether somebody isn’t doing something untoward off camera?
Black-eyed Peas: My Humps
They might as well have called this one Fresh Tits and Ass – Will Sell For Chart Action. Now it becomes obvious why You’re Havin’ My Baby maybe isn’t the worst thing ever, and why you can never really be 100% sure you’ve hit rock bottom in the pop music biz. It’s not just that this is such a lazy, lousy, soulless rhythm track with no song on top; you could say that about two-thirds of all modern radio hits. No, it’s this:
Whatcha gonna do with all that junk
All that junk inside your trunk
I’ma get get get get you drunk
Get you love drunk off my hump
My hump my hump my hump my hump my hump
My hump my hump my hump my lovely little lumps
You think women have inherent worth, and deserve to be treated with dignity? Ahhhhhhhhhhh, go fuck yourself.
Spice Girls: Wannabe
OK, since you’re so goddam determined to ask, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want. I want you to be expunged, zig-a-zig-ahhhh. With extreme prejudice. Especially you, Sporty.
Meat Loaf: I’d Do Anything for Love (But I won’t Do That)
You might have thought, quite reasonably, that nothing could be worse than Total Eclipse of the Heart, but you would have been wrong. This isn’t just a more miserable song; it’s a crappier video. That shouldn’t be possible, not even remotely, but there you have it.
I’ve always assumed this is about anal sex with a blunt object, but I’ve never given it the sort of close listen needed to be sure.
Gowan: A Criminal Mind
You might have thought, quite reasonably, that nothing could be worse than Total Eclipse of the Heart, but you would have been wrong…
…hang on, my old school needle is stuck in a slab of 80s vinyl…
You know, there’s so much 80s Can-con to choose from that this was actually a tough call. Gowan himself perpetrated another perfectly suitable possibility with Strange Animal, and then there was the entire output of Corey Hart, whose Never Surrender could have driven Mr. Dressup far enough ’round the bend to take a cleaver to Casey and Finnegan (“what’s got chicken lips there so upset?” asked my Mom upon seeing the video) – plus, don’t let’s forget Loverboy. A Criminal Mind takes the prize on account of the video, which seems to have been fumbling with almost heart-rending incompetence toward something along the lines of A-Ha’s wonderful Take on Me, and for being so frickin’ annoying, in a socially conscious sort of way.
Ruth B.: Lost Boy
Note to the sadistic DJs at Bridgewater station CKBW: I’ll be in Mahone Bay starting late May, and I’ll be sticking around until October. If, during that period, you miserable dickwads still have this fucking thing in heavy rotation, I’m paying you a visit, and I’m bringing an aluminium baseball bat.
Alison Gold; Chinese Food
Featuring the world’s most hackneyed chord progression, and augmented by lyrics that make I scream/You scream/We all scream/For ice cream sound like the St. Crispin’s Day speech in Henry V, this one – an honest-to-God YouTube sensation for a while there, which was viewed millions of times – is almost literally impossible to believe. It really has it all, as set out in its Wikipedia entry:
It was filmed partly in a Mongolian restaurant, because a Chinese restaurant could not be booked, while some other scenes were shot in Gold’s bedroom. It was viewed almost one million times within 24 hours of being uploaded to the video sharing site YouTube, attaining an estimated 4:1 ratio of dislikes to likes and drawing comparisons to another poorly received Patrice Wilson production, “Friday” (2011) by Rebecca Black. Wilson himself appears in the “Chinese Food” video wearing a panda suit. The video attracted controversy for its alleged overuse of Asian stereotypes, including scenes of Japanese geisha imagery in a Chinese-themed song. Another scene singled out by media outlets depicts Gold and Wilson playing the board game Monopoly, after which the camera zooms in on Wilson placing the dog-figure on the square for Oriental Avenue. Devon Maloney of Wired wrote that the video “is not racist because it depicts pan-Asian cuisine; it’s racist because it lazily traffics in racial stereotypes and paints over the distinctions between vastly different Asian cultures with the same ‘it’s all Chinese to me!’ brush.” Gold, in response to the accusations, stated: “I don’t really understand what that’s all about… I mean, I’m not trying to criticize anyone – I just really love Chinese food!”
I might not be able to find anything worse for my next instalment.
Wait, sure I can.