Thursday, May 06, 2010

What Song Is It You (Don't) Wanna Hear?

Chad over at Fraters Libertas had a post recently about John Lennon's song "Imagine," which he offers up as one of the worst songs ever. I can see his point -- it's Lennon at his most fatuous, especially the notion that a world without possessions or religion would be somehow better than the world we have now. But let the man explain:

Any reasonable person would have to include "Imagine" on a top ten list of the worst songs of all time. It's simple-minded, smug, and sanctimonious. And it's often invoked for purposes ill-suited to its true intentions and played it situations that are completely inappropriate for its message. The worst example from personal experience was hearing it at a Mass held at our high school. Yes, a Catholic Mass featuring a song extolling the virtues of "no religion." I believe that the occasion of the Mass was that a classmate of Atomizer's and the Nihilist in Golf Pant's had recently offed himself. He supposedly was a big Beatles fan, especially Lennon, and so someone decided it would make sense to listen to "Imagine" as the student body paid their respects. Under the circumstance, one would have thought he could have used a little "Amazing Grace" instead.

As much as that anecdote makes me cringe, it has a complete ring of truth to it, especially the business about playing Lennon's song at a Mass. None of my Catholic school classmates committed suicide during our school years (one, sadly, did a few years later), but I could easily see how "Imagine" might have worked its way into a liturgy.

It got me thinking, though -- what makes a song bad, really bad? There are a lot of songs that are irritating and annoying and we've often turned Fearless Maria loose on them in this space, but there's a difference between something that's just silly, or irritating or puerile, and something that's pernicious.

So what are the songs that you songs, because they are deserving of scorn? I'm going to offer you one, then I'd like your thoughts on the matter. The song that I'm going to suggest for eternal damnation is Mac Davis's song "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me." Davis had a fairly good run in the late 60s and early 70s as a vaguely countryish singer-songwriter type, but his stuff tended to be pretty preachy. At one point he essentially commanded his audience to "Stop and Smell the Roses" and he also wrote Elvis's gloriously cheeseball hit "In the Ghetto." But in "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me," he came on as a self-satisfied stud warning off his lady love:

Just keep it friendly girl

'Cause I don't want to leave

Don't start clinging to me girl

'Cause I can't breathe

Baby, baby don't get hooked on me

Baby, baby don't get hooked on me

'Cause I'll just use you then I'll set you free

Baby, baby don't get hooked on me

Gee, thanks for the warning, Mac. I suppose you get credit for honesty, but what a nice fella you are. And then he goes into the Valley of TMI:

Girl you're a hot blooded woman child

And it's warm where you're touching me

Charming, really. And with the treacly, string-laden arrangement, the song reaches rare heights of repulsiveness. Not that I have any opinion of the matter.

So what songs bother you? Give us the dish in the comment section.


Leo Pusateri said...

One that's on top of my list of the songs that I wished never happened was Marilyn MacGregor, <a href=">Torn Between Two Lovers</a>.

This was out during my teen years. I was really hooked on a girl at work (Ponderosa steak house) and she kinda liked me, but she also liked this other guy--and she kept on referring to this of the most self-serving,high-maintenance-heinous-psycho-woman songs of all time:<blockquote>There's been another man that I've needed and I've loved
But that doesn't mean I love you less
And he knows he can't possess me and he knows he never will
There's just this empty place inside of me that only he can fill</blockquote> and it ends with...<blockquote>I couldn't really blame you if you turned and walked away
But with everything I feel inside, I'm asking you to stay</blockquote>

Like yeah..right.

Mr. D said...

Ooh, that one is brutal, Leo. And with a story behind it, too!

R.A. Crankbait said...

Reminds me of another Mac Davis classic: "It's Hard to Stay Humble."

The song that gets my goat, though, has always been Carole King's "Child of Mine." In particular:

You don't need direction, you know which way to go
And I don't want to hold you back, I just want to watch you grow
You're the one who taught me you don't have to look behind
Oh yes, sweet darling
So glad you are a child of mine


Nobody's gonna kill your dreams
Or tell you how to live your life
There'll always be people to make it hard for a while
But you'll change their heads when they see you smile

...I know you will be honest if you can't always be kind
Oh yes, sweet darling
So glad you are a child of mine

The parenting model that children are naturally good and ingenious and that adults can only screw them up has resulted in ... a bunch of screwed up adults that have the idea that it's all about them and what they "feel" is right, and all they have to do is pay lip service and SMILE and all will be well.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

For some reason I get Juice Newton streaming in my head when I look at this post.

I know that I've ignored a standard, "sinned," but it was what I "needed." This song speaks to standards being irrational rules that are divorced from our existence. They're arbitrary and should be broken when necessary, but there's no real connection to consequences. And so the person ends up sad and fatalistic with no recognition that she did it to herself. Worse, she hasn't learned a thing.

Just call me angel of the morning ANGEL. Just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby. Just call me angel of the morning ANGEL. Then slowly turn away from me.

Maybe the sun's light will be dim
and it won't matter anyhow. If morning's echo says we've sinned,
well, it was what I wanted now.
And if we're the victims of the night, I won't be blinded by light.

Mr. D said...


Wow -- that's pretty dire. It was never a good idea to go to Carole King for any life advice, but that's especially ugly.


Hadn't really paid attention to those lyrics before. Oy.

If I didn't already know it, it would seem that singer/songwriters have much to answer for, no?

Anonymous said...

I've never seen it posted on any lists, but Mr Roboto has to be one of the most atrocious attempts at song of all time. The same goes for most of Styx and Dennis Deyoung's trail end work.

Mr. D said...

Mr. Roboto is awful, anon. Good call on badness.

Gino said...

AC/DC's Giving The Dog a Bone.

i wont post the lyrics cause your kids read this blog, but you know it.

i've always hated that song for the meaning.
i'm not a prude, and i like a lot of ac/dc's other 'good time' music, but this was just too blatant for me to get behind.

kingdavid said...

Don Mclean's American Pie. I know, it's considered a classic. I hate that song with every ounce of my being. Just pray that I'm not holding a weapon in my hands when that song comes on--I wouldn't be held responsible for what would happen to the radio.

I hated it even before I heard some guy, who sang even worse than me, do it in a karaoke. Worst freakin 30 minutes of my life. (at least it seemed that long, thank God I didn't have a gun then)

CousinDan 54915 said...

Somehow Sammy Johns and his "Chevy Van" comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. Nothing more needs to be said.

Mr. D said...


Yeah, I agree with that. I like AC/DC, but that one is pretty nasty.


An interesting choice -- American Pie is considered a classic, but it shares a lot of the singer-songwriter sins.


Chevy Van is 15 kinds of dumb. I know Stinger would rank that one high in badness, too. I continue to be amazed that song was a hit, considering the subject matter.


Seasons in the Sun is right up there. Icky in the extreme.