Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part IV: #140-121

*And if you would like to view a version of this part of the rundown with the embedded clips intact then go here. The top ten tracks of our extensive rundown will be revealed to you in a podcast on Sunday, March 31st 2012, at 6pm.

'There is no surfeiting on gall: nothing keeps so well as a decoction of spleen.'
William Hazlitt, 'On the Pleasure of Hating', 1826, Selected Writings (Penguin, 1970, p.405)

140. R. Kelly - 'Ignition (Remix)'
(2003, #1, DL)

DL: Stupid, shallow RNB dross, but have often wondered if R. previously sang ''It's the original to Ignition''. Yet I am not going to Google it to find out. I'd like to punch this song in multiple organs.

AN: In an era of remarkable efflorescence and vitality for American R’n’B, it was a shame that R. Kelly’s lowest common denominator surrealist adolescent puerility acquired such widespread credibility. The epitome of average: mainstream, mediocre, bloated, boring.

JG: The opening line “now normally I don’t do this” promises much. Sadly, the song then starts.

TM: I liked this at the time, partly out of admiration for its soulful chord-sequences, partly as a wilful liking for mainstream pop. This ‘remix’ now sounds inert and who’s actually heard the original?

139. Craig Douglas - 'Only Sixteen'
(1959, #1, RC)

DL: Yet if I used these lyrics as part of a defence in court I'd be on a register faster than you can say 'name and shame'. Especially if I professed to be the same age as her. Just painfully fluffy.

JG: Is it just me, or is this song actually about grown men grooming under-age girls?

AN: Another of Robin’s choices. I don’t feel qualified to comment really but if he chose this I feel certain it must be a bad thing in all kinds of complicated cultural historical ways.

TM: Plodding, would-be juvenilia and the earliest entry in this esteemed litany. “She was too young to fall in love”. To paraphrase Epic45, I’m getting too young for this sort of insipid crap.

138. Robson and Jerome - 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?'
(1996, #1, TM)

DL: It really irks me to see Cowell lauded as an evil genius, when there's really no skill involved in releasing records on the back of TV programmes. Never found his putdowns witty or insightful either.

JG: Weak pastiche of Jimmy Ruffin’s classic, and one that regrettably set the template followed by The Soldiers today; that’s actors playing soldiers inspiring soldiers playing singers. Ouch, my head.

AN: Another paragon of pointlessness, and a bar against ’90s nostalgia.

TM: The sound of a nation clutching the comfort blanket close, afraid to make strides into the future. “This land of broken dreams”; like then-PM John Major, they took refuge in dreams of rural retreat.

137. Busted - 'You Said No'
(2003, #1, TM)

DL: Was prepared to engage in some revisionism here, but now I'm listening to the fucking thing, these cod-Americanisms really grate. At least Blink 182 did/do this kind of shit with some wit and irony.

AN: I quite liked Busted’s 'Thunderbirds' tune. Another tune I don’t really have much to say about. It’s shit, obviously.

JG: The Eton Year 11 understanding of what punk rock ought to sound like.

TM: This particular future was a dead-end; a boy-band chasing after the rock ambulance. They present a whiny, brattish mode of masculinity – utterly lacking in charm in its “ME ME ME” lamentations.

Punchable, us?

136. Liz Kershaw, Frank Bruno, Bruno Brookes and Samantha Fox - 'Come Outside'

(1992, failed to chart, TM)

DL: Brookes was deemed a Radio 1 relic when he was just 35, but somehow not three years before in '92 when this alone should have seen him off. Almost endearingly crap in its long-lost, Bruno'd-up shame.

AN: The ’80s vogue for ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ committing suicide in a flurry of risible Major-era celebrity comedy awfulness.

JG: If anyone wants to understand the dark roots of the Matthew Bannister revolution at Radio 1, then look no further than this insipid vehicle for Bruno Brookes’s shatteringly conceit-driven ego.

TM: Two Brunos and two arch ladies defy all aesthetic criteria with a work that is both apocalyptically awful and weirdly enticing. As archaic in its way as #138: “slap ‘n’ tickle”, “bag of chips”.

135. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - 'Jerusalem'
(1973, #2 - album, RC)

DL: I think prog-rock may be pretty much the antithesis of what I look for in music, and this old fart's racket is typical of that which makes me evacuate any environment that it might aurally vandalise.

AN: Prog. Another genre that bored hipster revisionists should have left well alone.

JG: Listen carefully and you can hear the moorings that tied early prog rock to a genuinely grassroots artistic network tearing away as ELP develop into Great Artistes Who Really Mean It. Twats.

TM: Re-envisioning of Blake’s ‘alternative anthem’ that strips out the dissenting vision. In ELP land, the mills are a threat not to the exploited populace but the picturesque view from the country house.

134. Gary Glitter - 'Dance Me Up'
(1984, #25, TM)

DL: I certainly don't want this on my hard drive. An awful piece of glam-funk regardless of any wider context, though it does help and a violent assault on the senses. Glad I never have to hear it again.

AN: Again, this is the sort of ‘80s kitsch valorised by Shoreditch hipsters, not to mention multiple Zane Lowe-championed bands of 2008-10.

JG: Long past his insouciant pomp, and long before a well-known series of deeply unfortunate events, this is Glitter’s pre-conviction low.

TM: Horrific display of braggadocio and female objectification. It is okay as ‘he rocks’, says a YouTube commentator in a misguided application of Larkin’s Law. Oh, and the song is sheer, leering shite.

133. The Lighthouse Family - 'Postcard from Heaven'
(1999, #24, TM)

DL: Some records on our chart are there because they are wildly irritating, obnoxious, tacky or moronic. This is just nothing. Boring and empty. Like listening to wallpaper. Mahogany wallpaper at that.

AN: Hmm. The Lighthouse Family were a multi-racial Newcastle band. For that reason I’m willing to forgive them even this.

JG: Mick Hucknall’s most obvious successors were already going through the motions a mere two years into their career. This is flaccid non-pop, and Tunde’s flat, expressionless voice was never exposed to such appalling effect as here.

TM: Typically soporific slush from these favourites of Peep Show’s resident slick and unhinged businessman Alan Johnson. They came from Newcastle, though clearly from Osborne Road wine bar territory.

132. Modern Romance - 'Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey'
(1981, #10, JG)

DL: Why do people residing in sunnier climes never make records about venturing up to our slate grey, overly built-up and dystopian destinations? I don't really mind this. If you squint, it's Joey Barton.

AN: What must going on a Mediterranean holiday have been like in the ’80s? Not good judging by this. Grudgingly, I admit that neoliberal capitalism may have been responsible for some moderate progress on the lifestyle front.

JG: The emerging New Pop spawned ABC, Scritti Politti and early Spandau Ballet. It also spawned this shite, proving that all pearls contain their kernel of turd.

TM: A rare misfire from one of pop’s greatest eras; a simpleton’s take on Kid Creole and the Coconuts’ urbane, exotic cosmopolitanism. Here’s evidence that steel drums can sound workaday, not joyous.

131. Toto Coelo - 'I Eat Cannibals (Part One)'
(1982, #8, TM)

DL: I do like a song I can relate to. Just not this one. At this point the New Wave sound of things must have reached saturation level. Reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees, only completely inferior.

AN: A bad week for '80s excrement, this.

JG: Why the fuck would anyone saunter down to Woolworths and buy this shite when they could have Bow Wow Wow’s contemporaneously magnificent 'Go Wild in the Country' for exactly the same price?

TM: Inexplicable poppycock that has surely been given ‘ironic’ kudos within the context of ‘cheesy pop’ discos. 1982 was great; yet this is, as Carlin argued, an Opportunity Knocks idea of ‘raunchiness’.

130. Coldplay - 'Fix You'
(2005, #4, DL)

DL: How can such a huge sound seem so lacking in soul? Just another example of supposedly universal and all-compassing song-writing that just alienates all that aren't on board. If only Coldplay had bite.

AN: Everyone was fooled by Coldplay back in the day. Everyone. Apart from Alan McGee. Well done that man, inexplicably.

JG: Yes, they’re a pathetically easy target but they hardly help their cause with plodding neo-dadrock like this, do they? Remarkably, most recent offering ‘Paradise’ trumps this in the shit-ness department at every turn.

TM: The vague sweet-nothings of banal popular song haunted the TV dramas of Dennis Potter; in forty years time this will surely elicit bemusement not fascination. What was that about light igniting bones?

129. Inner Circle - 'Sweat (A La La La La Song)'
(1993, #3, RC)

DL: Don't you just miss the halcyon days of 1993's cod-reggae stampede? Must admit this raises a subtle grin, for those disturbing nostalgic reasons again, but ultimately it makes UB40 sound authentic.

AN: The novelty arse end of early-’90s reggae-inflected pop. At the other end of the spectrum stood Ace of Base, one of the great musical collectives in human history.

JG: Inner Circle came out of the same mid-70s Jamaican reggae milieu as Black Uhuru and slogged away for years releasing multiple albums for little reward, with plenty of personal tragedy along the way. I don’t begrudge them this money-spinning hit, terrible though it is.

TM: Watered-down, identikit reggae backs crude lyrical sentiments which desperately require some wit. The operative adjective is ‘leaden’. ‘Erotic City’ this most certainly is not.

128. Flo Rida (Feat. T-Pain) - 'Low'
(2008, #2, DL)

DL: I really couldn't give any more of a fuck about this irksome Shawty and the continent-sized club that she frequents any more than I give a fuck about Stranraer. Don't they care that they're generic?

AN: I hated these horrible, horrible R’n’B tunes from the mid-noughties, for which the formula was: tacky 808 drums, synths playing dystopian chromatic empty hooks, and notably nasty misogynistic lyrics. Usher’s diabolical 'Yeah' led the charge.

JG: It’s all a bit sad that R'n'b has become nothing more than a vacuous soundtrack to various dance-based teen movies (Step Up 2 the Streets, in this case), but such is life.

TM: “Like a pornography poster/She showed her”. Tedious ‘booty’ and brand obsession. Its parent album at least benefits from being the only Mail on Sunday ever not to feature the odious Peter Hitchens.

127. Sinitta - 'So Macho'
(1986, #2, DL)

DL: Well, gender roles certainly weren't dead in 1986. There is literally no humanity in this. Although the joke may be on me as I suspect it documents same-sex preferences as well as heterosexual ones.

AN: School disco trash.

JG: Simon Cowell’s first major pop music success, and it very nearly stalled until Iain Burton’s £5,000 loan guaranteed its release as a single. Without this, there might be no X Factor today. Burton, you absolute bastard.

TM: While hi-NRG was often great, its two envoys in this list so far have been atrocious. While the music adds irony with every orchestra-hit, the lyrical outlook is tiresomely traditional and submissive.

126. Kate Nash - 'Foundations'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: An admittedly warm and infectious chorus with some magical and delicate production bludgeoned senseless by numerous painful lyrical howlers. Which one's your favourite? “Intelligent input”? “Fit-tah”?

AN: Good call Dave. I wish we’d had more recent stuff on this list so far (probably should have picked more meself). It’s much more worthwhile critiquing stuff that people still like or have recently.

JG: A kind of ITV version of Lily Allen with infuriating longevity; annoying in much the same way that the fact that The Upper Hand is technically Britain’s longest-running sitcom is.

TM: The video’s studied mundanity fits Nash’s accentuated mockney voice: animated socks, pink and blue toothbrushes; cup-cake feminism par excellence. The “Bitter! [...] FITTAH!” lines define ‘irritating’.

125. Showaddywaddy - 'Three Steps to Heaven'
(1975, #2, RC)

DL: Nothing wrong with the song, but as a cover version it does seem supremely pointless. I can guarantee that there'll be some very important cultural and political reasoning behind this nomination.

AN: Again, Robin Knows. I bet there’s something wonderfully savage about this on Sea Songs somewhere. Have a look.

JG: Like #133, this is failing non-pop by virtue of its total lack of discernible melody. Dave Bartram’s vocals are also strange, as though they had been auto-tuned years before such things were possible.

TM: As with the landfill indie contingent’s pilfering of Britpop, it is the idiot copyists 15-20 years down the line who deserve maximum ire. Ageing teddy boys may have found solace; I resolutely cannot.

124. Boris Gardiner - 'I Want to Wake Up With You'
(1986, #1, DL)

DL: I think someone played at their wedding reception when I was a toddler and it made me retch even then. I would like 'Come Play With Me' by The Wedding Present as the first dance when I get 'spliced'.

AN: Quite enjoyed this, for some reason. Multicultural London; sweet, pretty lass.

JG: In hindsight, 1986 was a bit like 1976 in terms of the appalling state of the pop charts (and therefore of radio). No wonder raves were only just around the corner.

TM: He had played bass for Lee Perry, yet this is a wimpy frisbee of a record. There are courtly enough sentiments, but few signs of life. ‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’

The video is beguiling, actually

123. Kajagoogoo - 'Too Shy'

(1983, #1, DL)

DL: Number one during my early weeks, but I've never solved the mystery as to why anyone would want to own this song, no matter when it was released. Just an inane, ridiculous chorus that grates terribly.

AN: And this. Fucking hell this is pretty good stuff, vocals and chorus aside. Which is a good portion of the song, allowably.

JG: It would be nice to think Kajagoogoo’s music could inspire me to a wittier riposte than “too shy? Too shite, more like!” But sadly it can’t.

TM: Redolent of the worst eighties tendencies: Thatcher and machismo, with its Falklands homecoming motif. This lacks the brash, rich palette of Trevor Horn or the ideas of Paul Morley. Just galling.

122. Brotherhood of Man - 'Save Your Kisses for Me'
(1976, #1, RC)

DL: I knew 70s pop was a kitsch load of inoffensive yet somehow sinister arse from another galaxy before we started this project but now I feel this even more so. Maybe Flo Rida and LMFAO aren't so bad.

AN: More novelty tripe.

JG: More lightweight mid-70s escapism during a time of economic crisis. A musical precursor of Michael McIntyre, then.

TM: Cultural complacency, 70s-style: not a pretty sight. A heftily moustached, wing-collared dullard leads inert dance routines and mouths a mid-Atlantic ode to a three year-old. Dorries would approve.

121. Westlife - 'The Rose'
(2006, #1, TM)

DL: Are there really people out there that are truly moved by this plodding and calculated, insincere guff? This is impossible to like. 'Westlife on auto-pilot'. What an ominous phrase. Lighters in the air!

AN: Westlife must win the title for least defensible boy band. Nothing redeemable about them whatsoever. I mean really nothing.

JG: Do the people who buy this kind of shite actually like it? And if so, why?

TM: 14th number-1 from ‘the boys’, pawns of Simon Cowell in his ongoing attempt to debase pop-culture. As Hazlitt argued, ‘Anyone will be almost sure to make money who has no other idea in his head’.


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