The Worst Song Lyrics Ever
by Michael R. Burch
I'm a "lyric man." I love good music, but bad lyrics can ruin any
song, in my opinion. So here's my short list of the worst song lyrics of all
time. If they don't make you cringe and want to puke, one of us may not
be fully human, and I'm guessing it ain't me, babe.
Worst Line in a Great Song
This award goes to Simon and Garfunkel's classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
for the line:
Sail on silver girl, sail on by ...
From what I've read, Paul Simon (a great songwriter penning one of his very best
songs) allowed Art Garfunkel to contribute the line above. But Simon didn't care
for it, and neither do I. It doesn't ruin the song, but it seems cutesy and out
of place in a dark masterpiece, as if ET suddenly showed up peddling
a bicycle across the moon during a performance of Hamlet.
John Cougar Mellencamp runs a close second with this line from "Jack and Diane":
Suckin' on a chili dog outside the Tasty Freeze ...
Who the hell sucks on a chili dog?
Bob Seger gets an ungolden star for comparing himself to a rock "chargin' from
the gate" in "Like a Rock." All the rocks I have ever seen were inanimate
Most Blatantly Chauvinistic Song Lyrics of All Time
The clear winner in this category is the hard-drinking hillbilly hero, Hank
Williams Jr., who brags:
I got girls that can cook, I got girls that can clean,
I got girls that can do anything in between ...
What Junior means is more than obvious: as long as he provides the machismo,
testosterone, fame, booze and drugs, he can depend on "girls" to cook for him,
clean for him, and "take care of him." Paul Anka runs a close second
Having my baby;
what a lovely way of saying that you're thinking of me ...
It would be much better for the world (and children) if people merely said what
they thought, used birth control, and didn't have babies for preposterous
Worst Wedding Songs
This is a truly weird category, because people actually get married to these
stalker "love" songs. The most famous stalker-love-song-cum-wedding-song is
"Every Breath You Take" by Sting and the Police. Brides really should blush (as should grooms) if they get married to the strains of:
Every breath you take,
every move you make ...
I'll be watching you.
Heart's "Alone" runs a close second, with these immortal stalker lines:
And now it chills me to the bone:
how do I get you alone?
Ironically, the rock song with perhaps the best lyrics of all time almost falls
into this category, as couples often get married to U2's magnificent "One."
While "One" is not a stalker song, it still defies logic that anyone can walk
down the aisle to lyrics like:
Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus
to the lepers in your head?
"One" is a song about a relationship on very dire rocks. The disgruntled speaker
points out that he shouldn't be expected to go without sex just because his
lover has given up on their love life:
Did I disappoint you,
or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act as if you never had love
and you want me to go without?
"One" isn't about couples walking down the aisle arm-in-arm, but one
partner crawling abjectly to the other:
You say love is a temple;
love, a higher law ...
you ask me to enter,
but then you make me crawl ...
Worst Imitation of the Marquis de Sade:
This related and highly dubious award goes to "Your Body is a Wonderland"
by John Mayer:
You tell me where to go and
Though I might leave to find it
I'll never let your head hit the bed
Without my hand behind it
Worst Use of Mindless, Mind-Numbing Repetition
This is by far the easiest category to judge. Any song by K. C. and the Sunshine
Band wins, hands down. Some rock bands have been accused of playing the same
three chords over and over again. K. C. and the Sunshine Band
elected to also drone the same three
words over and over again, ad infinitum:
I'm your boogie-man ... I'm your boogie-man ... I'm your boogie-man ... I'm your
boogie-man ... I'm your boogie-man ...
Get down tonight ... Get down tonight ... Get down tonight ... Get down tonight
... Get down tonight ... Get down tonight ...
Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake your booty ... Shake, shake,
shake, shake, shake, shake, shake your booty ...
James Blunt gets an unhonorable mention for:
You're beautiful ... you're beautiful ... you're beautiful ... it's true ...
After you've told us something three times, over and over again, is it necessary
to insist that what you told us is true?
Most Hideous Mangling of Grammar and Logic
This award goes without question to
Paula Cole's stunningly terrible "I Don't Want to Wait." The song opens with
lines so excruciatingly bad they are painful even to remember, much less consider
or (pause to vomit) sing. A moment of
silent sympathy please, as I summon up the courage to continue ...
So open up your morning light
And say a little prayer for I.
You know that if we are to stay alive
And see the peace in every eye ...
She had two babies
One was six months, one was three
In the war of '44 ...
First, how the hell does one "open up" a light? Second, it would be "say a little prayer for
me." The improper use of "I" is absurdly and grotesquely bad. Third, lines three and four make absolutely no sense: if we are to stay
alive and see the peace in every eye, what must we think or do? Fourth, the song
is about World War II, in which millions of people were fighting and killing
each other, so to "see the peace in every eye" seems like wild overstatement.
Fifth, how can a mother
have one baby that is six months old and another that is only three months old?
Swine have a gestation period of three months; is the mother dropping human
babies, or piglets? I suppose Cole may mean that one baby is six months old and
the other is three years old, but at this early
point in the song I'm so out of sorts that I have lost confidence in her ability
to say what she means in decent English. Sixth, what is "the war of '44"? World
War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945, so to call it the war of a particular
year seems odd. But then the whole song is a logical and grammatical trainwreck.
Most Cliché-Ridden Monstrosity
I'm a Heart fan, but "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You" makes me want to heave
up the contents of my guts because it's constructed out of a relentless series
of miserably bad clichés, and yet it still makes no sense. Why borrow other
people's words only to mangle them?
So we found this hotel;
it was a place I knew well.
We made magic that night.
Oh, he did everything right!
He brought the woman out of me,
so many times, easily.
And in the morning when he woke
all I left him was a note:
I told him, "I am the flower;
you are the seed.
We walked in the garden;
we planted a tree.
Don’t try to find me,
please don’t you dare.
Just live in my memory,
you’ll always be there."
I have to believe that what the female speaker means to say is that she wrote her
one-night stand a note, then left before he woke up and read it. And how on earth
can a flower and a seed walk together in a garden and plant a tree? What she
probably means to say is that she was the flower and her lover supplied the
"pollen," which then resulted in a seed, which later grew into a new flowering tree
(i.e., a child) somewhere in an Edenic garden. But the lyrics are so godawfully bad, stilted and prosaic,
who can be bothered to muster the patience to decipher them?
Worst Mangling of Metaphor, Facts and/or Logic
While I like the song "Strawberry Wine," I grimace every time I
hear the lines:
... green on the vine,
like strawberry wine.
Obviously, it is the strawberries that grow green on the vine, not the "wine."
Sade runs a close second and is hardly a "smooth operator" with:
... coast to coast,
L.A. to Chicago ...
There are many cities and towns on the East Coast, so why not name one of them,
rather than a city that lies several hundred miles inland?
Most Ostentatiously Overblown Lyrics Imaginable
"My Way" would be a good candidate, except that "McArthur Park" is so stunningly, badly
and baldly overblown that no other song can possibly rival it:
Spring was never waiting for us, girl;
it ran one step ahead
as we followed in the dance
between the parted pages and were pressed,
in love's hot, fevered iron
like a striped pair of pants ...
MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark,
all the sweet, green icing flowing down ...
Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I don't think that I can take it
'cause it took so long to bake it
and I'll never have that recipe again ...
Oh, no, indeed! If anyone thinks these are good lyrics, I have some stinky
swampland to sell them at grossly inflated prices. Barry Manilow's pompous "I
Write The Songs" is another ridiculously overblown song, as are Neal
Diamond's "Longfellow Serenade" and "Forever in Blue Jeans,"
but they all pale in comparison
to "McArthur Park," which gets my vote as the worst song of all time
that still gets radio play, hands
Most Ego-Saturated Song Lyrics Ever Written
While I would again like to consider the haplessly and hopelessly egocentric "My
Way" for some highly dubious honor, I'm afraid this one will have to be a tie
between "Rico Suave" and "Ice, Ice Baby." But since the
peculiarly pallid rapper known as
"Vanilla Ice" plagiarized David Bowie's and Queen's "Under Pressure," let's
make that the tiebreaker. And how can we possibly disagree with someone who confesses:
I'm killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom?
Indeed, he is! At least Sinatra and Elvis had talent to back up
their outbursts of verbal bombast.
Vanilla Ice managed to turn sheer hubristic verve into fifteen seconds of fame,
to our eternal shame. I vote we all tell "Ice" to take a chill pill.
Other candidates for this award include "Let's Wang Chung Tonight" and "I'm Too
Sexy for My Shirt."
Most Blatantly Untrue Lyrics Ever Performed
On the subject of "things vanilla," as in white-washed over, how about "Girl,
You Know It's True" by Milli Vanilli, the group that didn't really sing its
own songs? But perhaps we should blame everything on the rain of lies.
While other groups have been accused of lip-synching, Milli Vanilli took not
singing to extraordinary new heights (er, depths). The lyrics should have been:
Girl, you know it's true
that when we "sing," we're lying through
our Ultra-Bright teeth to you!
Most Incomprehensible Lyrics of All Time
Here, the hands-down winner is the famously incomprehensible "Louie, Louie" by
the Kingsmen. This is a song with lyrics so obscure the FBI tried to prosecute
the group for obscenity, but after two years simply
had to admit defeat. Why? Because to this day, no one has a clue what the
song actually says, much less means. Who can properly interpret its half-mumbled, half-sung
lyrics? The most comprehensible part of this alleged "song" remains its guitar
solo. It might be an innocent song about "having to go" to Jamaica, or it might
be an demonic call to destroy all that is innocent and holy. If anyone knows the
truth, they are obviously not telling.
"In A Gadda Di Vida" by Iron Butterfly runs a close second in this
category. As the story goes,
the original lyric was "In the Garden of Eden," but lead singer
Doug Ingle became so intoxicated that he slurred the words. The rest, as they
say, is history. Steve Miller's "The Joker" comes in
a strong third,
with the supremely incomprehensible lines:
Some people call me Maurice
because I speak of the pompatous of love.
"Some people call me 'moron' because I sing gibberish" would be much more
believable! "I Am the Walrus" receives an unhonorable mention but almost makes
sense compared to the songs above it in this category.
Most Absurdly Sentimental Song Lyric
Poets and songwriters try to make us "tear up" over all sorts of things, but
when the Beatles wept over an unswept floor, they lost all credibility. How can
we do anything but laugh over:
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping.
Still my guitar gently weeps.
But perhaps the lyric can make us cry, after all ... if only because it's so
wrenchingly bad. "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel runs a close second,
with the sickly-sweet lines:
Where have you go, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you,
woo woo woo ...
Woo woo woo, indeed! The Yankee Clipper himself complained about the absurdity
of the song, pointing out that he hadn't "gone" anywhere.
Third place goes to Neal Diamond for:
I am, I said
to no one there,
and no one heard at all,
not even the chair ...
Let's not get all weepy about chairs not hearing our egocentric complaints!
Most Pointlessly Obvious and Redundant Song Lyric
Van Halen wins this hotly-contested category for "Why Can't This Be Love," which
breathlessly informs us that:
Only time will tell
if we stand the test of time.
So there you have it: the worst song lyrics of all time, according to me. Of
course records are meant to be broken (please pardon the pun), so please stay tuned for more
abysmally bad lyrics, which surely lie in waiting around the next bend ...