The other night, I heard Smash Mouth’s “Walking on the Sun,” and I got a little bit heated. A visceral, potent wave of hate washed over my being. For no very good reason, I became angry at the world and, most specifically, angry at the world for letting that goddamn song reach my eardrums at that moment in time. And that was because, at a point of time in history, we rewarded this piece of shit with sales, video watches, concert tickets and radio listens. There are some bands and some songs that, in time, come to feel like a personal vendetta from them to you. Then something really sad happens – other people laud it and celebrate it. You need only look at the video for Nickelback’s “Rockstar” to have one of those moments where you just want to kill. The dummies that participated in this video, nay, performed enthusiasm for a Nickleback moment, have got to be paid and/or on drugs, right?
Well, over here at PW Style HQ, we got the ball rolling with the end goal of a proper list of 10 of the worst songs of all time. When embarking on such a final product, it is imperative to consider other lists that have been made in this field. What are really talking about here? Can we objectively name 10 songs and what kinds of songs would they be? We’re thinking mostly pop songs or rock songs that end up as pop radio songs, things that have been successful, much to your (and my) chagrin. But the weird thing that crystallized as specifics started tumbling into place is that so much of this rubbish is from the late ’90s. Folks were extremely productive in the realm of bullshit production; they just kept dirtying the atmosphere with their garbage.
Now, does this mean that as a 30-year-old man, I’m inclined to hate on the inane schlock that populated my middle school dances and Total Request Live? Perhaps. Or does it mean that we’re on to something and that maybe there was something in the air or the water in the late ’90s that we can look back on with a squint and a headshake?
Also, to be clear, there are a handful of artists and tracks that are going to be relegated into the obvious category, one in which there is no dispute that it is true artistic refuse. We’ll call that the “Agreed” category, which you’ll find at the end. But before that, here are 10 tracks that should surely be contenders for the title of the worst song of all time.
1. Creed, “With Arms Wide Open” (2000)
It was hard choosing just one Creed song to include in this collection. Otherwise it wouldn’t be completely out of the question to make such a list with 10 Creed songs, would it? But this is the song that people sing when they want to make fun of Scott Stapp (with good reason), so here it is.
2. Aerosmith, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (1998)
Sure, Aerosmith’s a deserving Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. But like all bands that have good intentions but want to keep on making money for decades, there’ve been some missteps. Oddly, this is their only number-one hit, and it is forever linked to NASA bullshit and the imagery of Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck making out.
3. Smash Mouth, “All Star” (1999)
Personally, I’m again the phrase “rock” in most capacities: “Ooh, you’re really rocking those heels.” “Are you ready to rock?!” And it is fairly argued that this song popularized, even more than it needed to, the phrase as we know it today. And for that alone, Smash Mouth deserves to die of gonorrhea and rot in hell.*
4. Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris” (1998)
Again, a 10-track playlist of Goo Goo Dolls could be a suitable “10 Worst Songs of All Time List” all its own. But this one’s really the worst, isn’t it? And it was huge—another giant hit from a shit movie that became a huge pop radio success. Also, do you not envision Meg Ryan riding a bike all arms-in-the-air, with the wind flipping through her little curls?
5. Train, “Hey, Soul Sister” (2009)
No explanation needed.
6. LFO, “Summer Girls” (1999)
Also known as the “Abercrombie & Fitch song,” this was a thing, again, in the summer of ‘99. It just seems so obvious that it’s an incredibly bad idea to wrap your band’s identity around a trendy nationwide retail chain.
7. Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” (2009)
This list wouldn’t be complete without a little horrific hip-hop, would it? It was tough to decide between this one and “I Got a Feeling,” but “Boom” seems like a better paradigm for the way in which B.E.P. decided to dumb everything down as much as humanly possible in order to churn out hits. Despite its huge success amongst pre-teens, we adults know idiocy when we see it and will not accept it as legitimate culture.
8. Sugar Ray, “Fly” (1997)
Man, this one had staying power, right? And while it may not have been the worst song ever (maybe not even the worst Sugar Ray song of all time), Mark McGrath is clearly one of the biggest douchebags to ever exist. Dude co-hosts Extra now. In the words of Ed Lover, c’mon, son.
9. Nickelback, “Rockstar” (2006)
Just watch the video and please, if you can, explain to me its merits or plead your case for why this doesn’t deserve to be on this list.
10. Limp Bizkit, “Break Stuff” (2000)
I’m not even that mad at “Nookie;” it’s actually kinda fun. Even “Faith” has its moment. But the way in which Fred Durst personified white male agro assholery was truly despicable. In a way, I thank him for showing me the cookie cutter males to stay away from for the rest of my life.
AGREED: Crazytown, “Butterfly.” Dave Matthews Band, “Ants Marching.” Hootie & the Blowfish, “Only Wanna Be with You.” 2gether, “U + Me = Us (Calculus).” Baha Men, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Rebecca Black, “Friday.”
*Not really, it’s from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.