THERE’S ONE THING we’re still sure of: Robin Thicke’s odious “Blurred Lines” is high on the list of the worst songs ever made. And for that matter, Leah Kate’s nursery-rhyme-biting, Olivia Rodrigo-aping TikTok irritant “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bitch” is definitely this year’s contribution.
But in 2022, where all canons have been exploded and all taste strictures overturned, it’s hard for anyone to be as confident as, say, the defunct magazine Blender was when they created a much-discussed worst-songs list in 2004, topped by Starship’s “We Built This City.” Many of those songs, from 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up” to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” are now near-universally, if at least semi-ironically, beloved.
Still, it’s fairly clear what gives a song a shot at pushing beyond mere awfulness to worst-ever status. A certain level of craft and hookiness is required, and the harder the artist worked on the song, the more they went for it, the greater the chance at terribleness of historical proportions. Rachel Platten’s yuppie psych-up anthem “Fight Song” is merely lousy; the Doors’ “Touch Me” has just enough sweaty effort to breach the gates of worst-ness.
And even if it’s hard to decide on a consensus, maybe we need the idea of “worst songs.” “Bad taste is timeless,” Rob Sheffield says on the new episode of Rolling Stone Music Now. “Terrible songs are a long and proud pop tradition. It wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to be a fan of pop music if there was some kind of quality control that prevented songs like this from happening.” (To hear the whole episode, listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or press play above.)
In the episode, Brittany Spanos and Sheffield join host Brian Hiatt to discuss some candidates for worst song ever, while also exploring why some of their most-despised songs (Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” among them) are now among their favorites — and others, like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” seem to permanently hover in some uncanny zone between hideousness and a weird species of greatness. Among the other worst-song candidates debated are Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” Bob Dylan’s “Joey,” Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps,” Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” Kanye West and Lil Pump’s “I Love It,” The Eagles’ “One of These Nights,” Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” and more.
Elsewhere in the episode, Tomás Mier discusses how the widespread dislike for Leah Kate’s “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bitch” unfortunately spilled into real-life rudeness at her concerts, how that ties into widespread lapses of in concert-going etiquette among fans after the long pandemic-driven break from shows, and how Kate turned the haters to her advantage. Plus, he explores whether increasing pressures to create viral TikTok moments is affecting songwriting itself.
Download and subscribe to our weekly podcast, Rolling Stone Music Now, hosted by Brian Hiatt, on Apple Podcasts or Spotify (or wherever you get your podcasts), and check out six years’ worth of episodes in the archive, including in-depth, career-spanning interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Halsey, Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, Brandi Carlile, Phoebe Bridgers, Rick Ross, Alicia Keys, the National, Ice Cube, Robert Plant, Dua Lipa, Questlove, Killer Mike, Julian Casablancas, Sheryl Crow, Johnny Marr, Scott Weiland, Liam Gallagher, Alice Cooper, Fleetwood Mac, Elvis Costello, John Legend, Donald Fagen, Phil Collins, Justin Townes Earle, Stephen Malkmus, Sebastian Bach, Tom Petty, Eddie Van Halen, Kelly Clarkson, Pete Townshend, Bob Seger, the Zombies, Gary Clark Jr., and many others — plus dozens of episodes featuring genre-spanning discussions, debates, and explainers with Rolling Stone’s critics and reporters.
From Rolling Stone US.