Every summer has those inescapable songs. "Summer In the City," "Hot Fun In the Summertime" or someone, likely Janis Joplin, singing Gershwin's "Summertime." While who doesn't think of sandy beaches and ocean waves when hearing the Beach Boys? Nelly nailed it in 2002 with "Hot In Herre," which no matter how you feel about spelling, turned out to be a dead accurate account of where we all were in our lives that summer -- and every summer.
However, Summertime has a dark side. Radio programmers and record labels apparently conspire with one another to ensure that we suffer each year with some tune that just makes us nuts. But while it's annoying when a great -- or nearly tolerable -- artist missteps once or twice (Phil Collins, come on down!), it's doubly galling when the song that annoys us comes from an artist who we'd never heard of previously. Or famous artists who join together with another famous artist only to make a song worse than anything they'd recorded on their own!
So, I was visited by the ghost of the Yahoo! corporate offices and told, in no uncertain terms, to find the songs that annoyed me the most, to spend hours, days, weeks, months, years listening and re-listening to the worst of the worst and to devise a list of the most terrible songs to have ever been hits in the summertime. You know what to bring to the next party! (And, truth told, I even still kinda like a couple of these, but I'm not going to tell you which ones.)
10) Macarena -- Los del Rio (1996): In order for a song to become among the worst, it has to be heard many, many times. It has to become inescapable. It has to alter the way people live. Fact is, this track might be just fine if you could've found a safe place away from it in the 1990s, but you couldn't and it corrupted dance clubs, weddings, the radio, TV news reports, your grandparents! What about wallflowers who don't want to dance? Don't they have rights? Shouldn't they be left in peace and not hassled by that uncle or aunt who insists you, too, get out on the dance floor?
9) The Dawn of Correction -- The Spokesmen (1965):
Barry McGuire had already found a way to manhandle words like "coagulatin'" into his doomsday scenario hit, "Eve of Destruction." But every action causes a reaction and sure enough The Spokesmen had a hit with a not-so-subtle "answer song" that asked "What about the things that deserve condemnation?" and offered up, "Self-government's replacing colonization." Where do these musicians think they are, C-SPAN? If you're going to pull this sort of thing at least get the harmonica in tune and learn to sing! (Note: the album was even worse!)
8) Telephone Man -- Meri Wilson (1977): Making it onto the Dr. Demento Radio Show is fine and dandy. However, having an actual hit with something this cloying and goofy -- I think she's supposed to be cute and seductive -- is just plain wrong for so many reasons. What are we supposed to say to the children? Chances are, the kids are the only ones to like this since it's silly and awkward and they think breathing with pork rind breath while they pin their sister helplessly to the ground to be the funniest thing ever. Wilson even updated the song as "Internet Man" in 1999.
7) Bitch -- Meredith Brooks (1997): The Rolling Stones have a perfectly great song with this title and Elton John's "The Bitch Is Back" already struck down the barrier to the "B" word in a hit song, so it isn't breaking any new ground. The verses are tolerable, but the chorus is the sound of your soul being beaten into the ground one line at a time. Just because Alanis Morissette had a hit with "You Oughta Know," doesn't mean we need a new genre of angry, annoyed singer-songwriters any more than we needed a thousand bands to whine about how bad things were after Kurt Cobain struck a nerve. This was even nominated for a Grammy Award! Talk about rewarding bad behavior!
6) General Hospi-tale -- The Afternoon Delights (1981): Many of us live a life blissfully ignorant of what's happening on daytime TV. While I give the tune points for being a spoof on the General Hospital soap opera craze (it is a spoof, isn't it?), the flat-rapping and limp groove make this the perfect candidate for "Housewife Rap." Had "Money Can't Buy You Class" by "Countess LuAnn" been an actual hit, it would've landed here.
5) I Wanna Be Bad -- Willa Ford (2001):
There's really nothing worse than a crafted teen idol who's imitating another crafted teen idol. Just as each Xerox gets weaker the more you copy it, so goes the music behind this "bad girl" with a Britney complex, who nearly hit the top 40 a few years later with "A Toast To Men," but who clunked with "Sexy Sex Obsessive." She found her calling as Anna Nicole Smith in the Anna Nicole Smith Story. Everyone wants to be successful, but you need to hide the naked ambition, please.
4) On My Own -- Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald (1986): It wasn't just power ballads in the 1980s, it was just plain ballads, too. This one earns the distinction of being written and produced by two significant songwriters, Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, who should've known better. To add further injury to injury, it was the biggest hit for both LaBelle and McDonald.
3) Who Let The Dogs Out? -- Baha Men (2000):
Do I really have to explain this one? If you were alive at the time, you watched helplessly as potentially sane individuals broke out into cavemen hollers whenever their team did something remotely interesting. I imagine wives and girlfriends were treated to such antics in private whenever their man did something remotely interesting, too.
2) Almost Paradise -- Mike Reno, featuring Ann Wilson (1984): Interesting to note Ann Wilson didn't pick it for the new Heart anthology, Strange Euphoria, while Loverboy only have the tune added to those collections that look to be assembled by their label and not by the band. Fact is, you may enjoy the power ballad today because it seems so quaint, so laughable in its histrionics, but people took this seriously in 1984. You heard this song everywhere and you didn't need to see Footloose to know what a bad world we lived in. Guys wore headbands because they thought it made them look cool. And girls legitimized the look by dating them!
1) Whoomp! (There It Is) -- Tag Team (1993):
I fully understand that dance music doesn't rely on great insights for its appeal. As long as the rhythm is solid and the tune is tolerable, let it out. However, the repetition of this chorus, which sounds like a car alarm going off in an empty parking lot, is designed not to help you dance, but to incite violence on the dance floor, where any reasonable person would be inclined to belt the person next to them for singing along. Repeating an annoying phrase until people beg you to stop is not a catchphrase. It's cruel, mean-spirited brainwashing. As a nation of people, we're better than that, aren't we?