The first dance at my wedding was to Freedy Johnston's "Bad Reputation." It was a fitting choice for us, and it kept to the "no cheesy love song" rule we'd set for our relationship. But the longer we stay married, the more that rule gets broken: I dread Peaches & Herb or "Endless Love" sneaking into our 20th or 50th wedding anniversary playlist.
But there's a place for cheesy love songs. It's right alongside Lifetime movies, high school poetry, and Harlequin novels. All of them take perfectly valid, real emotions and inflate them to such histrionic heights that all the love is replaced with syrupy clichés. And cavities. Subtlety has no place in a cheesy ballad. Every emotion is supersized.
With Valentine's Day approaching, we compiled the cheesiest love songs you must avoid at all costs. They kill romance. Save yourselves, and play Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" if you really want to confess your love. You've been warned...
10. Bryan Adams, "Heaven"
Some of the cheesiest ballads come from the cheesiest movies. This one comes from the 1983 film "A Night in Heaven," starring Christopher Atkins and Lesley Ann Warren. The film quickly disappeared into obscurity. Too bad the same didn't happen to the song.
9. Stevie Wonder, "I Just Called to Say I Love You"
Another soundtrack song, this time from the 1984 film "The Woman in Red." This one hurts, because Stevie is great. And, yes, it's one of his biggest hits. However, commercial success does not equal quality. Or lack of cheese. And this one cuts some serious fromage.
8. Lionel Richie, "Hello"
Nicole's dad has made a fine living writing sappy ballads, and this one sits at the top of the pile. The only thing worse than the song is the video, which features a lovelorn Richie and the blind art student who makes a sculpture of his head. It's like a cable-access version of "Ghost" meets "The Miracle Worker." There is, however, one performance of this song that's worth listenting to. It's Lionel singing it on helium for a German talk show.
7. Extreme, "More Than Words"
And it just gets worse. Extreme is one in a long, insipid line of '80s hair bands who got all sensitive by busting out their Washburn acoustics and unbuttoning their shirts. It's a little bit better if you close your eyes and pretend it's some Everly Brothers wannabe bar band. Who are we kidding? Nothing makes it better.
6. Bobby Darin, "If I Were a Carpenter"
Old-school cheese that has stood the test of time, this song was written by folk hero Tim Hardin in 1967 and has been covered by everyone from Bobby Darin to Robert Plant. It has cred, because folk artists always seem to have cred (whether they deserve it or not). It's hard to slam someone when he's being all sensitive with an acoustic guitar. Still, the tune is pretty sappy. And a bit sexist.
5. Chicago, "You're the Inspiration"
This one is a double threat: a cheesy lyric sung in that she-man vocal that only Peter Cetera can provide. The 1984 hit single began as a song for Kenny Rogers. Dude! Imagine that hell.
4. Kenny Rogers, "Lady"
Oh wait, that hell has arrived. While Chicago was stealing Kenny's cheesy song away from him, Kenny was holed up in a studio with songwriter Lionel Richie making his own cheesy song. All right, the chronology is totally off (this song was recorded four years earlier), but it makes for great drama. It's like a "Yacht Rock" episode, a cheesy ballad tug-o-war. In any event, "Lady" is first-rate cheese and set the stage for Richie's solo career.
3. Bette Midler, "Wind Beneath My Wings"
Yes, another sentimental ballad born from a sentimental movie. This one is from the 1988 Disney flick "Beaches," which has all the hallmarks of the genre: two women fighting over the same man, career jealousy, and a terminal disease. Topping it off is the show-stopper ballad with lots of big metaphors ("fly higher than an eagle") and big emotions. It's the gold standard of cheesy love songs.
2. Air Supply, "The One That You Love"
These dudes practically invented "soft rock" with a string of '80s hits that took on love from every angle. Air Supply was "Lost in Love," "All Out of Love," "Making Love Out of Nothing at All," and discovering "The Power of Love." They have enough love in their songbook for every first dance forever more.
1. Chris De Burgh, "Lady in Red"
Funny story here: Chris de Burgh performed the song for Princess Diana before her death (that's not the funny part). After the show, Di thanked de Burgh for writing the song about her. Seems Di was known for wearing red, so of course the song would be about her. Oops. The tune was about his wife, Diane. That relationship worked out better than Princess Di's.