So rhythm method and I decided to lift the curtain of secrecy and thrust upon you our grotesque reality: we’ve emerged from nominations, haggard, dazed, and short of breath but gazing enthusiastically into the spring sunshine knowing we’ll emerge with our lives albeit with a few scars. To quote Watership Down (I think) “The horror! The horror!” Anyways, here’s some thoughts we assembled as we voted for what we thought should make the cut and a sample of what’s to come.
A while back, I started soliciting a list of bad songs on Twitter. In order to make the list easier to make and read NSS and I had two rules: only one song per artist/band and all songs must be from 1990 or later. As people responded, the list of shitty songs grew larger and larger until we ended up with over 130 songs [ed: we didn’t even consider probably another 40]. People loved nominating songs, particularly songs from their own childhood or teen years. There is something cathartic about talking about how shitty something is – especially when rejecting the half-baked trash peddled to us by an industry so cynical that it would serve us so many helpings of Limp Bizkit.
Somehow we had to figure out which of these songs stood above the rest. What was the worst of the worst? So NSS and I threw them in divisions and we listened to each song (many multiple times). Eventually the task of winnowing down and placing the songs on a hierarchy started to make sense. Some songs made me wince a little more. Some songs almost went out of their way to be shittier – lyrically, musically, conceptually. Among the giant turds we were given, here be the King Turds:
Queefcore Realm: “Arms Wide Open” by Creed. I don’t know if there has ever been a vocal performance so easy to mock. Literally a third of this song is Scott Stapp sing-shouting “WITH ARMS WIDE OPEN-NA.” Also, it is impossible not to read that song in a Scott Stapp voice. Try not to. You can’t.
Nu-Metal/Post-Grunge Division: “Crazy Bitch” by Buckcherry. I am a high school teacher in my normal life. I called the mother of one of my students and this was her ringback tone. “Hey/You’re a Crazy Bitch/But You Fuck So Good/I’m On Top of It.” Poor kid.
Tweens and Teens Division: “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne. I am positive that the lyrics for this song were written by a 60 year old man. A tale as old as time: a skater/punk/baggy clothes wearing kid is rejected by a popular ballerina then goes on to find both love and stardom. The song also contains a slight dig at single motherhood. Hey, it was the NeoCon era.
Justice Stewart Division: “Cruise” (remix) by Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly. This song makes me feel like I’m having a stroke. The lyrics are horrible and during the chorus it sounds like there are two different bad songs playing at the same time. “Baby you a song/And you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.” That lyric makes no sense. Also, Nelly’s guest verse is just verbal diarrhea.
#1: Creed - “With Arms Wide Open”
#2: Owl City - “Fireflies”
#3: Marc Cohn - “Walking in Memphis”
#4: Five for Fighting - “100 Years”
#1: Buckcherry - “Crazy Bitch”
#2: Limp Bizkit - “Nookie”
#3: Crazy Town - “Butterfly”
#4: Nickelback - “Photograph”
#1: Avril Lavigne - “Sk8er Boi”
#2: Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell - “Blurred Lines”
#3: Bruno Mars - “Locked Out of Heaven”
#4: Smash Mouth - “All Star”
#1: Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly - “Cruise (Remix)”
#2: Kid Rock - “All Summer Long”
#3: Post Malone - “White Iverson”
#4: Khia - “My Neck, My Back”
The first thing a bad song needs is popularity. Hit songs are drilled into us until we know every word even if we only listen to 70’s rock, and our murderous rage a quarter second into some songs at Chili’s wouldn’t happen if the records hadn’t sold. I gave Number 1’s a huge boost; other songs were prioritized based on popularity.
With that out of the way, the biggest sin an artist can make is deliberately denigrating music. The most widespread (but not only) exploitation is pandering: from fidgety misplaced post-tweens to noncustodial alcoholic dads, stocking up on parlor tricks to please one demographic means everyone else is somewhere between eye-rolling and nauseated.
The next rung was basically, “how good was the song at what it’s supposed to be.” If you’re telling a story does it make sense, if it’s a love song would the recipient actually want to hear it, etc. When this goes south it does so quickly. Like, “using your ears” becomes painful, so really there’s more in common with chlamydia than music.
Here’s my top seeds:
From the Nu-Metal division, Drowning Pool with “Bodies” if for nothing else than “Let the bodies hit the floor [repeat 72x].” Bonus points for actually being used for torture at Gitmo.
Out of The Justice Stewart Division, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” with Steven Tyler getting the nod for “most deluded” in thinking he could sing a slow song.
These guys must have known their album was going straight to the $2.99 bargain bin at the front of Blockbuster the moment it came out, so I really wanted to cut them some slack. But Baja Men and “Who Let the Dogs Out” is so lazy, uninspired, and devoid of the standards of songwriting taught in local elementary schools by local failed musicians (who were probably in the Baja Men) there’s just no other place than the 1 seed in the tween/teen bop division.
And finally, my overall number one, out of the Queefcore division, “Fireflies” by Owl City. Everything about this song is objectionable, starting with nonsensical lyrics trying to bridge crying bugs to insomnia that would have been improved if they just threw darts at a dictionary. That’s before getting into the flagrant plagiarism of “The Postal Service” featuring half-asphyxiated vocals that sound like Ben Gibbard after a carton of Menthols backed by a dollar store Jimmy Tamborello and Universal drenching the shitty track with “I gotta have more of that violin” to give it an identity crisis. It checks literally every box and still invents reasons to hate it. Fuck Owl City. Anyways, here’s my top 4's:
#1: Owl City - “Fireflies”
#2: James Blunt - “You’re Beautiful”
#3: Daniel Powter - “Bad Day”
#4: Creed - “With Arms Wide Open”
#1: Drowning Pool - “Bodies”
#2: Papa Roach - “Last Resort”
#3: Limp Bizkit - “Nookie”
#4: Crazy Town - “Butterfly”
#1: Baja Men - “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
#2: Black Eyed Peas - “My Humps”
#3: Eiffel 65 - “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”
#4: LFO - “Summer Girls”
#1: Aerosmith - “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
#2: The Proclaimers - “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
#3: Shaggy - “It Wasn’t Me”
#4: Vanilla Ice - “Ice, Ice, Baby”
For kicks, we also decided to spill some ink on what the other person nominated, since the process was totally blind.
rhythm method, on nss:
Queefcore Realm: This is a solid 4. I hate all these songs and would like to cast them into the pit of hell. I ranked all of them in my Top 16, as they are vacuous.
Nu-metal/Post Grunge: I feel like “Last Resort” is the outlier here. While I don’t like it, these other songs are dog shit. “Last Resort” is a little less harmless, more comical. “Last Resort” is bunny shit.
Tweens/Teens: While we differ in our top 4s, do we really though? I mean these songs suck I just felt like there were a few that were worse. The Baja Men are laughing all the way to the bank. Any movie that features dogs that are “let out” in a literal or metaphorical sense will require their services.
The JSD: This category is where NSS and I have the biggest disparity in our ranks. I agree that all these songs are bad but are they the worst? I feel like I’d rather listen to “500 miles” before any of the songs I picked.
Queefcore: Pretty good work here. “Walking in Memphis” didn’t hit my ballot because I think every pseudo-country song could. Plus Cohn at least seems genuine despite being a total idiot.
Nu-Metal: I won’t lie, I don’t totally get the hatred for Buckcherry. At least it’s close to actual rock. There’s a lot of guitars and no rapping, which is a major coup within this stunning top-to-bottom division in badness. [reads top seed reasoning] Oh, OK.
Tweens/Teens: OK pump the brakes here. I made playlists with every damn nominee that we considered (you’re welcome assholes) and “Locked Out of Heaven” was one of like two songs I didn’t even bother to add. There’s some annoying production shit but really? And “Blurred Lines?” I’m relying on you, readers, to fix this. Over “Blue” and “Barbie Girl” and “My Humps” no less. Man oh man.
The JSD: “Cruise – Remix” is devastatingly awful but wasn’t popular enough for me to have in the top 4. Ditto for “My Neck, My Back.” But the buried lede here is rhythm method just spent 3 divisions spiking bad vocal performances yet totally blows off Steven Tyler. I demand immediate disclosure as to how many Aerosmith concerts he’s been to. I’ll take the over at 5.5.
Look for the full bracket on Friday!
“Rhythm Method” is a bad song enthusiast and native Seattleite who now lives in beautiful Yuma, AZ. Follow him on twitter here. “notsomethingstructural” (aka @nss_ds) is an amateur listicle purveyor and the author of the polar opposite “The 25 Best Hip Hop Albums of All Time”. He is terrible at twitter and adhering to 140 charac