Monday, January 25, 2010
I’ll admit it, I started this project without any real list of which ten songs I thought were the worst of the decade, but I thought I had a pretty good idea. Turns out I underestimated my knowledge of truly awful music, because I had a lot of ideas. So many songs, like Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5,” Bob Carlisle’s “Butterfly Kisses” and LFO’s “Summer Girls,” were necessarily excluded because they came just a few months too early. I had to make a concerted effort to avoid country songs, or I’d still be writing this in 2020. But even with those initial exemptions, I was left with a vast array of possibilities.
My goal, then, became to represent the widest possible selection of the worst music from this worst decade. Some songs, even ones I really hate like “Fireflies” by Owl City, were excluded to compensate for any bias toward new shit over old shit; if I ever put together a list of the worst Postal Service rip-offs, expect Owl City to be a strong contender for No. 1. Of course, Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas would be nowhere without Gwen Stefani, who gave us the impossibly awful “Wind it Up” and surpassed even Hall and Oats for the worst song called “Rich Girl.” Sorry, “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon; it’s not that you don’t make me want to vomit, you do, you really do – it’s just that you were released amid a real shitstorm of awful songs. Mariah Carey, I don’t think the world was ready for “Touch My Body,” a song about how you’ll fuck a stranger and rub your thighs around his face, for “just a little taste,” but if he’s secretly videotaping your sexcapades, you’ll kill him…Ok, so this one deserves an honorable mention for coming off as the creepiest fucking thing ever recorded, I just don’t want to think about it anymore.
Let’s not forget rappers, because they could have made a top 100 unto themselves. Ja Rule’s “Mesmerize,” Lil Kim’s “How Many Licks,” Chingy’s “Right Thurr,” Khia’s “My Neck, My Back,” Akon’s entire fucking catalogue all should have made the list. Somehow, I gave R. Kelly a pass, despite the fact that his 22-part, 84-minute opus “Trapped in the Closet” contained lyrics like “And she said please no don't stop/ And I said I caught a cramp/ And she said please keep on goin'/ I said my leg is about to crack/ Then she cries out/ Oh my goodness, I'm about to climax/ And I said cool/ Climax/ Just let go of my leg,” he released a remix of a song that had never had an original mix, oh and he pissed on some chick’s head a videotaped it.
I could go on and on, but I said I would cap it at ten (posts, not songs), and here we are. The previous nine installments were in no particular order; they are simply organized by the ever-changing standard I call “Which awful song could I stand listening to ten times in succession today?” That being said, today’s final song came to mind as soon as I started this project, and I’ve been saving this one – which truly is the worst song on the list – for last.
Crazy Town – Butterfly (2001)
This song sneaks up on you. You hear the guitar fade in and you think “Gimme Shelter” is about to start. But you correct yourself when you recognize the melody; wait a second, this is that Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song. Then the lyrics kick in, and before you can react, you feel like you’re being sodomized with a Garden Weasel.
I actually have a hard time listening to this entire song in one sitting. It’s the kind of thing where I have to get up and take a break, allow my ears to stop bleeding, and listen to the rest later. Why, you ask, is this song any more difficult than seven Nickelback songs? Well, simply put, this is a rap metal love song, and to do rap metal right, you have to really believe deep down that you’re better than the guys who do metal, and you’re way better than the guys who do rap. You don’t write songs about thongs or bathin’ apes; you write songs about concepts and…uh…stuff. Your songs have lines like “I thought that happy endings were only in the books I read,” because check yo’self, bitches, you’re literate. What this means for the listener is that, not only is “Butterfly” infectiously catchy to the point that I’ll wake up at least one day every other week with “hey sugar mama come and dance with me/the smartest thing you ever did was take a chance with me” stuck in my head, it also manages to come off as incredibly pretentious. And if your songs sound like Crazy Town, you’ve got nothing to be pretentious about.
On first listen, “Butterfly” could easily be a love song that is really about Jesus. Lyrics like “You lift me up,” “I knew a better life existed, but thought I missed it,” and “You showed me life is precious” are just the kind of dog whistle lines that make up covert Christian pop. Shit, “I was lost now I’m found” is taken directly from “Amazing Grace.” I’d be all set to brand Crazy Town another band that writes Christian songs, advertises to Christian teens, tours with Christian bands, but doesn’t want to be considered “Christian rock,” were it not the implication that god has got you sprung with his tongue ring.
The amount of weird sexuality in this song is unreal. Let’s see, the repetitive chorus is “come my lady, come, come my lady.” Believe me, in this situation begging rarely works. And let’s not overlook the line “Fierce nipple pierce,” either. The fact that they missed the obvious double entendre in the line about happy endings being only in books is really a testament to the quality of songwriting we’re dealing with here. (Or perhaps the more unsettling thought: Maybe they didn’t miss the double entendre; maybe I did.)
Overall, this song is supposed to sound like wooing, but it comes off more like sexual harassment. The video confirms that this song is basically a woman walking past a construction site set to music, as bandmates Shifty Shellshock, Epic Mazur, Trouble Valli, SQRL and Faydoedeelay keep jumping in front of each other to shout increasingly inane pick up lines at the camera. A bunch of shirtless guys with stupid nicknames in a fantastical garden; it’s kind of like the Bollywood production of Jersey Shore.
A lot of the songs on this list can make the listener wonder whether or not life is worth living anymore, but that usually takes multiple listens. Crazy Town manages to achieve this in half a verse, the lyrics of which are so irritating, ridiculous and mind-numbingly stupid that to hear them is to go through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. First denial: No, there’s no way in hell they just said “whatever tickles your fancy.” No one spoke like that in 2001, with the possible exception of my grandmother, and I highly doubt she’s living a double life as Shifty Shellshock. Anger: Why the fuck am I still listening to this song? It’s like eating candy out of a dumpster. Sure, there’s probably something sweet underneath it all, but all I can taste is rancid mayonnaise. Bargaining: I was wrong to not believe in you, and I’ll take back every blasphemy I’ve ever spoken, written or thought about you if you’ll just save me, Underdog. Depression: This is the way the world ends; not with a bang, but with Crazy Town. And just as you’re coming upon acceptance – the realization that this song will be the death of you – they hit you with the mother of all abysmal pop lines: “Girl, it’s me and you like Sid and Nancy.”
Oh, Underdog, thou hast forsaken us.
Any woman who hears that line from a guy…fuck, any person who hears that line from anyone can’t run away fast enough. Sure, lines like this are pretty prevalent throughout pop music; The Reflections compared a relationship to Romeo and Juliet all the way back in 1962, although they forgot the line “Our love’s going to end when I drink poison, and you plunge a dagger into your heart, just like Romeo and Juliet.” But the specifics of Sid Vicious’ and Nancy Spungen’s story make its use as a simile a little more disturbing. Take Sid’s tragic drug addiction for example, or his battle with Hepatitis, or the fact that Sid fucking stabbed Nancy to death and left her to die in their hotel while he went out to buy drugs, and that after he realized what he had done he had his mother help him commit suicide.
I can only guess at how a line this bizarre made it into the song. Maybe Crazy Town wants to kill us. After listening to the entire song, I can attest that this is a distinct possibility. Or maybe they truly are warped enough to see Sid and Nancy as some sort of punk rock Romeo and Juliet, although I’m not quite sure how Nancy Spungen’s very much alive parents feel about that one. Does this mean that in 20 years we’ll have pop songs saying “Girl, it’s me and you like Nicole an OJ” and “Girl, it’s me and you like Jacko and Propofol?”
But however it got there, the line really solidifies the overall feel of the song. Because having your mother inject you with a massive dose of heroin, having Hepatitis or bleeding to death in a hotel bathroom all sound like a pleasant alternatives to having to hear “Come my lady/Come, come my lady/You’re my butterfly/Sugar/Baby” ever again.