Have you ever heard a lyric that causes you actual physical pain when you hear it? We all have. I put this question to some premier music bloggers. I simply asked, “what song contains the absolute worst lyrics you’ve ever heard”? The resulting playlist contains the 10 worst song lyrics culled from the responses I received. Of course, what constitutes the “worst” is about as subjective as what constitutes “the best”. Bad lyrics have differing effects on different people. Some folks can thoroughly enjoy a song with pathetic lyrics because they either: 1. don’t listen to the words or 2. don’t care about the words. For others, lyrics are the most important part of a song and detest any tune that is lyrically deficient.
Please contribute to the list by adding the song you feel deserves the designation of “Worst Lyrics” to the comments.
And Now For The List…
1. “Your Body Is A Wonderland” by John Mayer from the album Room For Squares – 2001
At least the title of this John Mayer song gives the listener fair warning. So it’s my own fault that I’ve suffered through 4 minutes and 10 seconds of this over sexual, cheese-filled drivel.
It opens really strong with,
“We got the afternoon
You got this room for two
One thing I’ve left to do
So John, this “room for two” you speak of, is that like a Châteaubriand for two? Or maybe like a bicycle built for two? What the hell is a “room for two”? Is it just a small room? Or maybe a room with a bouncer that only allows two people in at one time? More likely, you really needed a word to rhyme with “you”. Brilliant songcraft indeed.
“One mile to every inch of
Your skin like porcelain
One pair of candy lips and
Your bubblegum tongue”
“Porcelain skin”, “Candy lips”? Let me offer a definition for you Mr. Mayer.
cli·ché n. A trite or overused expression or idea
As for “bubblegum tongue” I must say, I’ve never seen two words put together so badly.
I could do a thesis on why the lyrics in this song are so bad, but I will just leave you with some choice lines. They really do speak for themselves.
“And if you want love
We’ll make it
Swimming a deep sea
“I’ll never let your head hit the bed
Without my hand behind it”
“I know you’re mine all mine all mine
But you look so good it hurts sometimes”
Selected by Robert of the Radish
2. “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” by Meat Loaf from the album Bat Out Of Hell – 1977
It is difficult to take lyrics out of context of the song and criticize them. Steve Allen is famous for doing that very thing, ridiculing Little Richard on TV with his deliberate rendition of Tutti Fruiti “Tutti Frutti, aw, rootie/A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-lop bam boo”. Tutti Fruiti is a great song and the lyrics are incidental to the sound, the emotion and the music. Nevertheless, I have no problem divorcing the music from this words of this Meat Loaf song. It is just such pure nonsense sung in an earnest tone (and such a big hit) that it deserves to be called out.. But if you listen to the lyrics….ouch! .
“I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m crying icicles instead of tears”
Okay – he is trying to tell her how he feels….how much he cares! But she is being cold. Why is she being cold?
“And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But — there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad”
Ain’t Bad….it sucks Loaf! Big Time! That is not what a chick wants to hear! Maybe that’s why she is being cold.
It goes on from there….with lines like:
“….there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box”
There we have…Meat is a Cracker Jack box. Love is the Coupe De Ville. The reason I love a good metaphor is it is so illuminating!
Of course there are many lyrics that make you shudder when you actually listen. Why did I choose this one? One of the worst things was this song was a big hit. The most inane line was the title and also is in the chorus. Even worse it was catchy and was on the radio all the time. I’d be singing to myself constantly, “Don’t be sad, two out of three ain’t bad”. Well, these lyrics are! And now thanks to this article, they are twirling around in my head again. Grrr!
Selected by Mark Munroe of MusicRocker
3. “MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer from the album Once Upon A Time – 1979
“Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again… Oh, no!”
Having already been voted in several polls as the worst song lyrics ever, “MacArthur Park” is perhaps too easy of a target – but the lyrics are just soooo bad, how can you not pick it. Jimmy Webb is a great songwriter… which makes this all the more puzzling. It’s supposed to be a metaphor for love, and (like the music accompanying it) to be taken seriously, but instead lyrically it comes off as a novelty song, the kind that Ray Stevens might write. In the context of a novelty song, it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s implied levity is ultimately what crushes the song, lyrically speaking.
“Between the parted pages and were pressed
In love’s hot, fevered iron
Like a striped pair of pants”
It was originally meant to be part of a 22-minute cantata that ended with this seven-minute coda… that’s the context of a serious piece of music, indeed. Richard Harris’ recording of it was a highly dramatic (ie, serious) reading and charted as high as #2 in the U.S. About a decade later, Donna Summer recorded a disco version of it which went to #1. Now disco… not so serious.
An easy target for parody, the song was redone by Weird Al Yankovic as “Jurassic Park,” detailing the plot to the Speilberg movie. It’s been inexplicably covered more than fifty times, including versions by Glen Campbell, Liza Minelli and Waylon Jennings. But my favorite cover, however, is a version by the band The Negro Problem, who changed the word “cake” to “crack” better reflecting MacArthur Park’s drug-dealing existence today. In that humorous context, the lyrics don’t seem so bad. Seriously.
Selected by Drake of Thus Spake Drake
4. “Fix You” by Coldplay from the album X & Y – 2005
While we have come not to expect too much in the way of lyrics from Mr. Martin, progress had certainly been made from the Let Your Fingers Do the Walking inspired “Yellow” to the “Guessing at Numbers and Figures” in “The Scientist.” Plus, along with the improved lyrics we had more developed and varied music to accompany. So, big expectations for the next installment in the progression of a pop band who perhaps deserves all the attention thrown at it. Unfortunately, this one is going to have to go down as a disappointing setback as lyrics like:
“When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need”
as the opening two lines on the track that the band describes as the seed from which the rest of the album bloomed just don’t cut it.
Sure, I know I’m going to piss off all the hopeless romantics out there who really feel this song about a person trying in vain to help their lover through a difficult time. I agree that the subject matter could be quite moving. It’s just that Mr. Martin leans too heavily on cliche and in the end makes this song, which by the way is quite beautiful musically speaking, very distant and cold. Perhaps because his life is going very well these days (e.g. hot wife, cute baby, lots of money, etc) he just wasn’t able to dig deep on this one… Or perhaps because he spends so much time fighting to keep his life private, it was natural for him to keep the songs at arm’s length.
Or maybe they are just a simple pop band and we’ve already seen the best they can offer…
Selected by Chris of worthyMUSIC
5. “Burrito” by Pete Yorn from the album The Day I Forgot – 2003
There is no way you can use the word “burrito” in a love song and be
“It’s a 7-11
Do you want to take a walk outside
If you want a burrito
You can have another bite of mine”
Selected by Robert Duffy of Donewaiting
6. “Cherry Pie” by Warrant from the album Cherry Pie – 1990
The lyrics speak for themselves. Coupled with the video featuring a strategically targeted slice of falling pie, Warrant’s Cherry Pie could win the daily double for worst lyrics and music video. We get the reference Warrant! We’re not that dumb.
“Swingin’ in there
Cause she wanted me to feed her
So I mixed up the batter
And she licked the beater”
Selected by the FIQL.com team
7. “One In A Million” by Guns ‘n’ Roses from the album G N’ R Lies – 1988
At its most defensible, one could make the case that this song is the rock ‘n’ roll version of the Michael Douglas movie “Falling Down”, in which the ‘hero’ is driven by the frustrations of life in an urban area, and takes it out on anyone in his path, particularly those of color who are engaged in stereotypical activities that reinforce his supposed helplessness.
“Falling Down”, of course, is bullshit. As is “One In A Million” In it, our hero decides he needs to get away:
“Guess I needed/Sometime to get away /I needed some peace of mind /Some peace of mind that’ll stay
So I thumbed it /Down to sixth and L.A./Maybe your greyhound /Could be my way”
Sixth and Los Angeles is Skid Row; the mission/flop house district. It is indeed full of derelicts of a rainbow of colors, including white. The last stop of the intracity Greyhound lines is at the station at the heart of Skid Row. So Axl thumbs it to the Greyhound station, an unlikely premise from the start, but we’ll stick with it. Maybe your (whose? The station’s?) Greyhound could be his way (or, maybe he means ‘going his way’). So our stage is set: Axl, or a guy like him, standing on Skid Row, squinting around in the L.A. glare for the bus depot.
“Police and niggers/That’s right /Get out of my way
Don’t need to buy none of your /Goldchains today
I don’t need no bracelets /Clamped in front of my back
Just need my ticket till then /Won’t you cut me some slack”
We were skating on thin ice already, but here’s where the tautologies come in. The gratuitous “niggers” isn’t an automatic strike against him; literary license allows him such language in the service of a bigger point. The strike against him is that there is no bigger point. Why niggers? Why not wetbacks? Or chinks? Downtown Los Angeles is home to more Mexicans and Chinese than blacks. The subject of this verse “police and niggers” doesn’t work anyway with the object “goldchains”; presumably the cops aren’t selling them, the, er, “niggers” are, except nobody sells gold chains on SKid Row, although guys who look like Axl sometimes get the bracelets clamped in “front” of their backs. But okay, he just needs a ticket, we’ll cut him some slack.
“You’re one in a million/Yeah, that’s what you are /You’re one in a million, babe /You are a shooting star
Maybe someday we’ll see you /Before you make us cry /You know we tried to reach you /But you were much to high
Much to high /Much to high /Much to high”
We’ll just brush this meaningless chorus aside and get back to the meat here, but before we do we have to ask: what is he talking about? Are we all one in a million? Is Axl? Is the “babe” one in a million? WHo’s gonna make who cry? Who was much too high? High on drugs, is that what this is all about? Why the sudden change from future tense to past tense?
“Immigrants and faggots /They make no sense to me
They come to our country /And think they’ll do as they please
Like start some mini Iran /Or spread some fucking disease
They talk so many goddamn ways /It’s all greek to me
Well some say I’m lazy /And others say that’s just me
Some say I’m crazy /I guess I’ll always be
But it’s been such a long time/Since I knew right from wrong
It’s all the means to an end, I,/I keep on movin’ along”
Immigrants and faggots. We’ll take them one at a time. I assume Axl means immigrants of color; I don’t read this as an anti-Dutch screed, or a let’s-throw-the-Swedes-out rant. Once again, our hero attributes the next line “they come to our country” to both the immigrants and the faggots, but most “faggots” here are born here. And what about the faggots? He never gets to why he doesn’t like them. The immigrants think they’ll do as they please (what does Axl think he does?).
Count me among those who say he’s lazy; too lazy to think, too lazy to understand, too lazy to look past his ego, too lazy to have an epiphany, too lazy to make a real case, and too lazy even to release a new album, for that matter.
Number me among those who say he’s crazy; what a career he’s blown, for no sound reason whatsoever. He sure doesn’t know right from wrong, I’ll give him that. Keep on movin’ Axl, move right along.
“Radicals and racists/Don’t point your finger at me/I’m a small town white boy/Just tryin’ to make ends meet
Don’t need your religion/Don’t watch that much TV /Just makin’ my livin’, baby,/Well that’s enough for me”
At least Michael Douglas underwent some kind of catharsis before being blown away by LAPD in “Falling Down”. Axl ends the song just as dumb as he was when he started it. Rather than making a case for his hatred, he says don’t point fingers at him. I ain’t a radical or a racist, and I don’t need no religion either. I’m also a white boy tryin’ to make a living. And I do it without spraying the city with dum-dum bullets. And that’s enough for me.
Selected by uao of Freeway Jam
8. “Muskrat Love” by Captain & Tennille from the album Song of Joy – 1976
The song “Muskrat Love” has some of the worst lyrics of all time. I am sure that there are other more obscure songs with worse lyrics than “Muskrat Love,” but I thought I would keep it to the more familiar. The song was made famous by The Captain & Tennille, though it was originally written by country star Willis Alan Ramsey in 1971. America recorded a version in 1973, however, it is The Captain & Tennille’s version in 1976 on their album Song of Joy that made the song infamous.
What exactly is this song about?
“And now he’s ticklin’ her fancy
Rubbin’ her toes
Muzzle to muzzle, now anything goes
As they wriggle, and Sue starts to giggle”
Is it a G-rated version of rodent pornography? Could Willis have inhaled second hand smoke at a Willie Nelson concert?
“And they whirled and they twirled and they tangoed
Singin’ and jingin’ the jango
Floatin’ like the heavens above
It looks like muskrat love”
Muskrat Susie and Muskrat Sam apparently do some sort of jitterbug and tango in muskrat land. I assume this is some variation on muskrat foreplay, as surely was documented on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom or perhaps too many bubbles were consumed while watching Lawrence Welk.
A little research on muskrat mating activities led to the discovery that muskrats are promiscuous. Is Susie about to have a one night stand? Didn’t somebody warn her about the likes of Muskrat Sam? Or is Sam the exception to the rule? Stay tuned ……
Selected by Mr. Bond of Covalent Bond
9. “I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow from the album Tryin’ To Get The Feeling – 1975
My first instinct, when faced with this challenge, was to pick the low hanging fruit of 2Live Crew. That, of course, is the worst and that would be too easy. Then, I came across this little treasure. This song is so bad in so many ways that its hard to know where to start. It’s excruciating to listen to this song. Barry Manilow wrote this song for his album entitled “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling.” As the album title suggests, poor Barry is “tryin'” so hard to get the feeling but I don’t think he got it this time.
The first verse offers quite a metaphorical pronoucement. Barry is no longer just Barry. Barry IS music and Barry wrote the song. In fact, since Barry IS music, he came up with the idea of putting words and melodies together and he wrote the very first song. That’s pretty cool! Way to go Barry! Or eh.. Music! Or whoever you are.
It reminds me of a fingerpainting toddler who looks up, with Barney purple colored hands, and won’t stop saying,”I’m fingerpainting!!” Look I’m fingerpainting!” Yep, that’s right, he’s fingerpainting.
Within the chorus, lies the hook that gets everybody up off their ass: “I write the songs, I write the songs” If Barry could get the whole lounge to sing the words, “I write the songs, I write the songs,” then that really would be SPECIAL.
Did I mention that Barry is still music (metaphorically) when he kicks in to verse two? Well he is until he looks out of someone else’s eyes and starts feeling young again even though he’s very old. Hey wait a second! Barry’s not old! It’s 1975! I guess the metaphor is no longer operational. Oh well. “Music fills your heart. Well, that’s a real fine place to start.” Barry IS DA MAN!! Barry writes the songs.
Selected by Pantagruel of the Radish Message Board
10. “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent featuring Olivia from the album The Massacre – 2005
I had to include this classic piece of literature by 50 Cent. I would expect no less from a guy who has grammar issues with his stage name. This one, like the John Mayer song, falls into the overtly-sexual. Not that I have anything against sex or am standing on a moral soapbox. It has nothing to do with the subject and everything to do with the delivery.
“I’ll break it down for you now, baby it’s simple
If you be a nympho, I’ll be a nympho
In the hotel or in the back of the rental
On the beach or in the park, it’s whatever you into
Got the magic stick, I’m the love doctor “
“Soon as I come through the door she get to pullin on my zipper
It’s like it’s a race who can get undressed quicker
Isn’t it ironic how erotic it is to watch em in thongs
Had me thinking ’bout that ass after I’m gone “
So essentially, we now have a dreadfully disturbing image of Mr. 50 “the love doctor” Cent’s “magic stick”. Thanks a lot Fiddy…
Selected by Robert of the Radish
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