I recently made a station on Pandora that I call “The Worst Pandora Station Ever.” I have filled it with songs that tortured me during my teens and 20s — terrible, terrible pop music. Why did I do this to myself? I guess it’s a combination of nostalgia, humor and self-torture. I don’t exactly know why, but I get a certain perverse pleasure out of it. It puts me back in a time when I didn’t have much choice and was stuck listening to these things.
It feels really weird having to thumbs-up songs I hate and thumbs-down songs I like. Also, if I listen with half an ear while doing something else, I will sometimes catch myself grooving on it a little. I sent this to a friend whose musical taste I respect and I got back text messages like “Gah, how could you do this to me?” Then a message, “Oh no! My wife likes it!”
One of the most insidious things about this type of music is that it’s often quite catchy. You might hear one of these songs and hate it, but it will be echoing in your brain for hours.
A few days ago I went into a convenience store and heard a perfect example: “Into the Night” by one terrible hit wonder Benny Mardones. I had to look it up. I knew the song, but not the singer. It only gets worse when you see the video. That girl’s dad seriously needs to call the police.
Another one I was discussing with my brother is “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. One of the most cringeworthy songs of my youth. And what the hell is is going on in that video?
Some other examples are:
“We Built This City” by Starship (easiest call ever)
“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Karnes
“I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” by the Cutting Crew
“Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry and “Open Arms” by Journey (Journey and Perry make a lot of justified appearances on this bad music station, yet Journey at one time was very good, including their album Escape that included the terrible ballad “Open Arms.”)
“I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner
“How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” by Michael Bolton
“Don’t Speak” by No Doubt (newer than most of the others, but I hate it so much)
“All Out of Love,” “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” by Air Supply or really anything by Air Supply *shudder*
“Right Here Waiting” (or anything) by Richard Marx
“Lady in Red” by Chris DeBurgh
“Missing You” by John Waite
What makes a “bad” pop song?
Obviously it’s subjective.
For example, “These Dreams” by Heart. I should hate that song. It was co-written by Martin Page, who wrote the hideous Starship hit “We Built This City.” But I always liked it. Perhaps because the lyrics are courtesy of Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics for so many of Elton John’s best songs.
I have friends who are always ragging on artists I think are solid, despite a few duds here and there. The Eagles, Phil Collins and Hall & Oates come to mind.
I also realize there’s some overlap with AM Rock Radio music, which I actually think was overall quite good. Now and then a song will pop up that KINDA fits, but I have to give it the thumbs down because it’s too good. Songs by Little River Band and Steely Dan for example. I know I’m confusing the hell out of Pandora’s algorithm.
I’m sure I’m leaving out some other bad pop. Post your own list in the comments and tell me what I forgot.