Some artists make good music, some make great music, and others achieve absolute perfection. But even the pinnacles of the medium are capable of creating absolute dreck. If you stick around long enough and have covered every other area of music, it’s all but inevitable that you’ll end up making some stuff that absolutely stinks. The real pain, especially for fans, comes in seeing how far the mighty have fallen. Even if an artist hasn’t been on their game for a while, you still have that glimmer of hope in the back of your skull that reminds you of the good old days and how it could totally happen again if you just believe in them hard enough.
There’s a difference between bad music and experimentation that just doesn’t work for you, but occasionally the two overlap. Lou Reed never stopped pushing musical boundaries but that bravery as an artist doesn’t make his collaboration with Metallica any easier or more worthwhile to listen to. Often, you hope a musician will try something new then immediately regret asking for it, such as when Katy Perry’s deviation into ‘purposeful pop’ gave us a song where she just spewed sexy food puns over a bad Migos beat, or Taylor Swift’s attempt to shake up her image giving us the truly unlistenable Look What You Made Me Do.
I’m a woman of specific musical tastes: I know what I like and I tend to stick to it unless otherwise instructed. I’ve had the same favourite song since I was about 11 and I typically buy one or two CDs a year, and that’s not just because of accessibility to streaming. So, when one of the seven or so artists I obsessively listen to has a duff track I find agony to experience, it stings a little more because my chosen pool of songs is already deliberately limited. So, here are some of the songs I truly hate by artists I love. Make sure to share your own most hated songs by your favourite artists in the comments.
Bitch I’m Madonna by Madonna
I’ve made no secret of my love for the queen of pop and her endless ability to reinvent herself. For so long, she was ahead of the Zeitgeist in ways that feel almost prophetic. She pushed boundaries and pissed people off and still made you want to dance. I’m not as harsh on Madonna’s newer stuff as some critics are. Rebel Heart is actually a really solid album with plenty of stand-out tracks that show her ability to still make great dance-pop with a timeless edge. Maybe that’s what makes Bitch I’m Madonna so cringe-inducing. It’s the embodiment of Madonna as everyone who hates her sees her, and it’s not even a fun song. It’s try-hard but not with anything truly interesting to say. Madonna has cemented her legacy time and time again and doesn’t need to rehash tracks dug out of Rihanna’s bins to remind us of who she is.
Dancing in the Street by David Bowie and Mick Jagger
I’d probably be mad at any artist trying to cover one of my all-time favourite songs, an iconic Motown classic that remains as joyous and infectiously catchy as ever, close to 45 years since it debuted. The fact that two of the great rock and roll icons of the second half of the 20th century did it and made such a dog’s dinner of it is just lemon juice on an already nasty wound. There’s nothing I can say about this song that a million comedians before me haven’t already. It’s dad dancing set to a weak beat and has none of the vibrancy of the original. It takes two of the most effortlessly cool men of the century and reduces them to stewards at your high school disco. Yes, it was for charity, but charity doesn’t need the help this much.
Body Language by Queen
Queen were at their best when they went big. Their lavish near-gothic scale with big loud guitars and Freddie Mercury’s voice going on a roller-coaster of high notes to low made them maybe the great British stadium act of their time. I want noise from Queen. I want the grandiosity and the earth shaking force of it all. I don’t want boring dance music. Body Language just isn’t fun. Even at their most pompous, Queen had a humorous edge to what they did, but Body Language is almost coma inducing in its odd apathy towards its erotic content. It’s the sort of public domain song you imagine was pulled from YouTube to play in the background of cheap porn. The video itself had the honour of being the first music video banned by MTV, so in that aspect, at least it got the job done.
Air Balloon by Lily Allen
Lily Allen isn’t necessarily an artist I wholeheartedly love, but she’s something I’ve appreciated immensely for many years. She’s typically left out of the narrative when we talk about the critical growth pop music has received since the beginning of the 20th century but she most certainly deserves a spot next to Sia, Lorde and Gaga when she’s on her game. Her songs were funny, raw, rude, and often slyly subversive under the bubblegum sheen. Think of The Fear, an electropop number with a trance-like quality that manages to be a humblebrag, a sarcastic take-down of fame, and a minor breakdown at the same time. Her third album Sheezus was a major disappointment all round, but even the meh songs like URL Badman had some of that Allen-esque grit. But then there’s Air Balloon. I was not shocked to hear that Allen admitted this song was basically a mandate from her label to make a more commercially viable song. It reeks of the kind of ‘how do you do, fellow kids’ desperation that Allen was so good at avoiding. Thankfully, her new album has her back on top form.
Smart Girls by Brian Wilson
It’s Brian Wilson rapping. I’m not sure what else really needs to be said.
Header Image Source: Madonna / Interscope Records