Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life

Ten worst pop stinkers ever – A Letter to the Editor

Ten worst pop stinkers ever

I wrote this in response to a list published in a major New Zealand weekly magazine (The NZ Listener). It was published, despite its unusual format, in February 2002:

Even though the enjoyment of a pop song is highly subjective, depending on the listener’s age and cultural background, the list “Ten Worst Pop Music Stinkers” (February 16) is indefensible. A rough distinction between good and bad music can be made where good music is inspired and reflects genuine emotion, while bad music is formulated with one eye on the bottom line. As Ian Anderson states, “a lot of pop music is about stealing pocket money from children.” Bemusingly your list ignores the 1990s, surely the source of more inane pop music than any other decade, and includes several songs which are genuinely inspired.

Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ is a spontaneous expression of fatherly love; only a heartless listener would remain unmoved by the song’s pure exuberance. It is difficult to deny the profundity of the lyric “the tyranny of distance” in Split Enz’s ‘Six Months In A Leaky Boat,’ a concept reinforced by the poignant piano coda. It seems that your list is intended to provoke reader response, therefore here is my list of the ten worst pop stinkers ever. They are all awful, so there is no point in putting them in order.

‘Lady in Red’, by Chris de Burgh. If this song was an article of clothing, it would be a big girl’s blouse.

‘Have You Ever Loved a Woman’, by Bryan Adams. Adams adds a country flavour, which only exacerbates his heinousness.

‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’, by Stevie Wonder. How can you single out ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ for criticism over this piece of sentimental schmaltz?

‘I’ll Be There For You’, by The Rembrandts. “It’s like you’re always stuck in second geeeeeeeeear/When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your yeeeeeeeeear.”

‘Dance All Around the World’, by Blerta. A mediocre song is ruined by an awful poem in the middle.

‘Michelle’, by The Beatles. A mediocre song is ruined by an excursion into French.

‘Silly Love Songs’, by Wings. The elected representative for the electorate of inane love songs.

‘Song Sung Blue’, by Neil Diamond. An attempt at a singalong anthem that ends up forced and irrelevant.

‘Song for a Future Generation’, by The B-52’s. A standout among legions of bad novelty songs: “let’s meet and have a baby now.”

‘Barbie Girl’, by Aqua. An even worse novelty song, featuring the profound lyrics “come on Barbie, let’s go party.”

Yours Sincerely
Graham Fyfe

Do you have some stinkers to add to the list?


    • The original list that I was responding to was for the Ten Worst Pop Stinkers ever, and included ‘Six Months in a Leaky Boat’ and ‘Isn’t She Lovely’. But I’d like to see your list of Stinkers of ’76. The 1970s have a lot of great albums, and a lot of treacly radio hits.

      • Treacly is so apt, Graham. And so are the words ‘pop’ and ‘stinker’ in close proximity. I think the earliest song that made me barf was ‘Long haired lover from Liverpool’ (1972) and the last (before I entirely eschewed pop music) was that ghastly Spice Girls thing, “Tell me what you like, what you really really like”, the only sane answer to which could be “I’ll tell you what I DON’T like…”

  1. I won’t agree with Graham’s List. It looks right, even though I have never heard a couple of the songs. I will also say that of the 1980s artists I’ve heard and enjoy, Split Enz and Crowded House are among the very best. The Finn Brothers are amazing! 6 Months In A Leaky Boat would make my Top 10 Songs of the 1980s list. Locked Out by Crowded House would also make my Top 10 or 20 from the 1990s.

    A few of the worst songs (IMHO) from the 1980s:

    Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill. It’s just not a Worst Of song list from any decade ( Or Century) if it doesn’t include a Dan Hill shot.

    Can’t We Try by Dan Hill and Vonda Shepard. (Barf! Does Dan laugh himself silly when he records this awful gunk?!)

    Broken Wings by Mr. Mister. Really boring and really, really bad.

    Love Power by Dionne Warwick – Press the Snooze button when this song plays on streaming and catch some sleep. It’s basically the same as listening to this song!

    Cherry Pie by Warrant. The lead singer has said in online articles that he’ll go to his grave haunted by this song and his choice to sing on it. Good! Suffer!

    We Are The World by USA For Africa. There are some good vocal performances on this song, But overall, they just had to make it all about themselves. They even gave themselves a Grammy for it the next year, I’ve read. Wow!

    Illegal Alien by Genesis. Very tacky song, and includes a really, really, bad Mexican accept by Phil Collins, who soon would go on to torment music listeners everywhere by releasing hit songs the rest of the decade without stopping to take a breath!

    Heartbeat by Don Johnson. I’ve read this guy was an actor, although I’ve never seen his shows or movies, This song annoys me and sounds like what would happen if someone’s Dad from the neighborhood had a lot of connections and money and managed to convince a record Executive to release this song for him. Cringe inducing!

    Cannonball by Supertramp. The song is very unusual in the way they wrote the music for it, which is nice. But the song is kind of mundane. It doesn’t help the the video, featuring a prehistoric couple, is just way too weird. At 1 point, the prehistoric wife is in the future and comes across the band performing this song outside. She looks absolutely horrified and disgusted. Perhaps she’s appalled at how bad the band sounds without Roger Hodgson?

    Has A Dream by Roger Hodgson. A very odd song that sounds overly busy and frantic. Like Supertramp’s aforementioned Cannonball, it features a weird video. The lowlight of which is Roger seemingly at one point running through the Universe wearing nothing but Depends! No thank you!


      • Thanks. I’m a big fan. I won’t listen to a couple of their songs. Like Goodbye Stranger. But I love the whole Crime Of The Century and Even In The Quietest Moments albums. And several of their songs on other albums. 😃

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