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…”

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