The Y2K bug didn’t hit the way doomsayers predicted. Planes didn’t fall out of the sky and artists continued to make music, both good and bad. Here I pick out ten of my most loathed songs from the first decade of the 21st century.
Often I preface these worst song lists by noting that there’s a fine line between a memorable great song and an annoying earworm. But I don’t know that that’s the case here – read on for bad cover versions, mediocre rants against the music industry, unintentionally hilarious vocals, and some lovely lady lumps.
The 10 Worst Songs of the 2000s
#10 The Rose by Westlife
I already singled out the Irish boyband Boyzone on my 1990s Worst Songs list. Their compatriots Westlife had to fire half of their members on account of ugliness before they signed a record contract. Westlife have lovely vocals, but their choice of material is even lamer than Boyzone. 2005 hit ‘You Lift Me Up’ echoed Bette Midler’s ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, before an actual Midler cover, ‘The Rose’. Westlife’s version is sappy and soulless, but it topped the charts in the UK and Ireland anyway.
#9 Who Let The Dogs Out by The Baha Men
‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ was first recorded in 1998, by Trinidadian artist Anslem Douglas. It had a feminist theme, condemning cat-callers. It was somehow discovered by producer Jonathan King, known for recording the 1960s hit ‘Everyone’s Gone To The Moon’ and discovering Genesis. It fell into the hands of The Baha Men, a Bahamian group whose first album dates back to 1977. This irritating ditty has become a favourite at sporting events.
#8 With Arms Wide Open by Creed
Creed frontman Scott Stapp wrote the lyrics to ‘With Arms Wide Open’ after learning that his wife was expecting. The band worked up the music in a quarter of an hour at a soundcheck. The result is a painfully sincere power ballad, so overplayed that even Stapp’s wife admitted that she would change the station when it came on.
#7 Axel F by Crazy Frog
In 1984 the instrumental theme for Beverly Hills Cop, ‘Axel F’ hit number one on the charts. In 2005, it was back in the public eye when a collective of European producers returned it to the charts. The Crazy Frog sound originated from a 17-year-old Swedish student, who recorded himself impersonating the sound of a two-stroke engine. Accompanied by a 3D animated character, originally referred to as “The Annoying Thing’, ‘Axel F’ topped the UK charts for four weeks.
#6 I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair) by Sandi Thom
It’s easy to forget how successful Scottish singer Sandi Thom was in 2006. ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker’ topped the Australian singles charts for ten weeks. Any mildly informed music fan will take issue with Thom conflating punks and hippies, two distinct cultural movements that occurred a decade apart. But the faulty premise is nothing next to the shapeless melody.
#5 Cha-Ching by Hedley
Both ‘Cha-Ching’ and the previous song on the list take aim at the lack of integrity and creativity in the music business. There’s a delicious irony in that both of these songs are inferior to most of the commercial radio fodder that they complain about. Somehow, ‘Cha-Ching’ was a substantial hit in Canada, even though it sounds like a hybrid of Blink-182 and Smashmouth from ten years earlier.
#4 Photograph by Nickelback
Canadian rockers Nickelback are the most critically lampooned band in the history of popular music. The opening line for this #2 Billboard hit is “Look at this photograph/Every time I do, it makes me laugh.” It’s appropriate because I have to stifle a giggle every time I hear Chad Kroeger’s ultra-constipated vocal stylings. Anything Nickelback released in the decade would fit on this list but the softer sound of ‘Photograph’ serves to emphasise Kroeger’s vocal failings.
#3 Candy Shop by 50 Cent featuring Olivia
Somehow, Curtis Jackson was wildly successful in the early 21st century, despite little lyrical insight or charisma. Like Peter Andre a decade earlier, he was often more celebrated for his muscular frame than his musical talent. On the #1 hit ‘Candy Shop’, he recycles the premise of his earlier hit ‘Magic Stick’, extolling both his prowess and his size.
#2 You’re Beautiful by James Blunt
Former British Army reconnaissance officer James Blunt hit the paydirt with his second single, ‘You’re Beautiful’. Despite Blunt’s vocal resembling an emasculated hobbit, ‘You’re Beautiful’ topped the charts in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia. “Weird” Al Yankovic’s parody, ‘You’re Pitiful’, supplies two key ingredients missing from the original – a sense of humour and a competent lead vocal. Blunt has apologised for ‘You’re Beautiful’, noting that he “was marketed by a record company to appeal to women during Desperate Housewives‘ commercials”.
#1 My Humps by The Black Eyed Peas
The Black Eyed Peas started as an alternative hip-hop act but became wildly popular with Fergie on vocals. Wikipedia drily notes that “the song sparked controversy because of its title and lyrics, which center on a woman who uses her breasts and buttocks to accomplish her goals.” It’s hard to ascertain whether Fergie’s lyrics (“They say I’m really sexy/The boys they wanna sex me”) or Fergie’s vocal performance is the song’s worst aspect.
Apologies if I’ve picked on one of your favourites. Any suggestions for the list?
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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