The 50 worst rock/pop lyrics: The complete list
Well, here we are, at the end of the road of lyrical idiocy. As our countdown to crappiness finally culminates, we've trained our eye on some of the greatest lyricists in rock, who, during select moments, greatly disappointed us with their valueless verse. These lyrics are all bad on their own terms, but they're made even worse when you consider who wrote them. Continue on for the complete list of the fifty worst rock/pop lyrics of all time.
50. Cher - "Believe"
"Do you believe in life after love/I can feel something inside me say/I really don't think you're strong enough"
It often sounds as if the producer Mark Taylor did everything he could to chop and distort the words of this song. Unfortunately, they still come in as clear today as they did when this song was first released in the late '90s -- and they're just as unpleasantly infectious.
49. Steve Miller Band - "The Joker"
"Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah/Some call me the gangster of love/Some people call me Maurice/'Cause I speak of the pompitous of love"
"The Joker" has always been a jukebox favorite of piss-drunk meatheads who believe they're charming enough to approach strangers. Which is appropriate, because the songwriter also seems to believe he's Oscar Wilde, yet he writes the lyrical equivalent of a soiled beer mat.
48. The New Seekers - "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"
"I'd like to build the world a home/And furnish it with love/Grow apple trees and honey bees/And snow-white turtle doves"
Begins as a Coca-Cola ad, becomes a twelve-million-selling single, finishes as a lesson to marketing students about how not to be a jackass while trying to appropriate youth culture.
47. Puddle of Mudd - "Control"
"I love the way you look at me/I love the way you smack my ass/I love the dirty things you do/I have control of you"
How much control can you have while someone is smacking your ass and doing dirty things to you?
46.Oasis - "D'You Know What I Mean"
"All my people right here, right now/D'you know what I mean? (yeah, yeah)"
There is no greater illustration of Noel Gallagher's 1997 demise as a songwriter than his inability to finish this sentence.
45. Warrant - "Cherry Pie"
"She's my cherry pie/Cool drink of water/Such a sweet surprise"
Is she a dessert or a beverage? First lesson in lyric writing: Don't mix your metaphors.
44.Enrique Iglesias - "I Can Be Your Hero"
"I can be your hero, baby/I can kiss away the pain"
Uh, maybe try Vicodin instead?
43.Christina Aguilera - "Genie in a Bottle"
"If you want to be with me, baby/There's a price to pay/I'm a genie in a bottle/You gotta rub me the right way/If you want to be with me/I can make your wish come true/You gotta make a big impression/Gotta like what you do"
The attempt at innuendo here, as Aguilera sings of her "Genie," is as crass anything ICP ever wrote.
42.The Hollies - "Carrie Anne"
"People live and learn but you're still learning/You use my mind, and I'll be your teacher/When the lesson's over you'll be with me"
The first two verses of this song describe a creative, independent young lady, with each bandmember singing a different verse. But when it comes time for Graham Nash to step up to the mic, he delivers this creepy string of words that could easily read as a cult leader talking to a younger subject.
41. Herman's Hermits - "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter"
"Mrs. Brown, you've got a lovely daughter/Girls as sharp as her are somethin' rare/But it's sad, she doesn't love me now.../If she finds that I've been 'round to see you/Tell her that I'm well and feelin' fine/Don't let on, don't say she's broke my heart...
It's obvious why the daughter of Mrs. Brown left this chump: He hangs out with her mother, trawling for sympathy. Something fishy's going on there.
40. Blur - "She's So High"
"She's so high/I want to crawl all over her"
The song itself is a more-than-decent Stone Roses ripoff, but this chorus -- particularly when sung by a ninety-pound Damon Albarn -- reminds me too much of a Robert Crumb-style erotic gigantism for the song to be casually enjoyed.
39. Poison - "Unskinny Bop"
"Like gasoline you wanna pump me/And then leave me when you get your fill, yeah ... Unskinny bop bop bop bop/She just loves to play/Unskinny bop nothin' more to say"
Having nothing more to say after repeating the phrase "unskinny bop" a few times really calls into the question the idea that you have anything to say in the first place.
38.The Rolling Stones - "Cocksucker Blues"
"Oh, where can I get my cock sucked/Where can I get my ass fucked/I may have no money/But I know where to put it every time"
This lyric is awesome in that it was written to freak out record executives that were harshing the Stones' mellow, but today it's mostly a juvenile footnote for the Jagger/Richards fanatics who know about it.
37. Belle & Sebastian - "I'm a Cuckoo"
"I'd rather be in Tokyo/I'd rather listen to Thin Lizzy-oh"
You can't fit a square peg in a round hole, you can't make a horse drink water, and you can't make "Tokyo" rhyme with "Thin Lizzy."
36. Skid Row - "18 and Life"
"Ricky was a young boy/He had a heart of stone/Lived 9 to 5, and worked his fingers to the bone/Just barely out of school/Came from the edge of town/Fought like a switchblade, so no one could take him down, no/He had no money, oh, no good at home/Walked the streets a soldier/And he fought the world alone"
No matter how dramatically Sebastian Bach sang this song, and no matter how adorably delinquent he looked while doing it, the story it tells never really seems all that bad. I mean, the kid had a good job and was still living with his dad. And then he gets kicked out. Big deal. Get a haircut and grow up, ya lazy hairbag.
35. REM - "Shiny Happy People"
"Put it in the ground/Where the flowers grow/Gold and silver shine.... Put it in your hands/Take it, take it/There's no time to cry, happy, happy"
This song was always performed with too much earnestness and beloved too whole-heartedly by fans to be considered a joke. And that is sad.
34. Stryper - "To Hell With the Devil"
"Just a liar and a thief/The Word tells us so/We like to let him know/Where he can go/To Hell with the Devil"
You combine '80s hair metal with the preachiest kind of Christian rock, and you're guaranteed to mine some lyrics so ridiculous, you're embarrassed to even read them.
33. Elvis - "Almost Always True"
"I was always, baby/I was always/Well, almost always true to you/Met a pretty mademoiselle/Her papa owned a small hotel/Oh, I was almost always true to you"
Only Elvis could get away with singing about the glory of infidelity, to his girlfriend, only moments after they reunited.
32. John Mellencamp - "Jack and Diane"
"Hold on to sixteen as long as you can/Changes come around real soon"
Anyone who tells you that sixteen is the best age of your life is an incredibly sad adult.
31. Thom Yorke and P.J. Harvey - "This Mess We're In"
"Night and day/I dream of/Making love/To you now, baby/Love making/On screen/Impossible dream/And I have seen"
A really great song executed brilliantly, yet no matter how intoxicating Yorke's voice is, when he sings these lines, you can't help but wonder why they (surely) let a fourteen-year-old twee-pop kid write the lyrics.
30. Nickelback - "Too Bad"
"It's too bad/It's stupid/Too late/So wrong/So long.... Let's walk/Let's talk/Let's talk"
Without any context, these lines could read as the conversation of two indecisive meth-heads trying to break up. Is it too late and so long, or do you want to walk around and have a chat? Make up your mind. It's 2001, and pretty soon people are going to realize your band is ridiculous.
29. The New Radicals - "You Get What You Give"
"Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson/Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson/You're all fakes/Run to your mansions/Come around, we'll kick your ass in"
Other than Hanson, it's kind of inexplicable why he chooses to pick on Beck and Marilyn Manson as icons of upper-class celebrity. Even Courtney Love hadn't really cemented her reputation as a courtroom diva when this song hit in 1998. If "You Get What You Give" had come out a few years later, you might think it had been written for search engine optimization.
28. Michael Jackson - "You Rock My World"
"You rocked my world, you know you did/And everything I own I give (You rocked my world)"
I know, we all tried really hard to like this song in 2001, but it was a terrible song then and it's a terrible song now, with no favors done by the lyrics.
27. Snap! - "Rhythm Is a Dancer"
"I'm serious as cancer when I say rhythm is a dancer"
It takes courage to bet the farm on a phrase that makes absolutely no sense. Singing "rhythm is a dancer" is as useless as saying "the wind is a carpenter." It's a phrase that may score you points the next time you chat up a wicca enthusiast in a drum circle, but it's certainly not as serious as cancer.
26. DC Talk - "I Don't Want It"
"Respect is what we need to find the cure/For this disease (of lust)/And trust in God above/To shape our lives in harmony.... I don't want it/I don't want it, want it/Want your sex for now/I don't want it, I don't want it, want it, 'til we take the vows"
Long before the Jonas Brothers were sporting their purity rings, DC Talk created an anthem of abstinence with this 1992 album cut. Despite their best efforts, these Jesus-pop hipsters somehow failed to make NOT having sex cool.
25. Kid Rock - "American Badass"
"And I'm back with the beaver hats/And Ben Davis slacks/Thirty pack of Stroh's/Thirty pack of ho's/No Rogaine, and the propane flows"
It's no wonder Kid Rock and Mitt Romney hooked up during the 2012 campaign: One had binders full of women, and the other had a thirty pack of ho's. And if either of them lost their characteristically luscious hair -- "no Rogaine!" -- the Kid is all stocked up on beaver hats. Unless that's another euphemism that we don't want to know about.
24. Sublime - "Date Rape"
"Come on baby don't be afraid/If it wasn't for date rape I'd never get laid.... He said, now baby, don't be sad/In my opinion you weren't half-bad/She picked up a rock/Threw it at the car/Hit him in the head/Now he's got a big scar/Come on party people won't you listen to me/Date rape stylee"
You just told a gruesome cautionary tale of sexual assault, you ask all the reckless bar-hoppers to please listen to what you have to say -- you have our heartbroken, undivided attention, and what is your transcendent message to the world? "Date rape stylee."
23.Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love"
"Way, way down inside/I'm gonna give you my love/I'm gonna give you every inch of my love"
The whole purpose of a sexy double entendre in rock lyrics is that it has to work two ways. Love is not measured in inches. So we know you're talking about your penis. And besides, Robert Plant is British: Shouldn't he be saying "I'm gonna give you every centimeter of my love"?
22. Sonny & Cher - "The Beat Goes On"
"Charleston was once the rage, uh huh/History has turned the page, uh huh/The miniskirt's the current thing, uh huh/Teenybopper is our newborn king, uh huh"
A very sad and somewhat repulsive attempt to explain the 1960s counterculture to the squares of Eisenhower's suburbia. Like "I'd Like to Teach The World To Sing," the superficial hippie anthem used to sell Coke, this song was not made for the generation it described; it was a sentimentally cartoonish marketing gimmick that is probably the reason Bob Dylan cut his hair and moved to the woods.
21. Edwin McCain - "I'll Be"
"I'll be your crying shoulder/I'll be love's suicide/I'll be better when I'm older/I'll be the greatest fan of your life"
Love's suicide? What the fuck does that mean? This linguistic turd represents one of the primary criteria used when forming this entire list: lyrics that are meant to sound grand but have absolutely nothing to say. Also, McCain always sounds as if he's singing "I'll be the greatest Dad of your life" in this record -- and that's just creepy.
20. Van Halen - "Jump"
"I ain't the worst that you've seen/Oh, can't you see what I mean/Might as well jump/Jump!/Might as well jump"
Oh, Diamond Dave, why is it that you can sell yourself as the sexiest narcissist on the planet when you hump the camera lens and perform slow-motion jump-kicks during the video for this song, and yet the best pitch you have for the girl of your fancy is: "I ain't the worst that you've seen." And you follow this up with the thrilling recommendation that she "jump!" Sounds more like a Samuel Beckett play than a coke-rocking orgy. Come on, you're David Lee FUCKING Roth. Shouldn't you insist that she have her clothes ripped off by rabid monkeys while wearing a gas mask and being chained to the brick wall of your soundproof love dungeon while you sing showtunes and swing an enema bag over your head?
19. Avril Lavigne - "Complicated"
"You see you're making me laugh out/When you strike your pose/Take off all your preppy clothes/You know you're not fooling anyone"
There's nothing worse than a Hot Topic suburban goth calling another kid inauthentic. This mall-punk tribute to dressing one way and not another embodies everything that is horrible about being a teenager. The poor kid she's singing to could've just as easily been a conformist, sporting green hair, in Dickies shorts with a chain wallet, while macking on Avril Lavigne at Orange Julius, and now that he shops at American Eagle and publicly hates NOFX, he's actually being himself.
18. Kansas - "Dust in the Wind"
"I close my eyes/Only for a moment/And the moment's gone/All my dreams pass before my eyes/A curiosity/Dust in the wind/All they are is dust in the wind"
First off, I think this video qualifies as the ultimate ambassador of the 1970s. The lyrics are also a pretty legit example of what happens when you combine too much coke and too little creative integrity. Unless you've got a blood- and blow-smeared nose while rocking out on a waterbed below a disco ball, this song doesn't come close to sounding as epic as it intends to be.
17. Blink 182 - "Adam's Song"
"I took my time/I hurried up/The choice was mine/I didn't think enough/I'm too depressed to go on/You'll be sorry when I'm gone"
These lines could've been plucked from the diary of pretty much any teenager growing up in the '90s, for more reasons than just the Nirvana plagiarism. This song was intended to be the thoughtful, more prescient side of Blink 182 -- but it's probably the most juvenile set of lyrics the band has ever composed, sounding more like a whiny threat shouted at your mother when she won't let you go to the Dashboard Confessional show on a school night.
16. Black Eyed Peas - "My Humps"
I'ma get, get, get, get you drunk/Get you love-drunk off my hump/My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump/My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps"
Describing your body as covered in "lumps" does not get me love-drunk -- it makes me want to get you a mammogram. Why don't you just tell me your ass is filled with spoiled gravy and your breasts are made of voodoo shrunken heads?
15. LFO - "Summer Girls"
"New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits/Chinese food makes me sick/And I think it's fly when girls stop by/For the summer, for the summer/I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch"
During the peak years of the Vans Warped Tour, being able to write clever dick and fart jokes with pop-culture references was an enviable talent. But LFO skipped right over the clever part and went straight for mainstream silliness. With its synthetically chilled-out vibe and surreal one-liners, this song was an unwelcome guest on the record player of my mind back in 1999, trying desperately to fit in with the genuine punk songs that rotated in there but always getting its ass kicked.
14. Newsboys - "Breakfast"
"When the toast is burned/And all the milk has turned/And Captain Crunch is waving farewell/When the big one finds you/May this song remind you/That they don't serve breakfast in Hell"
Oh, Jesus, what can be said of this? An evangelical message of salvation vs. damnation couched inside grocery-store consumerism -- I didn't think it was possible, but this 1996 Christian rock hit lowered the bar on the genre's ability to produce unique and worthwhile songs.
13. Color Me Badd - "I Wanna Sex You Up"
"Girl you make me feel real good/We can do it 'til we both wake up... I wanna sex you up/All night/You make me feel real good/I wanna rub you down"
Believe it or not, about 2.5 million people bought this single in 1991, defying logic in suggesting that the pickup line "I wanna sex you up" could actually be arousing instead of inducing the need for a shower. But this is '90s white-boy R&B at its zenith, and where would we be without it? That's right, we wouldn't have "Dick in a Box."
12.Bob Dylan - "You Gotta Serve Somebody"
"You may be an ambassador to England or France...but you're gonna have to serve somebody/Yes indeed/You're gonna have to serve somebody/Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord/But you're gonna have to serve somebody"
To be honest, I never thought of being the ambassador to England or France as the last word in demigod celebrity. But that's not the point. This is the quintessential Born-Again-Bob song, from his rapture-believing, scripture-quoting, spookily sad and tranquil era -- a clear distancing from his former identity as an independent minstrel. This is the same guy who, while being awarded by the Civil Liberties Committee, got blind drunk and gave a speech saying he related to Lee Harvey Oswald -- three weeks after JFK was shot. Dylan practically inspired a generation of kids to drop out of school, smoke dope, listen to records and "draw conclusions on the wall." And then suddenly he's a cultish ghoul telling us to serve a man in the sky.
11.Bee Gees - "How Deep Is Your Love"
"I believe in you/You know the door to my very soul.... How deep is your love/How deep is your love/I really need to learn.... We belong to you and me"
I'm sorry, but if you are English, you should know how to speak it. Not only is this one of the most embarrassing songs of the '70s, but it sounds like a humorous attempt at learning a second language. Is Barry Gibb saying this girl "knows" the actual "door" to his soul? Not the location of the door, or the key to it, or even his soul itself, just the door. Forget about how deep her love is, one thing you "really need to learn" is how to write a metaphor.
10. U2 - "Discotheque"
"You know you're chewing bubblegum/You know what it is/But you still want some/'Cause you just can't get enough/Of that lovie-dovie stuff"
An otherwise respectable song on an overlooked album, this clunky line about bubblegum and lovie-dovie stuff always stands out like the feedback from a squealing mic during a symphony. The lyrics surrounding this make cohesive sense -- addressing the paradox of reaching out for God, or a song, or just a feeling, and coming up a few inches short -- yet it's these five lines that cause "Discotheque" to come up short when placed next to the rest of U2's resplendent catalogue.
9.Dandy Warhols - "Bohemian Like You"
"But if you dig on vegan food/Well come over to my work/I'll have them cook you/Something that you'll really love."
The Dandy Warhols actually looked and lived the Rimbaud-esque lifestyle of drugs, fashion and reverie, but for whatever reason, when the time came for Courtney Taylor-Taylor to write a song about the artist's lifestyle, it came off as commericial pap -- fiitting comfortably next to "I'd Like to Teach the World To Sing" and "The Beat Goes On," two previous entries on this list, both for their repulsive attempts at packaging alternative culture. Can you imagine someone approaching you at City, O' City, and asking if you "dig on vegan food?" No, of course not.
8.Paul McCartney - "The Lovely Linda"
"La la la la la lovely Linda/With the lovely flowers in her hair"
Puppy-faced Paul kind of lost the plot there for a little while after the Beatles split up. While Lennon was quick to get to work on Plastic Ono Band, and Harrison already had most of All Things Must Pass ready to go, McCartney was sulking on his farm in Scotland, staying in bed to drink wine and refusing to bathe. His debut solo album is a mostly unmemorable release, with "Maybe I'm Amazed" as a reasonable exception, and "Lovely Linda" as the most discrediting piece of music he'd compose until "Mull of Kintyre." Thankfully, "Lovely Linda" is a brief song, but in 46 seconds, it still manages to do plenty of damage with its post-hippie sentimentality and all-around desperate lack of inspiration.
7. Iron Butterfly - "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"
While the music itself is celebrated as the progenitor of what would become heavy metal, the lyrics have been known to past and present alike as a ludicrous mumble of intoxicated gibberish, one of those rarely acknowledged moments of rock where being too fucked up ruined what is an otherwise brilliant track. Accounts differ slightly on how exactly the band came to write these syllables down as the title, but we know that while the original lyrics were the intelligible "in the garden of eden," singer Doug Ingle was either so drunk, stoned or both at the time of the recording that he slurred the words to the point that no one knew exactly what he was saying. In the end, this was what was written down, and today we are left with one of the few listenable seventeen-minute rock songs being ultimately tainted by the distracting garble of baby talk.
6. Train - "Soul Sister"
"Your lipstick stains/On the front lobe of my left-side brains/I knew I wouldn't forget you/And so I went and let you/Blow my mind"
This girl obviously doesn't know shit about neurology, otherwise she wouldn't have left her lipstick stains on the frontal lobe, where short term memory is stored. Duh. The temporal lobe is the place to guarantee he "wouldn't forget you." Yet beyond the cosmetics he's had smeared inside his skull, Train songwriter Patrick Monahan must have suffered some other forms of brain damage to think anything about this coffee-house ditty is "so gangster," or that anything to do with him and his adult-contemporary corporate rock band is in any way "thug."
5. 311 - "Amber"
"I got to tell you something/This phenomenon/I had to put it in a song/And it goes like/Whoa, amber is the color of your energy"
A group of potheads from Nebraska attempt to explain the metaphysical dynamics of human-to-human eros connection through a reggae song. Were your expectations really that high?
4. Elton John - "Your Song"
"It's a little bit funny/This feeling inside/I'm not one of those who can easily hide/I don't have much money/But, boy, if I did/I'd buy a big house where we both could live...If I was a sculptor, but then again, no"
While the partnership of Elton John/Bernie Taupin would go on to give us brilliant lines like "Levon"'s "He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day/When the New York Times said God is dead," I think we jumped the gun on heralding this duo as the songwriters of an era with their early single "Your Song." It's not bad musically, but the lyrics are a jumbled mess of disconnected sentiments that are as inspiring as a cigarette butt. In the same year that Art Garfunkle offered to be a "bridge over troubled water," Elton John is merely offering the desire to buy someone a house. It was also possible that John could've redeemed himself through learning to sculpt, "but then again, no."
3.Little Richard - "Tutti Frutti"
"Tutti frutti/Oh, Rudy/A whop bop a lu lop a-whop bam boo"
Yes, yes, I know, this gibberish is considered to be the most influential string of consonants and vowels in the history of rock and roll. And it is a brilliant song, embodying the youthful urgency that broke down the levees of American puritanism. But for anyone who knows that this song began as a dirty joke about sodomy, hearing the watered-down radio single is a frustrating bummer. Originally, Richard had sung: "Tutti Frutti, good booty/If it don't fit/Don't force it/You can grease it/Make it easy." But an illustration like this would never make it anywhere near the radio waves of Eisenhower's America. So the lyrics were swapped out for some nonsense about a girl named Rudy, allowing whitest-man-on-earth Pat Boone to cover the song and make it a hit, inevitably smothering Richard's version at the time.
2. John Lennon - "Love Is Real"
"Love is you/You and me/Love is knowing/We can be/Love is free, free is love/Love is living, living love/Love is needing to be loved"
You know those horribly upbeat Facebook posts you see from your new-agey aunt who keeps sending you The Secret on DVD? Those "follow your spirit and walk in the light of kindness" memes with the two baby penguins holding hands and staring into the sunset. Well, even those look like the most cynical, Bukowski-style darkness when placed next to this John Lennon lyric. "Love Is Real" is quite possibly the most pretentious song in rock history. I guarantee you, any couple who have ever looked longingly into each other's eyes, feeling a transcendent happiness while this song played, are definitely broken up today. Because their love was fake, and so is this song.
1.The Rolling Stones - "It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)"
"I know it's only rock 'n roll/But I like it/Like it/Yes, I do"
These lyrics have become a de facto slogan, not only for the Stones, but for classic rock radio the world over. But come on, it's a ridiculous phrase that means nothing. "It's only rock and roll, but I like it" was the first international declaration to the music world that screamed: "The Rolling Stones have nothing left to say! You can stop paying attention from here on out." For a decade, the songwriting team of Jagger/Richards were the incendiary mouthpiece that gave us the stylish misery of "Paint It Black," the prophetic anxiety of "Gimme Shelter," and the nocturnal rejection of straight life in "Rocks Off," and yet, when the time comes to defend the legacy they'd created to the critics who were correctly dismissing the Stones as yesterdays papers in 1974, they lazily, reflexively, and arrogantly dribble out the entirely forgettable words "it's only rock and roll, but I like it."
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