Some really dumb songs have made it to the top of the charts throughout the years because the well-meaning public happens to have terrible taste. And as a member of the public, I guess I’m part of the problem.
Here are the 10 most idiotic, appalling, brain-reducing ditties to ever become hits — and I’ll also tell you why I happen to like ‘em. But for the record, I draw the line at “Volare,” “Disco Duck,” “Rico Suave,” “She Bangs,” ”Ice Ice Baby,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” “We Built This City,” “Free Bird,” “Afternoon Delight,” “Whoomp! (There It Is)” and “Who Let The Dogs Out?” OK?
“Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” Lobo, 1971
Lobo was actually one guy with a very weird haircut, and he was responsible for this numbingly bland road song about the joys of the open air. The only interesting thing about it is that when he sings “How I love being a free man,” you start to fantasize that he’s a serial decapitator who’s just been let out of prison.
“The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia” Vicki Lawrence, 1972
Vicki was a rubber-faced regular on “The Carol Burnett Show” when she had this unlikely No. 1, Southern Gothic story song with classic lines like “Why’d you do it?” and “Little sister don’t miss when she aims her gun.” Cher had rejected the song, so Lawrence recorded it herself, then pressured her label to put it out, and it was a smash. No one knows what the hell it’s about, which makes it even more fitting that the equally silly “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree” replaced it at No. 1.
“Reach Out of the Darkness” Friend and Lover, 1967
I have a soft spot for this absolutely schizo hit by the unusual folk duo. It starts with jazzy riffs by the lady (“I think it’s so groovy now”), then leads to weird pontifications from the guy (“And now this man, he is a friend of mine.”) Together they harmonize on the title thought, and it’s actually chilling good if a little off, but you end up haunted by the guy’s “Don’t be afraid of love …[spoken] don’t be afraid.” Bizarre, fabulous shit and their only hit.
“Hot in Herre” Nelly, 2002
Using all sorts of hooks and samples, but adding Nelly’s exhortation for everyone to get naked, this was a weird No. 1 and even a Grammy winner. It was irresistible at the time, but now people hear it, keep their clothes on, and say, “Huh?”
“I’m Too Sexy” Right Said Fred, 1991
The British group was mocking vain male models’ behavior with this smarmy spoof that became used in every fashion show I went to for about 10 years, everyone thinking they were so clever to have thought of it. The song is actually a riot (The singer is too sexy for his shirt — “so sexy it hurts” — and for his cat, too; “Poor pussy, poor pussycat”). And how often is it that a pop song attempts to satirize anything? It’s just the fact that it was so omnipresent, and the group was so obviously a one-hit wonder, that it became instantly relegated to the cheesy bins. OK, I’ll stop now. I’m too sexy for this writeup.
“Everybody Have Fun Tonight” Wang Chung, 1986
The English new-wave group hit No. 2 with this catchy (like crabs) ditty urging everyone to have fun — and to Wang Chung — tonight. People did their best to Wang Chung according to the song’s instructions, but no one knew just what it meant. Turns out neither did the band. It had come up with the phrase as an ad lib and felt it means whatever you want it to. OK. So I’ll take it to mean “burn your Wang Chung records” — and there are several. The group amazingly had four other Top 40 hits!
“Relax” Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1983
The gay Brit band debuted with this insinuating — in several ways — song, which caused a furor over the use of the word “come.” The BBC banned it, then changed its mind, and though the band denied the song had anything to do with sex, the public caught on, and that certainly helped sales. And if anyone doubts the lasting legacy of this extraordinary musical venture, the song was used in quality films like “Police Academy” and “Gotcha!”
“Milkshake” Kelis, 2003
In this dirty novelty song written and produced by The Neptunes, Kelis boasts, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” Silly stuff, but we all drank it up, even the lactose intolerant. It was shades of Wang Chung when Kelis said the song uses milkshake as a metaphor for “something that makes women special” and added, “It means whatever people want it to.” But the video seemed to take things more literally. In it, a milkshake machine starts spewing the stuff all over a variety of newly wet people. One of the 10 dumbest videos ever — and I love it.
“Puttin’ on the Ritz” Taco, 1982
An Indonesian-born Dutch singer named Taco joined the ranks of bizarre one-hit wonders with this synthesized version of the classic song. He added a vo-dee-oh-doh sound complete with what sounded like a megaphone — or maybe he was underwater — and the result was even creepier than the monster’s version of the song in “Young Frankenstein.” His second single was “Singin’ in the Rain,” but by that point, Taco was all washed up and totally fried.
“Mr. Roboto” Styx, 1982
If you’ve seen the Styx “Behind The Music,” you know that this is the song that tore the group apart. (Heaven forbid.) Dennis DeYoung wrote the elaborate, pretentious production number, which attempted Orwellian commentary and instead fell flatter than Spinal Tap’s pyramid. “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto” goes the immortal song, which Wikipedia explains “is not in any one key and is instead in a related set of modes.” Ah! So that’s why it sucks.
Michael Musto is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.