REWIND: Let’s roast five of the worst songs of all time

Daniel J. Willis, Danny Willis

Editor Daniel J. Willis on an average day. Design: Roman Gokhman.

Like I said in my Worst of 2018 in Music column back in December, RIFF as a media outlet tries to stay positive. Our philosophy is that there’s enough negativity in the world and we shouldn’t add to it.

Note that I said RIFF tries to stay positive. I, personally, am a shameless hater. Pick any of my tweets at random for an illustration of what I mean.

This week, due to schedules and illness, my illustrious editor Roman has left me to post the column before he reads it. Which means it’s time for me to unleash the hate and finally write a column where I roast five songs I can’t stand.

LFO — “Summer Girls”

People who spend a significant amount of time around me probably saw this one coming, since I occasionally start ranting about how much I hate “Summer Girls” with absolutely no provocation. None! I don’t even have to hear the song!

“Summer Girls” has, by far, the worst lyrics of all time. Every other line was apparently created by a faulty AI programmed with the transcript of a frat party after 2 a.m. I understand there’s probably a story behind them, but I honestly don’t want to know what it is because it would probably make it worse.

Do you think I’m kidding? This is the actual beginning of the actual first verse of the song: “Hip-hop mama, spic ‘n’ span/ Met you one summer and it all began/ You’re the best girl that I ever did see/ The great Larry Byrd jersey 33/ When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet/ Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets.”

That this became a hit song makes me want to punch a wall.

Deep Blue Something — “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

The main characters in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” are the most insufferable people in the world. It proves that hipsters already existed in 1995, because nobody talks like that unless they ride a fixed gear bicycle and have a second-favorite typewriter.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” as far as I can tell, is about a woman trying to dump her boyfriend, and her boyfriend trying to stop her. Right there is a red flag; if she doesn’t want to date you, you should respect that. But what pushes it over the edge and onto this list is the actual conversation that takes place in the song.

Sung in rhyme it may not seem so bad. But let’s take a look at what they’re saying in the first verse and chorus without the music.

Woman: “We’ve got nothing in common, no common ground. We’re falling apart. The world has come between us. Our lives have come between us.”
Man: “What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”
Woman: “I think I remember that film. And as I recall, I think we both kinda liked it.”
Man: “Well, that’s one thing we’ve got.”


So, first off, this song is from 1995 and the movie is from 1961. The one thing you can find to make your case is a 34-year-old Audrey Hepburn movie based on a Truman Capote novel? That’s not a sign that maybe she has a point and you don’t actually have that much in common?

Second, who says things like “I think I remember that film, and as I recall, I think we both kinda liked it” in conversation? That’s the sort of thing people say in hacky novels when the author wants to sound smart. If a hipster said that while taking a Polaroid of locally sourced beard conditioner, their friends would think it was a little too much.

Third: WHAT?

Starship — “We Built This City”

Jefferson Airplane (1965-1972) was one of the defining bands of the late ’60s San Francisco music scene. Hits like “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” redefined music by mastering the psychedelia for which the era is known.

Jefferson Airplane turned into Jefferson Starship (1974-1984), which was nowhere near as good but had some bland soft rock hits like “Miracles” and “Runaway.” If you clicked those links you vaguely remembered hearing both songs before while they were playing, but you already can’t remember how they went.

Jefferson Starship turned into Starship (1984-1991) which is a musical war crime. Somehow they retroactively made Jefferson Airplane worse. And nothing epitomizes the vapid, meaningless late-’80s culture they so perfectly encapsulate than their biggest hit and worst song: “We Built This City.”

The song means nothing. The lyrics mean nothing. It exists only to be catchy and sound vaguely empowering without actually conveying a message. It’s such a disgrace to songwriting that even Grace Slick, who was involved in its creation, has admitted to regretting it.

Remember: To build a city on rock and roll you first have to tear it down. And they did. Then they salted the earth on which rock and roll once stood.

Billy Ray Cyrus — “Achy Breaky Heart”

What could possibly be said about this notorious disaster that hasn’t been said a dozen times over? Nothing. But when has that ever stopped me?

“Achy Breaky Heart” is a verse about a pickup truck away from being a parody of country music. The list of things you could tell other than his achy breaky heart reads like a rejected Jeff Foxworthy joke. “You can tell my arms go back to the farm” doesn’t actually mean anything, for example, but because it involves a farm, it’s country!

The real hero of the song is the unnamed woman’s brother Cliff, who, through meandering, tortured wordplay, Billy Ray suggests punched him in the face. In 1992, when the song was inescapable, we all wanted to punch Billy Ray in the face. And that was even before all those uncomfortably sexual photo shoots with his daughter.

Also, line dancing is stupid.

Metallica — “Frantic”

My hatred of Metallica’s regrettable 2003 album, St. Anger, is well-documented. But the band is not getting off that easy. Metallica is my favorite band and in true nerd fashion I’m hardest on things I love, so it’s time for another round of bitter insults about a 16-year-old album:

St. Anger, as a whole, sounds like a recording of two cats in heat knocking over a metal trash can while fighting in the middle of the night. But it’s worse because Bob Rock wouldn’t have butchered the production of the cat fight.

Metallica literally had no bass player during the recording of St. Anger and somehow the bass isn’t the worst part of the album.

The main riff of “Frantic” sounds like someone transcribed the notes a cat played when walking across a piano and gave it to a middle school student at his third guitar lesson.

By 2004, while on the tour for St. Anger, Metallica was only playing one to two songs from the album at shows. That’s not even a joke. The band didn’t even make it through the tour promoting St. Anger to disown St. Anger.

I’m not done.

The album was released five days early because the band was afraid it was leaked to file sharing services. I’m convinced they weren’t afraid of losing sales because of piracy but because nobody would buy it once they knew what it sounded like.

“St. Anger,” the title track, won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. …And Justice For All did not win a Grammy; it lost to a Jethro Tull album that the band didn’t even consider to be metal. This isn’t a burn on the album, I just wanted to point out that you should probably just forget the Grammys exist.

OK. Now I’m done.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at in case he comes up with more St. Anger insults later.

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