Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part X (a): #20-11

And now for the top 20... 10-1 will follow on Sunday, alongside a podcast.

20. Staind - 'It's Been a While'
(2001, #15, DL)

DL: This week's records are so bad that it's taken me a full two hours to even pluck up the courage to press play. Knowing what awaits me, the fact that I only have ten to write about at this point is more than merciful. Do one, you droning metal cunt.

AN: There’s something Tracy Chapman-esque about this. In a shit way. I don’t understand the spelling of Staind either. In fact most band names are really inappropriate aren’t they? Except for ones like Echo and the Bunnymen. They’re weird, but in a good way.

JG: As if to confirm the thick-skulled and utterly conservative underbelly lurking in the background of the adolescent squeal of nu-metal and all that surrounds it, it turns out that Aaron Lewis is a registered Republican. You can see this coming in the lyrics to this heinous piece of shit, in which Lewis mildly self-flagellates without once expressing any actual remorse to anyone who might have been hurt along the way. I’m sure Ayn Rand would approve.

TM: As part of a fine weekend spent chiefly at the local AV Festival, I witnessed The Caretaker sing in baritone an impassioned version of ‘The Lady in Red’, which bookended his show. It is impossible to imagine anyone essaying this plodding ‘nu-rock’ ballad with anything approaching vitality. A bald man washes his face and looks vaguely earnest, while I wish this was Michael Stipe or Matt Johnson. Staid!

19. Florence and the Machine - 'You've Got The Love'
(2009, #5, AN)

DL: I don't trust people whose signature records are cover versions. At Glastonbury 2010, the kooky one apparently gate-crashed the sets of a number of different artists to collaborate on further renditions of it outside of her own fucking set. Of course, the lack of musical intro means that you don't even get anything in the way of a warning before it infects your headspace. It's Candi Staton's, give it back.

AN: A strong candidate for my all-time least favourite tune. And here’s why. Firstly, FATM has done much harm to humanity. As a paragon of the present nadir of British popular culture – consumer decadence, poshness, commodified theatricality, apoliticism masquerading as marginal “kookiness” – she is all of the things that are shit about life right now. Not just shit in the common or garden variety sense of the term, but shit in the sense of actual worthless evil blocking the path of anything genuinely good ever again seeing the light of day.

Secondly, cover versions are generally not very worthwhile. That said, every once in a while a reworking or remix comes along that refracts the original in a way that is ingenious and creative, justifying the whole notion of recycling in pop. In 1997, The Now Voyagers remix of 'You've Got the Love' by The Source featuring Candi Staton provided an ingenious and creative reworking of a tune that had already been reworked as a house track in 1991. It was marvellous and I loved it. In the ensuing years, however, this version became such a staple of adverts and football highlights shows that I grew tired of hearing it. Then, as part of a wearisome noughties craze for half-arsed cover versions spearheaded by another unequivocally evil person, Jo Whiley, people began reworking it with alarming frequency. Among the terrible karaoke iterations were execrable versions by The Longcut and Joss Stone.

It was at this juncture that the wonderfully radical and avant-garde BRIT Critics Choice Award winner Florence and the Machine decided to take the daring creative risk of releasing her version of 'You've Got the Love'. Despite the fact that it was unimaginatively arranged and featured hackneyed, spectacularly off-key vocals, this version somehow became a kind of anthem for a country entering one of the darkest periods of its history, under a radical Tory administration that was only allowed to get away with its unequivocally evil programme of right-wing wealth redistribution to the rich because the mainstream British Left had long ago morphed into a tendency of do-nothing “liberals” whose definition of a counter-culture began and ended with the sort of reactionary, privileged, lifestyle aesthetic promulgated by Florence and the Machine.

Somewhere in the Outer Hebrides in late 2013, a teenage girl heard 'You've Got the Love' for the first time on Spotify and reacted with such instinctive hatred to this travesty of human potentiality that she decided to do something about it. And so she began to write music on her laptop that was daring and revolutionary and new, music that was filled with anger at the ways things were and hope about a more intelligent and socially meaningful future. Her music was the polar opposite of everything she had heard in Florence and the Machine. And it took the changing world by storm.

JG: Candi Staton’s original version of ‘You've Got the Love’ is a heartfelt gospel track about wrestling with issues of faith, self-belief and sacrifice. Florence Welch’s version is, by contrast, an absolute atrocity committed that sounds like an internship – jumping through the hoops required to showcase one’s abilities through free labour; all backed up with inherited wealth that excludes those from poorer backgrounds.

TM: Bland, bellowing flimflam; lacking any character or subtlety. The Source’s 1990 version did not need to be remade: it is Unité d'habitation besides this Barratt Home, which saps all life-force. The popularity of her work is mystifying – as is the supposed likeness to PJ Harvey, Bjork and such distinct female artists. It seems consumers will lap up any old gubbins if it contains the approved, showy display of vocal gymnastics.

You're not Kate Bush.
18. Katie Melua - 'Nine Million Bicycles'
(2005, #5, DL)

DL: Three minutes that epitomise perfectly why I will never, ever make the switch to Radio 2. Such a Poundland idea of Starbucks-friendly, continentally-tinged jazz-blues. There should have been some Cullum in here too. I'm taking this as a vote for Cullum's arse version of ‘Frontin’’ too. Embarrassing. Are those lyrics supposed to be meaningful? Hard to believe the man responsibie for 'Bright Eyes' was behind this. ‘Remember you're a Womble’ had more emotional nous.

AN: “No ideas beside the facts”, said William Carlos Williams, once upon a time. But I doubt very much that this obscenely vaporous work of aural pornography was what he had in mind. “There are nine million bicycles in Beijing / That’s just a fact”. No it’s not, it’s a terrible lyric slapped on top of a non-existent backing track.

JG: I think Mike Batt (who wrote this lightweight nonsense and who appeared earlier in this list) needs to understand the fast pace of economic development and therefore car ownership (and consequently declining rates of bicycle use) in Beijing. Therefore, Katie Melua was lying when she exclaimed that “I will always love you till I die.” Because she means that she will love you right up until the new Volvo showroom opens in Financial Street.

TM: From synthetic harp to cod-Gaelic flute: it’s Mike Batt Strikes Back! Misconceived attempt by the self-styled ‘pop maverick’ to write a ‘40s standard, with a half-arsed lyric that incredibly enough fails to scale the Cole Porter heights: "There are six billion people in the world / More or less / And it makes me feel quite small / But you’re the one I love the most of all." To exacerbate the crime, she also sang this list's #61 live with its author.

17. Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse - 'Valerie'
(2007, #2, AN)

DL: Not as bad as the plodding original but, Christ. Retro bollocks. A cover of an already-tired song in a tired style of four decades prior, voiced by a figure who unnecessarily and needlessly met her end in a typically tired and futile style. Retromania gone mad. And again, this reworking seems to have become her signature song too! Is it bad that I physically can no longer listen to these in their entirety? I had to turn that off to protect my own sanity.

AN: See above entry on FATM. The same goes. Amy Winehouse was quite simply a very mediocre cabaret singer.

JG: I don’t understand the reasoning here at all, taking a boring song that was barely a year old anyway and then reconfiguring it to sound like ersatz, horrid Motown-lite that get splayed in expensive bars. Except, of course, to claim ownership over it. Not that they were much cop themselves, but who even remembers The Zutons now?

TM: Doherty and Winehouse: their imprudent rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle oblivion was never worth the expenditure of time and column inches. Late ‘00s neo-soul was as backward and obstructive as its late ‘80s forefather. In the words of Spearmint, Say Something Else – or, just play the old Motown and Northern Soul greats and savour their immortal vivacity. Not the last we’ll see of the man Ronson, rather ominously.

16. Plain White T's - 'Hey There Delilah'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: There's a wealth of selections from the hit parade of 2007 here and rightly so. This emo-schmaltz is just as stomach-churning as anything Marty Wilde and Jess Conrad offered up to proceedings earlier on in the countdown. I might have to have a sick break. A lighters-in-the-air load of spaff not a million miles away from Green Day's 'Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)' and I fucking hated that with passions that I'd never unearthed previously too.

AN: Fascist-slick pop.

JG: I absolutely fucking hate this with its cloying sentimentality and disgusting earnestness. This isn’t really about a distance relationship. No, it’s about a fool claiming some sort of romantic ethic of self-sacrifice when all he’s doing is feeding his own narcissism and infuriating shallowness. Horrible band name too.

TM: Lacklustre, whiny stab at a sincere ballad which is more of a sales pitch than an explication of desire (“someday I’ll pay the bills with my guitar”). His persistently imbecilic rhymes would shame a primary school dabbler; he drizzles on and on and on, making Sarstedt seem like Neil Tennant. “My word is good”: no, it is paltry debris in the grand scheme. “Give this song another listen”? I’d rather have News International on my case.

"I'll be making history, as I do" - hubris, anyone?

15. Jessie J. - 'Price Tag'
(2011, #1, DL)

DL: This is becoming a harrowing experience. Can we all stop saying 'bling' now, in any context, ever? I've got tea cosies that have more genuine street cred than Jessie J. If only I knew something more pleasant was going to follow it.

AN: Stage school trash.

JG: There have been concerns raised on one forum that my continual harping on about the BRIT School is an unfair attack on the backgrounds of its alumni. Bollocks is it. BRIT School alumni are target marketed and PR trained to death to the point that any enigma, malevolence or genuine personality is sucked out of their careers and their focus group determined songs and ‘kooky’ personas. Maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit.

TM: Of course, it’s not about the price tag: it’s about the outstandingly innovative, socially engaged and unifying artistry of Jessie J! Nothing at all to do with the money, hype and vanity of BRIT-schooled Britain! This is like David Icke having a go at someone for being a conspiracy theorist. “Why is everyone so serious?” Because this alleged frivolity is a trite, insincere cover for more avarice and musical nullity?

14. James Blunt - 'You're Beautiful'
(2005, #1, TM)

DL: I liked it when mainstream singer-songwriters were exactly that before Oasis came along, ruined everything and enabled any given number of mop-headed buffoons to soothe us of all with their tepid acoustic sounds in the mistaken belief that what they were doing was in any way more credible than Paul Young, Chris De Burgh or Mick Hucknall. Although as a disclaimer he's always seemed an agreeable chap on the tellybox etc.

AN: James Blunt’s poshness and ex-army backstory was a sort of anomaly back in 2005 wasn’t it? Oh how we mocked him. Now that the charts are full of such twats, and the populace is drifting towards a worrying militaristic jingoism, the joke is very much on us. Fuck!

JG: Listen to those lyrics carefully: “I saw your face in a crowded place, and I don’t know what to do.” Isn’t there something quite dark and psychotic about that? Unfortunately, whatever strange anti-heroics might result from that obsessional idea are more than neutralised by Blunt’s appalling, sub-Gibb vocals and the overwhelming impression that he’s... well, a bit thick, to be honest.

TM: Ah, to some this man’s vocals may seem wondrous! To me they are a yelping chore. For the All-Music Guide his second album was ‘a step in the right direction for Blunt, a move toward love songs free of pretension’ – yes! His songs possessed Peter Hammill-esque levels of complexity before! In the week that Margaret Thatcher expressed regret that she ever went in politics maybe Blunt will express similar contrition for his ‘acoustic-tinged’ mixture of rock, pop and folk?

13. Kid Rock - 'All Summer Long'
(2008, #1!, DL)

DL: Yep. Just what I need right now. A knuckle-headed 'Sweet Home Alabama' re-appropriation. The more appalling and remorseless these monuments of despair become, the more stumped I feel. Is this comparable to an American 'The Day We Caught the Train' in its stupendously obvious sense of summer nostalgia?

AN: Another weird example of the karaoke craze. Like the product of an octogenarian record producer with Alzheimers who is recuperating by trying to remake a song he once heard in his youth, but which he keeps getting badly wrong.

JG: A kind of ‘Summer of ‘69’ for the iPhone generation that lazily loops its good-time-livin’ theme around Lynyrd Skynyrd. I suppose you can’t really argue with the fact that Kid Rock is ultimately self-made, given that he made six albums before anyone had even heard of him. Perhaps this shows us that the American Dream is one that is most effectively pursued by selling out to vapid consumerism.

TM: Dexys Midnight Runners used Warren Zevon’s ‘Werewolves inLondon’ riff rather brilliantly on their outstanding parting shot Don’t Stand Me Down. This bearded goon spoils it all by fusing it with ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, recording a smug video where he is surrounded by Baywatch ‘lovelies’ and offering his sundry reflections on those halcyon pre-internet days. ‘SHA’ expressed apathy about Watergate. This is an even more airheaded incitement to ennui.

12. P!nk - 'So What'
(2008, #8, DL)

DL: No, you're no more of a rock star than Bob Carolgees. Is she trying to be obnoxious? 'P!nk' has actually somehow regressed in terms of maturity over the years. If anyone genuinely thinks there's an ounce of real rebellion in this, then they deserve to listen to it on a never-ending loop. With melodies as aggravating as the lyrics wrapped around them, 'So What' is a stone cold slab of cold excrement.

AN: God, the weight of noughties awfulness is starting to turn my soul to ice again. Yes, I remember Pink. She was dreadful.

JG: This trend for self-referential pop music absolutely stinks. Tragically, when Pink asserts some kind of fuck-you independence, what she really means is that she’s still a rock star and therefore still making various anonymous Cowell-like figures very rich, thank you very much.

TM: Its lack of politesse isn’t the problem. It’s just an irritating, branded sort of ‘feisty’ – hardly the Waitresses, Princess Superstar or The Slits. “I am a rock star / I’ve got my rock moves” – what’s the betting that they are like Jagger? Still, while this is tommy-rot I don't hate it quite as much as ‘Every Beat of My Heart’, ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’, ‘No Charge’, ‘Darling Buds of May’ or indeed ‘Let’s Work’!

11. The Stereophonics - 'Have a Nice Day'
(2001, #5, TM)

DL: Well, I suppose if we can't have ‘American Idiot’ then a similar horror from a band who should have never been allowed to incorporate even the slightest element of politics into their music will suffice. 'Mr Writer', 'Pick a Part That's New', 'Just Lookin'... the choices were multiple. Even if you ignore the shoehorning of ill-informed cultural commentary into proceedings, the idea of people getting off on a banal, piss-poor nothing song about having a nice day is even fucking worse.

AN: Not very good. In all the wrong places.

JG: San Francisco. Home of Blue Cheer’s proto-metal howl, the biting sarcasm of the Dead Kennedys and playful avant garde types Matmos. The centre of US gay culture, with all of its erotic possibilities. But you wouldn’t think so from this turgid horse-spunk, in which Kelly Jones mopes around Pier 39 like a mildly hung-over Coldplay fan, before moaning about a greeting that is the equivalent of “alright, mate?” The wanker.

TM: Dear lord, this is a dismal, excessively played crock of codswallop. They were of the generation of bands who gradually moved into complacent, cowed, crowd-pleasing vagueness and yachting affluence - as featured in the sickening video. The best that can be said is that the lyric contains traces of self-diagnosis: '"We’re going wrong / We’ve become all the same"' "It’s all money gum /No artists anymore". Its title’s deadening customer-service imperative sums up the prevailing sense of cash-till tedium.

And now for Baywatch, guest starring a cheeky, rasping voiced Welsh chappie

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part IX: #40-21

From 40-1, we have increased the permitted character-limit to 500 (I said 400 initially, but that was just aspirational... like fairness is for George Osborne). 

20-11 will follow next Tuesday. 10-1 will then be posted on the following Sunday evening in old-style BBC Radio 1 manner: to be accompanied by a podcast, counting down the top 40 with further discussion to round up the whole exhaustively partial project.

I also request a readers' list... While we have been slated on certain limited internet fora, there has been a heartening understanding from people I know in 'real life'. What do you want to see in the Top 20? Please post below or email me at: mysteryofthefence@googlemail.com

40. Mumford and Sons - 'The Cave'
(2009, #24, DL)

DL: One of the most irksome things about this funny banjo combo is that there’s music of this ilk around all the time, albeit in mostly superior form, but rather than dig for it (and with Spotify, 6Music, YouTube there really is no excuse) the general populace would rather wait to be spoon-fed it via the aisles of Tesco and heavy rotation. You’ll also find that it’s always the BBC taking the risk with such acts first before the commercial stations latch on to the burgeoning popularity of the artists, and reap the rewards. The tune itself: typically earnest annoyance with pastoral tinge, for festivals David Cameron would attend.

AN: After all is said and done (and indeed I have said quite a lot about these chumps), this is just a really flat, facile, weak tune.

JG: A divisive choice, this. Mumford and Sons have plenty of fans who see in them the same spirit as US folk rock contemporaries like Grizzly Bear and Songs: Ohia. But it is a fine line between there and Daniel Powter harping on about a bad day. And 'The Cave' is far too polished to have any real rustic charm. I don’t think it’s quite bad enough to be #40 on this list, though.

TM: The lyric is full of the ‘right’ signifiers and vague allusions but contains little discernible meaning. Their studied authenticity – ‘corporate-trad’ in Alex’s words – endears them to the most casual of music fans. Theirs is a ‘freedom’ that won’t rock or indeed float any boats, other than at country residences of Cleggs, Camerons and Fearnley-Whittingstalls.

39. Eric Clapton - 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot'
(1975, #19, TM)

DL: Ironic reggae grooves from the man who a year later drunkenly roused an audience thusly: "This is England, this is a white country, we don't want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don't want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards". Rather more than a simple slip of the tongue there. I think China Black’s version of a terminally dull standard might have actually been better.

AN: Sheesh. If they ever change the national anthem I really fucking hope they pick 'Jerusalem' instead of this.

JG: Has there ever been a more offensive pilfering of someone else’s entire musical culture than this? Clapton puts on a vile half-creole accent, reduces the volume of the bass (this being the entire point of reggae) and displays as much enthusiasm for his subject as only a wealthy anti-immigrant coke-addled cunt can. Still, 'Police and Thieves' was only 18 months away.

TM: Offensively wimpy reggae-lite from the not-God he. Whether beery rugger sing-along or earnest spiritual, I cannot say I am enamoured of the song – but Clapton’s sleepwalking version takes it to new levels of drear desultoriness. Also, recall his comments in 1976 praising Enoch Powell, which emphasised the need for ‘Rock Against Racism’. Why was this recorded?
 38. Puddle of Mudd - 'Control'
(2002, #15, JG)

DL: Really was hoping that ‘She Hates Me’ would be P.O.M’s representation on the countdown, but yes, Nirvana really were responsible for some terrible bands. Gormless macho dirge so typical of what we once knew as nu-metal. Why do the lyrics have to be so childishly self-centred and brainless? Inarticulate, monotonous and whiningly adolescent.

AN: Hilarious!

JG: Second only to the dreaded Nickelback in terms of converting grunge signifiers into hyper-masculine cock rock, this is complete rat wank. Don’t they have electric chairs for this sort of thing?

TM: “Dude. Seriously... Bro.” Forgo the familiarity, fellers; your sort of predictable row makes Metallica sound like King Crimson. This possesses the sort of distinctively unappetising raunchiness that only lunkheaded pseudo-metal can quite evoke.

37. Bell and Spurling - 'Sven Sven Sven'
(2001, #7, RC)

DL: We’ve covered a lot of ground on the novelty football record front even without recalling the Embrace one, but this is certainly one of the worst. What is this unwritten law that when football and music come together, the results have to be cretinous? Who bought this, the lobotomised? It’s not just a bit of fun, it’s like holding up a mirror to the image of the national game. Who gave a fuck that he was from Sweden?

AN: This is – almost – defensible on grounds of sheer surrealism.

JG: 400 characters to spunk away on this? Jesus wept. Well, the fact that shit like this gets written after one anomalous thrashing of Germany perhaps says something about the general mental insecurities of the lad types that this cynical toss was clearly intended to appeal to. Plus, “don’t forget that he’s from Sweden?” Well, that McClaren chap from England did so much better, didn’t he?

TM: Jonathan Pearce’s stupid, partisan tones set the tone. His annoyingly bullish shrieks accompany the ‘comic’ gloating of Bell and Spurling, who sang at celebrity parties for such Worst 200 Songs perennials as Rod Stewart and Simon Cowell and went on to guest on Talk Sport. The diminishing chart returns of ‘We’re All Having a Darius Vassell Party (It’s Gonna Be Awesome)’ are not surprising – it reached #143. The success of this moronic, xenophobic tripe is a national disgrace.

36. WWF Superstars - 'Slam Jam'
(1992, #4, RC)

DL: I’m as happy to note the continuing presence of American macho bullshit in our chart as I was to oversee the numerous highly placed, phony landfill indie bands dominating last week’s chapter. Although I’m in trouble in the morning when the landlord sees this.

AN: A straight steal from Michael Jackson’s 'Black or White'; furthermore, a sly co-option of African American music as a whole (hip-hop specifically); furthermore: a total fucking travesty.

JG: There really is nothing to say about this early example of song-as-marketing. So I’ll simply note that one of my favourite episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm sees Larry David upset the sons of WWF wrestler Thor by informing them that wrestling is fake, not real. Jeff then gets caught letting down Thor’s tyres, resulting in an off-screen beating. Magnificent.

TM: This is musically clattering – about as subtle as WWF Wrestling itself but lacking any of the melodramatic absurdity which made it inevitably reliable kiddie-fodder. It is a dire sludge of synthetic percussion and horns, appended with unwelcome “whoah-oh-oh”s and random sampled catchphrases from the rogue’s gallery of wrestlers.

 35. Michael Jackson - 'Heal the World'
(1992, #2, RC)

DL: I don’t think I nominated a single record from between 1987 – 1992 because I have a sycophantic devotion to almost all chart music released between those years, and was easily impressionable, too, at the time. However, bugger me sideways if this saccharine delight wasn’t the gateway song that led to the ‘facepalm’ borderline blasphemy Brits performance of 1996, perfectly punctured by Cocker’s arse.

AN: I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone try to defend this, though I haven’t read that Zero book yet, shamefully.

JG: It’s just too depressing, isn’t it? The most gifted musical performer of his time reduced to trite, childish nonsense like this. It’s as though Jackson had come to believe his own mega-maniacal myth as a magical figure able to transform the world to his liking with the click of a finger. No wonder he was reduced to sulking that 'They Don’t Care About Us' a few short years later.

TM: ‘We are the World’ Part II, but more omnipresent for me, being ten when it was released. The undeniable melancholy inherent in his naivety and isolation does not negate the malign influence of this slice of Disney pop. Alex’s point about liberal megastars holds here: vigorous protestations of caring can hide a terrifying void. There isn’t just one key change, but two.

 34. Razorlight - 'America'
(2006, #1, DL)

DL: "There’s nothing on the TV, nothing on the radio that I can BE-LIIIIEEEVE IN!" ‘Cynically Courting A Radio Hit In) America’ was thankfully the only chart-topper from Johnny Borrell’s Boomtown Rats tribute band whose long-threatened comeback is yet to come to fruition.

AN: Hmm, tricky. For some reason, despite being a die-hard Razorlight hater, and despite the fact that this is obviously risible, I have a soft spot for it. It somehow came along at the right time, and I quite like melodic, reverby guitar lines. Sincere apologies.

JG: Lunk-headed, appallingly crass attempt to break the country of the same name with FM-friendly Strokes-lite bollocks. Hardly 'I’m So Bored with the USA' is it? Having lost their committed early audience through sell-out nonsense like this, Razorlight have since quite rightly faded into complete obscurity.

TM: Infamously rubbish, but is that just in our circles? Maybe Borrell is regarded as a key player, a latter-day Lennon or Dylan; if so, we are doomed. Current British musicians never ‘get’ the concept of America right, always reducing it to simplistic and demeaning symbols. “There’s nothing on the TV, nothing on the radio means that much to me” – especially this sort of unmitigated shite.

 33. DJ Otzi - 'Hey Baby (Uuh, Aah)'
(2001, #1, DL)

DL: Not quite football-related, but was re-recorded a year later with the lyrics altered 'appropriately'. We really do seem to be approaching whole new levels of mindbending gormlessness as we progress towards records we happen to see less and less merit in. Can I be arsed to bring up the ‘of course it’s fucking subjective’ disclaimer again? No. When I say "if you don’t like it, don’t read it", there’s probably a heavy irony in there I’m deeply proud of.

AN: Even though this was released at the peak of my teenage “poptimist” phase, I still thought it was one of the worst pieces of music I’d ever heard, and still think so.

JG: This is simply appalling and it isn’t even worth the effort of writing anything witty about it.

TM: The epitome of a lowest common denominator dance track. That’s why it isn’t quite as objectionable as the dross that surrounds it in this week’s list: while this is as guileless as it gets, such dance tracks are at least relatively harmless.

32. JJ Barrie - 'No Charge'
(1976, #1, RC)

DL: How the fatherfuck did this get to Number One? Apparently a country music staple documenting the unconditional love and altruism offered up by a mother in comparison to a supposed invoice sent to her by her son for performing various tasks. I feel the need to charge after three and a half minutes of that.

AN: Fuck, there’s something incredibly sinister about the lecherous Noel Edmonds in the intro to this. On the other hand, isn’t the song itself actually quite a cogent critique of capitalist exchange value?

JG: I would have preferred this song a little more if, instead of the boy welling up with schmaltzy tears at the end, he simply turned around and went “fuckin’ cough up man, will yer?” in a North Tees accent. At least it would have been amusing, rather than turgid.

TM: This was claimed by wrongheaded ‘Blue Labour’ types to represent the more social-democratic ’70s. This smug, insincere profession of warm-heartedness – “Great big ol’ tears in his eyes” – is as ‘socialist’ as Pat Robertson or Rick Santorum. “And, when y’ add it all up”, it is even more sickeningly cloying than the Paul Anka track we slated a couple of weeks back. If the sentiment was genuine, then why wasn’t it released without charge?

31. Shayne Ward - 'That's My Goal'
(2005, #1, TM)

DL: I’d yet to be sucked in to the Cunt Contest by this point (that came a year later through the ill-fated scenario of a Saturday night in and little else to do, so I missed this the first time round). I’m not even entirely sure that the standard winner’s single has improved since they started releasing covers. Actually Little Mix doing ‘Cannonball’ is maybe akin to having your entire being cleansed if you play it after this terrible, terrible record. These things are so identikit now that the plodding, inspirational ballad is almost beyond parody. But did it have a key change? I’m not listening to it again to find out.

AN: Bland dross. Not worth more than ten words of commentary.

JG: Is it just me or does this kind of overblown shite just get worse as time goes by? Ward sounds like he’s distracted by something as he sings, e.g. a pigeon having a shit on someone’s head, and the production is as low rent as a cardboard box. At least when people like Mariah Carey were doing this sort of thing it had a modicum of class and airiness about it, whatever else.

TM: Last Thursday, amid an epic pub-quiz triumph, a friend claimed to quite like ‘No U Hang Up’ as it was “slick”. Each to their own. I would be gobsmacked if anyone in 2012 finds this other than draining and dull. Yes, the key change is present; the "story", the "journey" and the "the heart and soul" are all gallingly correct. Go on lad; sing yet another culturally suffocating Cowellite ballad in return for a transient pat on the head. Desist British public; stop the rot.

30. R. Kelly - 'I Believe I Can Fly'
(1997, #1, TM)

DL: Isn’t it strange how the more I’m subjected to these apparently all-encompassing inspirational ballads, the more crushed and powerless I feel?

AN: A career lowlight for a man who has latterly become cool among hipsters, largely because he allows them to revisit with impunity the macho puerility of adolescence.

JG: That line at the start where R. Kelly sings about once feeling unable to go on – I don’t believe R. Kelly has ever felt like that. Plus the lyrics are back in 'Search for the Hero' mode again. Music for Emma Harrison’s theft of taxpayers’ money. I know I’ve used that line before but it bears repeating. Endlessly.

TM: This one is one of the first pop songs to have truly rankled with me. Why was the 1990s so hospitable to the chest-beating, self-motivational ballad? Something to do with ‘The End of History’; the move inwards from Reaganite bombast to Clintonian self-glorification? Gospel choir, key change, piss-easy rhymes and the teeth-grinding melisma of an utter exhibitionist: aye, it’s an R. Kelly ballad that’s worse than that infernal remix.

29. Geri Halliwell - 'Lift Me Up'
(1999, #1, TM)

DL: See #30. Utter blankness fills my ears.

AN: Geri Halliwell is an awful human being; really really horrible on every level. And unlike all of the other Spice Girls, she didn’t make a single even half-good record.

JG: Ginger Spice’s opening gambit in a failed attempt to be taken seriously as a sophisticated artist. Who the hell even remembers this today, let alone takes it seriously?

TM: There is a lot to be said for the initial Spice Girls singles, even if they were never as effortlessly brilliant as the All Saints. This is just tiring in its generically uplifting manner – even more so in the context of this week’s selection of lumbering ballads. Ah, and my best friend Mr Key Change... hello sirrah, pull up chair! MAKE IT STOP, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

28. The Supernaturals - 'Smile'
(1997, #23, TM)

DL: Perhaps the ‘Chelsea Dagger’ of the nineties. Possesses the entire opposite of its desired effect on this tired mind.

AN: Death of Britpop. Good riddance, certainly in this instance.

JG: Another pub-rock band with money hurled at them in the dark days of Britpop. The message here is no less trite self-help nonsense than M People. Hmmm, there’s a bit of theme emerging here. The worst songs are the ones in which we are all implored to keep calm and carry on.

TM: Joy unconfined: the Britpop hobby-horse hurtles into view! There’s an idiot grin on the face of the rider, who’s got that faraway, ‘am-I-being-ironic-here?’ look in his eyes. There is an inept Beach Boys pastiche unnecessary in the era of the Wondermints and the High Llamas. Emblematic of TFI Friday ‘pop’, which was so rightfully skewered by Luke Haines in his memoir Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall.

27. Jessie J. - 'Who's Laughing Now'
(2011, #16, TM)

DL: Needs to be watched with its accompanying video to be ‘enjoyed’ fully. Neurotic, moaning shite from the least authentic popstar of our age. Should have aged considerably well by the time YouTube is something we’re telling our grandchildren about. ‘Wa-bucca-wa-wa-bucca…’. I can genuinely say that bit in particular fucking riles me senseless. ‘Look at me now’ is a theme I’d like to blacklisted from popular music.

AN: Isn’t Jessie J sort of credible in some quarters? I’m puzzled as to why this is the case. Mechanised corporate stage-school evil.

JG: Yes, one can indeed shirk off one’s childhood tormentors when one has money hurled in one’s direction after being classmates with Adele at the BRIT School and have major entertainment companies queuing outside your front door. Frankly, this is a grievous insult to anyone who struggles with self-esteem issues.

TM: This song effortlessly defines maddening: from its ‘beat-box’ vocalising at the start to the unearned schadenfreude of the chorus. Ugh, and what of the verse with Ms. J’s vocals vacillating between sub-Lily Allen panto-cockney – “Let the haters HA-ATE!” and slick ‘soulfulness’? This is a barren calculation straight out of the BRIT School manual and a timorous low-ebb in the annals of British pop music.

 26. Kasabian - 'L.S.F.'
(2004, #10, DL)

DL: Speaking of inauthenticity, this pseudo-Madchester nonsense has never won me over. Similarly to the legacy of Cobain, Ian Brown’s swagger and bravado has been re-appropriated by numerous goons over the years, with his intelligence and mystique side-stepped for an extra layer of inane lairiness that they’ve picked up from Liam fucking Gallagher. Utterly meaningless and, even when I watched them play a small gig for free in 2004, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t connect at all.

AN: Again, apologies, but this is the only tune I like by an otherwise irredeemable band. I just think that keyboard sample is pretty magic.

JG: Amazingly, Kasabian are like an even shitter version of the Lo-Fidelity Allstars, and the first incarnation was quite shit enough, thank you. Laughably, the opening lines to 'L.S.F.' directly pilfer the riff from The Beach Boys’ 'Kokomo'. That’s 'Kokomo', not 'Caroline No'. What an absolute shambles.

TM: “Step on it, ‘lectronic!” This foolery is akin to a lobotomised fusion of Primal Scream and the Stone Roses. There is a horribly obvious lift from ‘Once in a Lifetime’ at the start, beyond-banal ‘1960s’ organ and references to a “polyphonic prostitute” and tiresome drug chic. “Messiah for the animals”; Eric Burdon you most certainly are not. I am not necessarily any great shakes in the well-adjusted human stakes, but this lot are clearly unspeakable.

25. Ed Sheeran - 'You Need Me, I Don't Need You'
(2011, #4, DL)

DL: Isn’t Ed edgy? Not only did he not go to [you guessed it - ed] BRIT School, he sleeps on a couch. And his hero’s the defiantly Blunt-lite Damien Rice. All of this speaks volumes of uncompromising grit to me. Only it’s completely safe, pedestrian and embraced by the Brit establishment. Funny how he gladly accepted their accolades...

AN: Don’t worry friends: they shall not pass.

JG: If there’s one thing worse than manufactured pop, it’s singer-songwriters churning out self-valedictory toss about having written their own songs. Still, at least it’s not 'The A Team'.

TM: This chancer’s mug materialised on the 2011 Christmas Day TOTP and my brother’s withering expression said it all. This makes one nostalgic for the days of Craig David or Daniel Bedingfield. It is musically overly busy, prattling and trite in its name-checking of the greats of cutting-edge urban music: erm, Damien Rice... If this lad’s our brightest new hope, we’re fucked.

24. U2 - 'Elevation'
(2001, #3, TM)

DL: We’ve had U2 already of course, and this is to ‘With Or Without You’ and ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ what Heron Foods is to Waitrose. By this point, the magic had been absent from events for a full decade. Workmanlike and annoyingly ordinary.

AN: It makes me feel sick that U2 can get away with so much artistically and ethically pernicious bullshit and they still think they’re in some way a force for moral good. Somewhere therein is a parable of the root of all injustice.

JG: Rather than a mole digging up Bono’s soul, I’d rather it dug out U2’s tax receipts and published them so we can see just how far these earnest NGO-hijacking tits are squirrelling away.

TM: “A mole digging in a hole!” While they have made some good music, U2 are ultimately symbolic of their nation’s sub-prime ‘Celtic Tiger’ phase: globalisation run amok. Each album contains laughable silage like this that makes a mockery of ‘quality control’. This is a breathtakingly clunky turkey, and that’s being unkind to our friends in the Meleagris genus. As Yeats once stated: ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone’. No U2-helmed “EX-CA-VA-TION!” please.

23. Travie McCoy feat. Bruno Mars - 'Billionaire'
(2010, #1, DL)

DL: Can’t believe we’ve got all the way up to #23 and we’re only experiencing the first appearance of Mr Mars, whose entire recorded solo output seems to have been penned from the hand of a particularly creepy stalker. I can’t say whether records like this make me feel older or simply less American.

AN: Yet another good call Dave. Definitely one of the worst tunes of all time. I would be happy to have this in the top (bottom?) 5, actually.

JG: When Christopher Lasch wrote his thesis The Culture of Narcissism not even he could have imagined that, thirty years on, he would be proven as right as this psychotic wank. Plus, Bruno Mars’s shit beard and beenie hat makes my blood boil so much I can hear the bubbles.

TM: ‘Cos that’s all it’s about for the majority of people: an unrealisable dream of riches, Forbes magazine covers and Angelina on tap. I don’t believe this is genuinely the case – I just hope we’d have less evidence to the contrary, like the success of this ghastly avaricious bauble.

 22. Limp Bizkit - 'Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle)'
(2001, #1, DL)

DL: There really was some appalling heavy rock music bridging the gap between the death of Britpop and emergence of The Strokes. Maybe records that completely infuriate you are indescribably hideous for a reason, leaving normally coherent commentators with little else to offer than Tourette’s-esque outpourings of cultural dismay.

AN: I don’t have any strong feelings about this. Turgid misogyny.

JG: This is utterly contemptible and I’m surprised it’s outside the Top 20. Fred Durst’s cynical and knowingly adolescent toy-throwing in all its horrible, detestable “glory”. One of the few times I’ve thought the patronising phrase “grow up” justified.

TM: “Old school soldiers”. Durst claims to have liked The Smiths and The Cure in his youth; his music bears absolutely none of their sensitive imprint. Instead, this is all too easy to imagine being used in Guantanamo Bay to torture prisoners in the name of freedom. This is knuckle-headed macho rock ripe for military appropriation; as Groucho Marx said, military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.

21. Chris De Burgh - 'The Lady in Red'
(1986, #1, DL)

DL: Basically the mid-eighties equivalent of a Scouting For Girls hit, without the embarrassing attempts at cheeky irony. Stomach-churning, though people have released similar guff under a thin veil of ‘credibility’ and that’s very worrying indeed.

AN: Ha, I wondered when this was going to crop up. A good old-fashioned absolutely fucking shit tune!

JG: Music for bastards who own big yachts. And that is all.

TM: Equally tortuous, though not as aurally assaulting as #22. Who would have thought that Chris De Burgh could ever constitute a comparative relief? Nah, this is an irredeemable decimation of the ‘singer-songwriter’ ideal. “Cheek to cheek” is justly derided. His straining vocals jettison all subtlety and the backing track is music for airports that not even JG Ballard could imbue with alluring weirdness.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part VIII: #60-41

The lateness of this week's comments is due to, well, life. John was away at All Tomorrow's Parties over the weekend. I was with friends at Richard Herring's performance at the Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle last evening. Herring was a quick-fire and yet subtly wise presence, considering the subject of love and relationships with a carefully balanced dichotomy between the realist's scathing cynicism and the humanist's warm romanticism.

60. The Automatic - 'Monster'
(2006, #4, DL)

DL: 'Wacky' wank. If there is to be a resurgence in charting UK guitar music, you can guarantee that it would be even more banal than this. How does anyone relate to this song? Daft shouty boy is icing on cake.

AN: Another tune that reminds me of Justin Lee Collins, Hollyoaks, and the mid-noughties nadir of human existence

JG: The whole “Britpop II” thing really was a waste of everyone’s time, wasn’t it?

TM: Overhyped ‘zaniness’ from these ‘indie’ paddlers down the mainstream, as expressed in the tiresome video. Such dumb, meaningless lyrics: the human brain’s demise “through misuse, through misuse”.

59. Marty Wilde - 'Donna'
(1959, #3, RC)

DL: Standard late-1950s schmaltz of the type that must be on its way to extinction as generations die away. With a bit of luck Radio 2 might be listenable by the time I get to 65. This old 45 can do one.

AN: In a few isolated cases, the attempt to make something that will sell results in pop genius. More often, sadly, it results in hollow pastiche. This epitomises the latter trend.

JG: What a load of crooning toss. It’s shameful that the raw energy of rock and roll ended up in schmaltzy rubbish like this. No wonder The British Invasion bands sounded like the second coming.

TM: Lachrymose crooning without an ounce of sincerity from the South Londoner who took his stage first-name from the Paddy Chayefsky-scripted film. However, he did write ‘Jesamine’ and spawned Kim.

58. Shayne Ward - 'No U Hang Up'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: Don't want to say too much as I hear his family can be a bit tasty but this reminds me of baltic mornings at HMV York, Xmas 2007 in just a t-shirt, alternated with 'Bleeding Love' on constant rotation.

AN: One of the ways that the whole X Factor thing has become so terrifyingly hegemonic is that it’s so difficult to critique. I mean, there’s just nothing there is there? Strikingly similar to the Marty Wilde in that sense.

JG: Is this just about those 090 numbers I see advertised in the back pages of tabloids? I hope so.

TM: Smug emoting from this designer slap-head, with a video that verges on soft-porn. Unappealing in its self-satisfied solipsism; take your “No U Hang Up kind of love” and learn some basic humanity.

57. Elton John & Kiki Dee - 'True Love'
(1993, #2, RC)

DL: Funny how you don't hear this as often as 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart'. Elton is one of those tabloid aristocrats who has actually composed a number of agreeable mainstays, but this makes ears vomit.

AN: Increasingly, I think it’s not really the right-wing idiots that make the world such an awful place but the wealthy liberals who grow fat on exploitation while making blasé gestures at philanthropy and bien pensant post-sixties ethics. Or, put another way, Elton John is a cunt.

JG: Amazing to think that in the 1970s Elton John was an outré, exciting performer responsible for such great songs as 'Benny and the Jets'. In contrast, 'True Love' is little more than the sound of a bulge spreading around a middle-aged belly.

TM: For me, one of this list’s most heinous ballads. A Casio aided and key-change abetted mass of treacly, saccharine ghastliness. Two old pros grandstand, with little enthusiasm and nothing to say.

56. Eiffel 65 - 'Blue (Da Ba Dee)'
(1999, #1, DL)

DL: The late 1990s really were a miserable time for me, and like The Mavericks, revisiting this leaves me profoundly gloomy. Just tacky. No redeeming features. I think the 90s just ran out of steam by the end.

AN: Quite enjoyed this at the time purely because it’s so fucking weird. Hallucinatory Euro dalek pop. Its release did coincide with some teenage experiments with magic mushrooms, which might have had something to do with it.

JG: Remember when the KLF wrote that book about how to become a star? You can hear the embers churning about the breeze right here.

TM: Can’t be worse than #57, but: a rare piece of less than enjoyable euro-pop. It possesses a certifiably exasperating tune and a total blankness – from the shell-suited singer to the animation.

55. Wet Wet Wet - 'Love is all Around'
(1994, #1, DL)

DL: Luckily, the '00s gave us far superior long-standing chart toppers ('Crazy', 'Umbrella') to the 1990s. Jarvis's 'I hate Wet Wet Wet' TOTP message was the perfect gesture. No wonder people fell for Oasis.

AN: Yeah this is shit. Everyone knows why. It took people longer to realise that Richard Curtis was even more insidious as a cultural influence though, eh?

JG: Number 1 for about a year in 1994. Here, the latent promise of love as widespread agora in The Troggs’ original version is converted into atomised, individualised ideals of love as saccharine shite.

TM: Even in 1994, this sounded like greasy hands in the till: life seeping out of the culture. This milking of a so-so ‘60s ballad paved the way for more inane film tie-ins and the worst boy-band tendencies.

54. Eamon - 'Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)'
(2004, #1, DL)

DL: Struggling to get to the end of these tracks now. What an awful, pitiful and misogynist strop of a record. However, the week when Morrissey propped up not only this but its answer record too was quite a moment. Fuck this.

AN: An empty hook amid nasty noughties misogyny.

JG: Supposedly, this song was released as a kind of “twist” on the usual teen break-up nonsense. That’ll be the kind of “twist” that made Bruce Willis a ghost in The Sixth Sense when we all saw it coming from the opening frame.

TM: This whiny railing against his ‘hoe’ exemplified the bitter, mean-spirited mood of the early 2000s. The emotion seems staged and calculated, as in Frankee’s infamously egregious ‘answer’ record.

53. Phil Collins - 'Groovy Kind of Love'
(1988, #1, RC)

DL: Deep down, I know this is a terrible record yet I can't help but cite a fondness for it. On the other hand, no, I can't even enjoy this nostalgically. Has there ever been a less glamourous pop star? "I'm talking nonce sense".

AN: Proto-Westlife dross. How did he get away with this?

JG: There is just something about Phil Collins’s late 1980s output that makes my blood boil and I don’t even know what. Maybe it’s just fundamentally infuriating in every conceivable way.

TM: A reasonably charming ‘60s hit is premeditatedly, ruthlessly slain by Collins, a man who exemplified ‘80s efficiency and selfishness as much as The Beatles summed up ‘60s egalitarianism and openness.

52. Hughie Green - 'Stand Up and Be Counted'
(1977, did not chart, TM)

DL: Hateful and sinister right-wing patriotic spoken word horror from a fucking game show host. No wonder Paula Yates was so saddened to learn that he fathered her. Yep, this is terrifying. Not rousing, but spooky and extremely unnerving.

AN: Actually scratch what I said about the liberals. The right-wing cunts are obviously slightly more blame-worthy.

JG: A man approaching pension age (and who hid in the Canadian Air Force during WW2 like Zilly from Catch the Pigeon) self-pityingly decries the end of empire as though his flaccid little ego depended on it. A 1970s antecedent of the execrable Noel’s HQ.

TM: Portentous, mean-spirited poppycock from the talent-show host with right-wing delusions of  grandeur. "The will to win"! Like Portillo in SAS mode; mere Mosleyite demagoguery flanked by grim choir and strings.

51. Jonathan King - 'The True Story of Harold Shipman'
(2007, album track; did not chart - surprisingly!, TM)

DL: Even scarier than #52. It was bad enough listening to this when the nominations began so I don't think I can repeat the experience. I would imagine that the full opera is quite amusing in the wrongest sense possible. Had to be in.

AN: By god, sometimes the sheer weight of sinister shit in the world really gets me down.

JG: Jonathan King’s effort to implore us all to treat media caricatures with scepticism might have won more favour had it not attempted to rehabilitate a man who killed dozens of his patients in cold blood in the process.

TM: There is much scope for a song to critique media sensationalism. The vile King is manifestly not the man to record it, as this pitiful effort attests. Simply abysmal, as well as crass.

50. Eric Clapton - 'Wonderful Tonight'
(1977, #30 - live, 1991, DL)

DL: I'm all for sincere musical declarations of love to your chosen figure of obsession, but fuck me if this isn't unbearably gooey. He's as boring as shit anyway at the best of times, the acoustic 'Layla' being a lifeless drag too. Get a room.

AN: Good call Dave. Can’t understand people who like this. It’s odd that Clapton became so terrible though, isn’t it? People of a certain age regard him in the same bracket as Hendrix. Which makes me wonder: is death the only escape from capitalism?

JG: Millionaire anti-immigrant bore tells us all about the great shags he reckons he’s getting. Well thank you and fuck off!

TM: Clapton sleepwalks through this ballad which makes Knopfler sound animated. There is nothing of interest in this: just a dull, complacent riff and soft chords with barely any musical variation at all.

"CLAPTON IS GOD" - or just a millionaire in a suit?

49. Athlete - 'You Got the Style'
(2002, #37, DL)

DL: Sub-Coldplay. How can a song about rioting sound so safe and conceited? And how many will have picked upon the subject matter, rather than thinking it's simply a cosy song about nice weather?

AN: I quite like 'Wires' by Athlete.

JG: Why the hell were Athlete so popular? This is awful, plodding nonsense that pre-empts no-marks like Orson and The Feeling as much as anyone else. For an indie band, that’s scandalous.

TM: Student-friendly ‘indie’ from 2002 defines forgettable. I preferred Lemon Jelly, Junior Senior and Tweet. This Athlete tune is far from hateful, but is evidence of how little we’ll settle for.

48. The Kooks - 'Ooh La'
(2006, #20, DL)

DL: So pleasing to see so much dreadful bland 'indie' in the upper reaches of the chart. Fake Scouse accents, Brit School background, sub-Britpop backwards-looking bullshit. 'Pretty, pretty, petti-coat'. FUCK OFF.

AN: The most inexplicable thing about The Kooks – and there were many – was the guy’s accent. It’s fake Scouse isn’t it? I can think of no real explanation for this.

JG: As with Kula Shaker before them, and The Vaccines later, The Kooks are just an Etonian idea of what indie music ought to be – gelded, depoliticised and “nudging” the masses toward a life of diligent consumption.

TM: “Your pretty, pretty petticoat”. A John Power lookalike advances words that are vague, presumptuous and puzzlingly smug: empty Hollywood references thrown around like so much hollow tinsel.

47. Jess Conrad - 'Mystery Girl' 
(1961, #18, RC)

DL: Conrad's beige and sickening pop ditty may be as edgy as Daniel O'Donnell, but by all accounts he was something of a fearsome psychopath in his day, not only biting chunks out of his rivals' faces, but even threatening to chop Frankie Howerd's ears off. What a nice man.

AN: Similar to the Marty Wilde. The English Establishment attempting to negate and twee-ify the counterculture before it was even born.

JG: Number 47?! This isn’t that bad, surely?

TM: Much to their credit, the British public preferred ‘Johnny Remember Me’. A cantering, innocuously dim bauble of a track; cut-price teddy-boys surely swaggered. The last pre-1970s entry: deeply resistible.

46. Kula Shaker - 'Mystical Machine Gun'
(1999, #14, TM)

DL: The accompanying TFI Friday performance was akin to experiencing the last dying whimper of Britpop. This was at a time when the key players of that movement found their popularity had crumbled seemingly overnight. Pretentious yet hilarious self-indulgent drone.

AN: Funnybad.

JG: This is just a re-working of 'Spaceman' by Babylon Zoo, except it’s worse. Imagine that. Utterly vacuous shite.

TM: Utterly misbegotten and ponderous grand-folly churned out by Mills & Co in their twilight. 346 seconds of pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo that even that crazed shyster L. Ron Hubbard would find fanciful.

“Open up forget your life, breathe in breathe out retain a sense of suicide / Are you glad to see how far you’ve come? / You’re a wizard in a blizzard / A mystical machine gun”?

45. The Feeling - 'Never Be Lonely'
(2007, #9, DL)

DL: "B-b-b-b-b-b-b-baby, I think I'm going c-c-c-crazy". I'd like to hear you defend that. On the other hand, it's practically Modeselektor when compared to the works of similar offenders Scouting for Girls.

AN: The rundown this week is making me depressed. At least in previous weeks I was heartened by the tunes I quite liked. Eiffel 65 is the best we’ve got this time around.

JG: This (and Adele, and Jessie J, and The Kooks) is what the BRIT School churns out. One institution, degrading our aural culture like a great whirling piece of Ideological State Apparatus. “Consume, do not think.”

TM: Mika might have been an even surer bet, but this is an absurdly successful fusion of Supertramp, Macca and The Rembrandts, crowned with a glib sentiment. Why accept this, when we have Hot Chip?

44. Scouting For Girls - 'Elvis Ain't Dead'
(2007, #8, TM)

DL: I've spent five years trying and failing to put the anger awoken in me courtesy of this trio into words. After this, you could never use the word 'indie' to describe a style of music again. "Elvis has left the building!" A pathetic example of popular song.

AN: On the other hand, I’m glad we’re now getting a preponderance of recent excrement. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the members of SfG in the future. Actually, no it won’t.

JG: Actually, I can relate quite well to that line of “I wish it was me you chose.” It’s rawer than anything else this shower have achieved. Naturally, the mood is then killed off with a completely nonsensical reference to Elvis being alive.

TM: More tin-pot ‘70s theft in those keyboards. I slated this over four years ago, and have no reason to change my mind now; sadly, SFG have yet to leave the building. Yes he is dead, you Ruislip fuckwit!

43. The Stereophonics - 'Madame Helga'
(2003, #4, DL)

DL: Extremely unpleasant, tuneless and bluesy coke-rock that a certain pub-rock covers band used to open with at work every single time they played. Completely charmless. What happened to the poignant humdrum small-town tales of the 'Word Gets Around' era?

AN: Fuck me.

JG: That this isn’t technically the worst thing the Stereophonics have produced should not be read as any kind of recommendation. Like a heavier form of The Feeling, unfortunately.


Assail my tired ears

With hoarse, strutting gutturals

In tatty facades

42. Cher Lloyd - 'Swagger Jagger'
(2011, #1, DL)

DL: Christ. M.I.A's become disappointing enough without having to endure an 18 year old 'street' reality TV star emulating her style. At least it doesn't have a dubstep breakdown. The referencing of Twitter sounds very desperate too.

AN: Profoundly dystopian.

JG: This kind of nursery rhyme shite makes Simon Cowell lots of money by bowdlerising earlier templates established by the likes of Lady Sovereign. Criminal.

TM: The sole W200S track with a majority of dislikes on YouTube. There’s brash, bubblegum pop but this is just woeful. “Be what I be”: such senseless lyrics make it the natural and equally odious sibling of ‘Darling Buds of May’.

41. Lenny Kravitz - 'Fly Away'
(1999, #1, TM)

DL: 1999 was so shit. I remember listening to 13 a lot as the perfect antidote to everything. Lenny is synonymous with terms such as 'vapid', 'cliche', and 'Mondeo' and quite rightly so. It's piss miserable hearing this again.

AN: In many ways this pre-empts the noughties trend (Scouting for Girls, Stereophonics, The Feeling, Athlete) for lobotomised rock with just enough alternative street cred not to be laughed out of town by Joe Average. Risible.

JG: The entire latter two thirds of this song consists of Lenny Kravitz wishing he could “get away”. Go on then.

TM: To Curtis Mayfield what Ed Milliband is to Clement Attlee. And that’s actually being kind to this journeyman irritant. This is a monumentally galling record, endlessly ubiquitous in its nettling triteness.