A case can be made for 1983 being the best year for pop music in all of Billboard history. I don’t know if I could be the one making that case because there’s many other years that I have to get to before coming to such a conclusion, but if someone else made the case, I wouldn’t argue against it because 1983 was friggin’ fantastic. Some of the best pop tunes were released around this time and a certain icon released an album in the previous year that would eventually become one of the biggest albums of all time. It was new-wave-mania during this period. As much as I like to talk more about the good, that’s not the subject of this post. So, let’s count down the worst of 1983.
We begin our list with a familiar face, Bryan Adams. At this point, he has yet to release Summer Of ’69, but even that song won’t help him rise above mediocrity. This leads us into Straight From The Heart. This song is a taste of what to expect from Bryan Adams. The instrumentation is soft rock cheese built on a piano riff. One of the main reasons why I could never get into this dude is because of his singing voice. There is an art to making raspy voices work and Bryan Adams makes it seem like painful work. That makes it harder for me to get invested in the emotion of the lyrics, but it wouldn’t mean anything as the lyrics are so generic and vague, they might as well be quotes from Hallmark cards. This isn’t the worst song from Bryan Adams, but it’s still not a good one.
I’m mostly ambivalent towards ABBA. Dancing Queen is a legitimate guilty pleasure of mine, but I generally never gave the group any thought. I’ll probably talk more about them when I get to the YE charts of the 70s, but let’s talk about I Know There’s Something Going On by ABBA member Anni-Frid Lyngstad or Frida. Boy, does this song have problems, starting with the instrumentation. There’s barely any cohesive melody within in thanks to the percussion, which is always offbeat, and those thin guitars. Whoever was behind the production board obviously rushed this out because it’s a sloppy Joe mess. Equally as bad is Frida herself, who’s just shrilling this out. The effects put on her voice does not compliment her well, she just blends into the mix of the instrumentation. There’s nothing wrong with the song writing-wise, which is a tale of infidelity. It’s the aesthetics of the production and vocals which brings it down big-time. It’s a shame, really.
Next up, more lame soft rock. This time, we have Australian band Moving Pictures with their only hit What About Me. This is some sappy shit right here. It has a synth-heavy intro that transitions into another depressing piano-driven soft rock ballad dull guitar and drum work. The lead singer’s voice is shaky and weak. It’s one thing to make a song that doesn’t have an upbeat tone, but this is pushing into sap territory. Another thing that’s weak in this song is the build-up to the chorus. Instead of going into an exploding chorus, the song just limps all of the way through like it has a twisted ankle. The emotional investment is nonexistent when you have writing that doesn’t go anywhere or say anything of real significance. What was this song trying to do in the first place? No wonder this band only had one hit.
The 80s haven’t been too kind to Motown. They were still successful, but the music quality didn’t exactly live up what they have released in the 60s and 70s. The house that gave us Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and the Jackson 5 also gave us DeBarge. I never gave much thought for DeBarge. Some of their music were a product of the times like All This Love. As you can see, not everything at the time was instant gold. The instrumentation is the standard 80s R&B ballad rooted in electric piano and subdued percussion along with synth strings. There’s a bunch of songs with this exact sound and it doesn’t stand out. Not helping is that like a lot of ballads, it goes on for too long, being nearly 6 minutes. Now, El DeBarge is a good singer, but being a good singer isn’t enough when the material you’re given doesn’t compliment you and this cheezy, schmaltzy love song isn’t helping him one bit. In terms of love songs, this isn’t one of the stronger ones and I’m going to pass on it.
One example of selling out gone wrong is Styx. Last time they were on a list like this was for Babe. This time, they’re on the list again, but instead of their signature hit Mr. Roboto, I chose Don’t Let It End. This is what happens if a soft rock ballad had a baby with a prog-rock song and that baby was deformed to Quasimodo levels. The soft rock keys and synths didn’t mix well with the harsher guitar riffs. Once again, Dennis DeYoung’s falsetto singing bothers me. Writing-wise, the dude is trying to save his own relationship from ending, even though it was already falling apart in the first place. He’s begging this girl not to leave him and give it another chance. Dude…
I guess my comparison of Styx to Chicago was damn near accurate. They just needed one more push into schlock territory.
Starting off the Top 5 is Little River Band with a song called The Other Guy. The tone of this song is flawed. You have this mellow, midtempo rock instrumentation that’s borderline country and it’s used for a song about cheating. Talk about tonal clash. But the big issue of this song is the writing, which is about a guy finding out his wife cheated on him with another guy. And his reaction to it is what you’d expect from a dickless wimp.
The other guy won’t be around to talk to our kids
He won’t understand when you’re down the way that I did
We had it all, you and I, we just need to try again
We’ve gone apart and goin’ our own separate ways
And you don’t understand
Why I love you and want you to stay
You don’t know it’s me that you need
You’re thinking of him and I can’t compete
Well I’m here to say I still want you back again
This is the dude who probably couldn’t satisfy his wife in bed anymore, so she went to find another dick to get her off. He’ll probably be one of those “men’s rights activists” you see online talking about feminism being cancer. What the wife did is wrong, but there’s not an ounce of sympathy I can muster for this dude. They deserve what they get.
Well, I’m sure this is the last time Lionel Richie will be on a list like this. It’s no secret that a good chunk of Lionel’s solo discography are full of boring, personality-free ballads and we’ll be talking about one of them, Truly. A ballad with snooze-inducing piano riffs and strings that represent some of the worst aspects of adult contemporary music. Finding any sense of personality or emotion within this song is about as pointless as finding water in the Sahara Desert. Do you feel any sense of love listening to this song? No. You don’t. Because the writing is vague as hell and whatever personality was supposed to be in the song has been washed out. And Lionel Richie is one of the most successful artists of all time, selling 100 million records and winning 5 Grammys. What the hell was wrong with people in the 80s?
Fun fact: this song was originally written for Earth, Wind & Fire to perform, but they declined. Thank goodness because they didn’t need this tainting their discography. But the song eventually went to Sergio Mendes, no Shawn, and thus, we have Never Gonna Let You Go. This song was made to appear on lists like this because this is awful. Murky electric piano keys, flimsy guitars, and a synthesizer solo make for an over-polished sound that’s just gross to listen to. This is a song about getting back together with someone and since this is a duet, you got to have singers who have chemistry with each other in order for the song to work. Singing this song is Joe Pizzulo and Leza Miller, who have as much chemistry with each other as water and oil. This is where the song falls apart because I can’t feel a connection. Not helping is Pizzulo being a terrible singer and writing full of empty promises. If your love song doesn’t make me believe the love and passion in the performances, then you have failed.
Air Supply. That’s all you really need to know. No, that’s not true. There’s much more. The latest abomination from this band to make these lists is Making Love Out Of Nothing At All. Like with Air Supply’s other songs, we get very 80s soft rock instrumentation with heavy piano and reverb on nearly everything. It’s like the song was recorded in an echo chamber. And just like Styx’s Dennis DeYoung, Russell Hitchcock has a falsetto that makes every dog that’s in the vicinity of this guy’s singing go insane. The writing is nothing but meaningless empty gestures of love. It’s like they thought about about every cliched line from romance movies and blurted them out in song form. This song was written and produced by Jim Steinman, who also worked with Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler and it’s easy to tell because it feels like a pale imitation. This song came close to being number one, but there was another song that made its case and I ultimately picked it based off pure instinct. Chances are it’ll be controversial among some of you and you probably won’t agree with it, but it is what it is.
And now, here are some dishonorable mentions.
- Greg Kihn Band-Jeopardy
- Styx-Mr. Roboto
- After The Fire-Der Kommissar
- Taco-Puttin’ On The Ritz
- Human League-(Keep Feeling) Fascination
- Stray Cats-Stray Cat Strut/(She’s) Sexy + 17
- Naked Eyes-Always Something To Remind Me
- Christopher Cross-All Right
- Lionel Richie-My Love
- Champaign-Try Again
And finally, the worst song of 1983 IS……………………..
You know those VH1 specials that are focused on 80s nostalgia? That’s how I first came across this song, Mickey by Toni Basil. My initial reaction to first hearing this was immediate disgust. Even now, my feelings about it hasn’t changed. Let me make it clear: I HATE this song. I HATE it. I wouldn’t even call this the worst song of all time, but no other song in 1983 got on every single one of my nerves as much as Mickey. Fun fact: this song is a cover. More specifically, it’s a remake of the 1979 song Kitty by British band Racey. Obviously, changes were made so that instead of being about a girl named Kitty, it’s about a guy named Mickey. So why do I despise this song? Well, simply put, it is ANNOYING AS FUCK!! Half of this goddamn song is the chorus and this:
Oh Mickey, you’re so fine
You’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey,
Oh Mickey, you’re so fine
You’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey,
All done in a cheerleader motif along with the now-iconic music video and everything else in the song, plus, production cheaper than one of those frozen dinners from your local supermarket and Toni Basil having no business being a singer. I think the reasons why I can’t stand Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne and Shake It Off by Taylor Swift can be linked to this song (at least there’s no rap bridge, thank God) and an epiphany: any piece of entertainment that involves cheerleaders is bound to annoy the piss out of me. I don’t even hate cheerleaders in real life; I actually think they’re hot and some of my friends in high school were cheerleaders. It’s more that movies, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment have portrayed cheerleaders as arrogant, conceited brats and that’s the vibe I got out of this song. Nothing against Toni Basil and the people out there who enjoy this song, but because it’s a general annoyance, I can’t get into it. Sorry. Congratulations to Mickey for being the worst song of 1983.
So those were the worst songs of 1983. In two weeks, BACK TO THE 80s continues with the Worst Songs of 1984.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
Fly Like An Eagle-Steve Miller Band
Down Under-Men At Work