The year of Miami Vice. 1985 continued the gold streak that started with 1982. Genre barriers were broken, leaving artists to incorporate different music styles. New wave and synth pop reached their peak. Rock has done pretty well. R&B has kinda been a mixed bag. It was just another good year for popular music. So it’s time to continue the tradition of counting down the worst of the year. Let’s get started, shall we?
You remember Survivor? Of course, you do. They were the band behind Eye Of The Tiger, one of the best montage songs ever made and a great song to work out/train to. If I told you that their next hit, The Search Is Over, is the complete opposite, would you believe me? Talk about a downgrade. The instrumentation to this song is a bland piano-driven drivel that would make it to a Chicago rough cut, plus, and awkward key change that tries and fails to make it interesting. Not like the lyrics are doing this song any favors.
How can I convince you
What you see is real
Who am I to blame you
For doubting what you feel
I was living for a dream
Loving for a moment
Taking on the world
That was just my style
Now I look into your eyes
I can see forever
The search is over
You were with me all the while
Blech. This is a lame ballad and is a huge disappointment coming from Survivor.
If you want to know what a Bryan Adams song sounds like, then listen to Heaven and you’ve pretty much heard most of his discography. The lyrics are cheesier than a cheese factory. It’s like someone took all of the cliches of love songs and fused them into this Frankenstein monster hybrid.
And baby, you’re all that I want
When you’re lyin’ here in my arms
I’m findin’ it hard to believe
We’re in heaven
And love is all that I need
And I found it there in your heart
It isn’t too hard to see
We’re in heaven
I can smell the cheese oozing out of my speakers just looking at these lyrics. And they wouldn’t even be a problem if, A) Bryan Adams didn’t sound like he swallowed sandpaper, and B) the music wasn’t so goddamn depressing. Slow piano, shit guitar, and a funeral organ drag this song down, especially that organ. It doesn’t fit with the writing, leaving an inconsistent tone. Is it trying to be somber or uplifting? Pick one already. This song is a precursor to Everything I Do (I Do It For You), only shorter. If you want to listen to a Bryan Adams song, stick to Summer of ’69, that song is legitimately awesome.
Now I’m a fan of Hall & Oates, but even they have released disappointing records like this one, Method Of Modern Love. With most Hall & Oates songs, the instrumentation has always been the highlight. Here, something feels off about the instrumentation. There’s barely a melody in this song, just a lot of clunky percussion and spontaneous trumpet blaring popping up every once in a while. It’s the weakest production for a Hall & Oates song. The chorus is really obnoxious, half of it consists of spelling Method Of Love and it sounds offbeat from the music. It ruins the flow of the song and it isn’t even catchy. I’m still in disbelief that this came from the same duo behind I Can’t Go For That and Maneater.
Making his second consecutive appearance on one of these lists again is Corey Hart. You thought Sunglasses At Night was bad? Well, here’s something worse, Never Surrender. With a song called Never Surrender, you’d expect to hear strength, power, and motivation, but that’s not what this song gives us. For one, Corey Hart isn’t that convincing as a singer. He sounds less like someone not surrendering and more like someone saying “fuck it” and gave up. If he was in the military, he wouldn’t last a second in combat. The instrumentation is also weak. It’s subpar 80s pop with marimbas and a blaring sax solo. If you’re gonna make a motivating song, get some instrumentation that hits hard. This song could’ve worked as a hard rock/heavy metal song, not this smooth jazz reject.
Duran Duran is a band who I don’t love, but I don’t hate at the same time. They’re just okay in general. This, however, is one of their worst songs, The Wild Boys. It is a disaster on every conceivable level you can think of. The instruments in this song are in conflict with each other, trying to outshadow the other while turning up a mess that’s hard to listen to. Whoever as in charge of the mixing had to have been sniffing an entire kilo of cocaine beforehand. Not making things any better is Simon Le Bon. Fuck me, his screeching at a higher register makes me want to go deaf permanently. The phase “wild boys” is repeated so many times, you’d want these wild boys to jump into a pit of starving crocodiles so you don’t have to hear anymore of this crap. Hell, why is this song called The Wild Boys? What are they rebelling against? I’ll tell you the answer: nothing. There’s nothing that justifies them being wild boys. You might as well call this song The Angsty Boys.
Nice to know that even in the 80s, Madonna can still make crap music. Here’s Material Girl, a pop song that sucks on both a music and writing level. Fuck this instrumentation. The guitars and synths both sound like complete shit, like they were already broken. They’re so sloppy, I can’t tell which is which. That is some bad mixing right there. Her singing is screechy and shrill. I’d rather dive in a pool of needles than listen to this singing again. And now for the writing. Imagine Kylie Jenner hired a ghostwriter to write a song about herself. That’s what these lyrics are, a spoiled brat with all of the guys wanting a chance to date her, but she prefers a rich guy because according to her, we live in a material world and she’s a material girl. What a shallow point-of-view like that, I bet you have a lot of friends and not just people leeching off of your wealth and notoriety. While she’s made worse songs in the 90s and especially the new millennium, Material Girl is still legitimately awful.
Peter Cetera & company Chicago made it into another Worst Songs list? What a shocker. Out of all of the ballads that this band has ever made, this is one of their historically infamous ones, You’re The Inspiration. This song is quintessential Chicago. If you wanted to know how lame and dull they and soft rock can be, look to this song. The instrumentation is super-duper over-polished. The piano, the synths, the bass, the percussion, and the strings all sound fake to the point where you question if it was even made by a band and not some overpaid tool in a studio. And it takes forever to build up as well, but even the pay-off in the chorus suck. Once again, Peter Cetera shows off his ability to destroy a song with his whining. This type of song calls for a emotionally strong performance and you damn sure ain’t getting that from Cetera. That, plus the instrumentation, gives the song a depressing tone, which is contradictory to a song dedicated to someone’s significant other. The writing is nothing but Hallmark card quotes that Hallmark said “no” to. I swear, if someone made Hallmark cards with these song lyrics, they would fit too perfectly. That is how much of an empty shell Chicago has become.
Now let me set things straight by saying that I like New Edition. Their songs are really dope. Unfortunately, I can’t say that about their early stuff. I HATE Candy Girl so much. Fortunately, it wasn’t a big enough hit to make the Year End chart. Doesn’t mean I won’t do a Target Practice on it (I will). Instead, I’m going to talk about their other hit Cool It Now, which perfectly captures what makes early New Edition insufferable. Jesus buttfucking Christ, this production is hilariously dated. Scattering synths, muddy bass, and plastic percussion makes for some of the worst of 80s R&B. Ralph Tresvant does most of the vocals and God, his vocals are grating. This dude was a teenager when this song was recorded, yet he sounds like he’s 7. I don’t know about you people, but I don’t know any teenage boys with a voice like that. Either the producer increased the pitch or Ralph just inhaled a lot of helium. Every time I hear this song, all I can picture is Alpha from Up.
And we also have one of the lamest rap breakdowns, which is saying a lot considering this is the 80s. New Edition would wind up getting better as they got older, they kicked out Bobby Brown and replaced him with Johnny Gill, and this song still remains a piece of shit.
Those of you longtime readers would remember this song from a Target Practice that I did about two years ago. Everything I said about it still stands because make no mistake: Sugar Walls by Sheena Easton is fucking garbage. Pure, sugar-tainted, artery-clogging garbage. The instrumentation is synth pop at its most sloppiest and discordant. You got multiple synth melodies clashing with each other, so you’re not sure how to groove to it. The vocals also clash with the instrumentation and only highlights Sheena Easton’s weakness as a singer. It’s clear she’s going for sexy, but the wall of noise that is the instrumentation ruins the mood and she doesn’t have the pipes to pull it off. Also, she’s singing about her vagina.
Blood races to your private spots
Lets me know there’s a fire
You can’t fight passion
When passion is hot
Inside my sugar walls
I can make you never
Wanna fall in love again
Come spend the night
Inside my sugar walls
Couldn’t tell, could you? These lyrics are SO subtle, it could’ve been about anything. Nothing naughty here. On a serious note, it’s so friggin’ obvious that you’d have to be the most pure, hardheaded person in the world to not get it. Hell, some of the lines don’t have anything to do with the subject matter.
The houses are of silver
The streets are gold
But there’s more
Where you come from
My sugar walls
What does houses of silver and streets of gold have to do with vagina? Only this song is making me ask this question. I already mentioned it in my Target Practice, but fun fact: this song was written by Prince. Yep. The late, great Prince. I have no comment for that. It’s just sad.
And now, here are some dishonorable mentions.
- Starship-We Built This City
- Billy Ocean-Loverboy/Suddenly
- Ready For The World-Oh Sheila
- Honeydrippers-Sea Of Love
- Duran Duran-A View To Kill
- Jack Wagner-All I Need
- Sheena Easton-Strut
- Thompson Twins-Lay Your Hands On Me
- DeBarge-Who’s Holding Donna Now
- Lionel Richie-Penny Lover
And finally, the worst song of 1985 IS……..
I wonder how horribly cynical I’m going to sound for what I’m going to say about this song. Backstory: some of the biggest names in pop music at the time came together as USA For Africa and recorded We Are The World, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones. All the funds used to purchase this song went into combating famine in Ethiopia and other African countries. Now, look. I don’t have a problem with the sentiment of making a charity song. I applaud any efforts to make the world a better place for all people. I do. BUT let’s be honest: We Are The World as a song SUCKS!! There’s nothing wrong with the message in itself, but the way it’s delivered is an issue. It’s very funny seeing these superstars ask regular folks to give money to a cause. These people are pampered multi-millionaires living in mansions and driving around luxury cars that working class citizens can only dream of. Why don’t they donate some of their own money into the cause? And they don’t even mention the cause they’re raising money for, just this vague nonsense of “we should come together to help people because we are all human and occupy the same planet. #AllLivesMatter” This leaves the song as nothing more than 7 minutes of self-gratifying ego-stroking. This, plus Do They Know It’s Christmas?, are classic examples of charity singles at their worst, who misses the point that bragging about doing the right thing isn’t the same as actually doing the right thing. I hate saying all of this because this collective of stars features artists who I really like and who I’m sure have a good heart and want to help people, but I have to call a spade a spade and We Are The World is one long, boring, arrogant, head-up-your-own-ass spade. Best thing I can say about this song? At least it wasn’t We Are The World 25 For Haiti.
Congratulations to We Are The World for being the worst song of 1985.
So those were the Worst Songs of 1985. In two weeks, BACK TO THE 80s continues with the Worst Songs of 1986.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
Working For The Weekend-Loverboy
Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)-The Gap Band
Big Fish-Vince Staples