Well. This was a disappointment. I’m not saying 1986 was a bad year for music, but boy, is it a step down compared to the previous years. The ballads have returned in full force. They’ve always existed, but the number of them increased in ’86 and most of them are just as boring as ever. By this point, the new wave… well, wave has ran its course, resulting in pop and rock music diversifying its sound, eventually being dominated by cheesy power ballads that would persist through the rest of the decade. It was a good year for R&B, though, thanks to breakout acts like Whitney Houston, Cameo, and Janet Jackson. Country music went through a massive change, leaving behind the Nashville sound for a new, more traditional sound. This was also when hip-hop started breaking through the mainstream and so did freestyle music. Yeah, 1986 was kinda all over the place. Let’s look at the worst of the year right now.
The late Robert Palmer has been in the industry since the 60s, but he saw big success in the 80s. He was one of those blue-eyed soul singers whose music videos usually featured a group of women who look and dressed alike to imitate the art style of Patrick Nagel. I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On isn’t a good representation of this dude because it’s bad. This is a cover to the Cherelle song of the same name, which was a song about a girl on a date with a guy who wants to zooma-zoom-zoom and boom-boom, but she’s not in the mood and rejects his advances. Robert Palmer took that song and switched the genders so that it’s about a guy rejecting the advances of a woman who wants her bagel creamed. It doesn’t really work here because Robert Palmer comes off less annoyed and more smug because he thinks he’s above taking advantage of the fact that a woman wants to have sex with him. It’s not one of his best vocal performances, either. Another thing that makes this cover inferior is the instrumentation. Like the original, it’s drenched in the 80s, but the synths are colorless and the percussion feel stiff, sucking out any sense of energy. In terms of cover songs, this is a bad one.
I still believe that Starship’s We Built This City isn’t the worst song ever as it was hyped up to be. Sure, it’s not good, but I’ve heard worse. And this brings us to Sara, a cheesy, schmaltzy soft rock ballad. Say what you will about We Built This City, at least it’s upbeat, not like this sludgy dreck. Electric piano, cannon-shot drums, synthesizers, bad guitar riffs and a guitar solo make up the composition of the instrumentation and makes up most soft rock ballads of the time. And we have the lead singer breaking up with a girl named Sara because they can’t make it work. You can’t really dedicate this song to anyone unless their name is actually Sara, but even if there is a Sara, how would they feel hearing this whiny, dickless song being dedicated to them? My guess is not that well.
You want to see freestyle at its worst? Well, look no further than Nu Shooz only hit single I Can’t Wait. It’s a song that feels too perfect for the summer to the point of calculation and is bound to be irritating thanks to the instrumentation. First off, that vocal synth riff. The one you hear in the intro and after the chorus. I don’t even know how to describe it, but it gets annoying after a while. Not helping is the percussion and constant brass blares. I guarantee you that a lot of modern tropical house songs were inspired by this noise. This feels more and more like a song that you’d hear in the background of a commercial. I can see it now: “SUMMER DEALS!! EVERYTHING 20% OFF!! HURRY, HURRY, HURRY!! ONLY FOR A LIMITED TIME!!” Not much to say about the singer; she isn’t that good and is very impatient. I got nothing else for this, it just sucks.
Mr. Mister was a band who was famous for one year, scoring two number hits with Kyrie and Broken Wings. Now I kinda like Kyrie, it’s one of those power ballads that works. Can’t say the same for Broken Wings. That one blows. The instrumentation is a drag. It takes forever to build-up, starting off like ambient background music thanks to those sweeping synths and minimal percussion before turning into a power ballad halfway through. The album version is more than 5 and a half minutes long and the radio edit is more than 4 and a half minutes long. It takes two minutes for this song to kick in. That is something else. The writing of this song was inspired by an Arabic book of the same name and it comes down to a generic love song. Like I said, this song is a drag to listen to and I hope I don’t hear it again.
Well, if there’s any song from 1986 that embraces being a clusterfuck, it’s Let’s Go All The Way by Sly Fox. Dear God, what is this song even doing? This production is just sloppy. The vocal samples that won’t shut up through the entire runtime clash with each and the other elements of the song like the glimmering synth riff and the rougher drums. It’s not fun to listen to. The lyrics have a more political edge compared to other songs of its time, but they’re surface-level at best, saying what other political songs have already said. This isn’t breaking the mold is what I’m trying to say. It’s a good example of “just because a song has a message doesn’t automatically mean it’s good.” Oh and ICP did a cover to this song. I don’t think I need to tell you how it is. Go listen to it yourself and make your own judgement.
Something I just figured out: I can’t stand Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam. To me, they’re a perfect example of 80s music at its quality abyss. I dread hearing Lisa Lisa’s screeching voice whenever their songs come on. Case in point, All Cried Out. It’s a ballad, which means we get to hear the extension of Lisa Lisa angelic vocals. Goody, goody, gum drops. So over this piano-driven number, Lisa Lisa is all sad because her boyfriend betrayed her trust. Another thing to note, the song is a duet with a male singer taking the role of the boyfriend. First off, they have no chemistry. Second, it’s never explained what the guy did. Did he lie? Did he cheat? Did he hit her? What? DETAILS!! Third, I know it’s a sad song, but this is way too melodramatic, especially on the vocals near the end of the song. This isn’t even the worst song by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, but I would be glad not to listen to it again.
In the 80s, Eddie Murphy was a superstar. He was killing it on SNL and has been in hit comedy movies like 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop. It seems like there was nothing he couldn’t do. Nothing except singing. Yeah, let’s be realistic: Eddie Murphy sucks as a music artist. Just look at his only hit single Party All The Time. I don’t have an issue with the instrumentation, it’s a standard 80s party tune. The song’s biggest issue all falls to Eddie Murphy himself. Simply put, he cannot sing and he’s doing a horrible job at emoting. Maybe it’s because the material he’s given doesn’t fit. Eddie Murphy is a loud, spastic personality, not some loser crying about his girlfriend going out and partying all the time without him. The writing is mismatched with the music and with Eddie himself. Rick James makes an appearance because he wrote and produced the track and is friends with Eddie. This song only happened in the first place because of industry connections. Eddie would go on to release three music albums and continue his acting career, starring in more bad movies than good ones. A shame because the dude is talented.
Now I normally don’t have a problem with Lionel Richie’s more upbeat songs like All Night Long. They’re fine. The Lionel Richie songs that I can’t stand the most are always his ballads. Then comes Dancing On The Ceiling, an upbeat Lionel Richie song that I can’t stand. The production is generic 80s pop. Give this to some run-of-the-mill 80s pop act and it would fit. The whole vibe of the song feels like someone’s out-of-touch dad trying to keep up with the young folks, which is funny when talking about one of the biggest music stars of the decade. The lyrics are corny and laughable. What a feeling, when we’re dancing on the ceiling. How does one end up on the ceiling and start dancing? Unless they’re in one of those antigravity rooms. I know I’m thinking too much about this, but these lines are raising too many questions and I can’t let them slide. And why is there an audible crowd near the end of the song? Sucking your own dick much? Screw it, it’s gonna be the subject of a future Target Practice. There’s so much wrong that is just begging for a ripping.
The Top 2 spots go to songs that have made appearances on a lot of worst songs lists. Let’s start with Rock Me Amadeus. It’s one of the more infamous one-hit wonders of the 80s and for all of the wrong reasons. This song is a mess all around with Falco rapping in German about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the famous composer whose compositions you’ve heard, but didn’t think about if you weren’t into classical music. Even with this song being in a different language, this dude doesn’t have a good flow or a good voice for rapping. The instrumentation is a living migraine, using the worst synth presets and the weakest drum set to create this audio sewage juice. The chorus is extremely catchy and that’s worse because it stays in your head for days, holding you hostage while begging for it to leave. The movie Amadeus made Mozart popular again and one of the side effects is influencing dung heaps like this. And it’s not even the worst song of the year.
And now, here are some dishonorable mentions.
- Atlantic Starr-Secret Lovers
- Billy Ocean-There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)
- Simply Red-Holding Back The Years
- Stacey Q-Two Of Hearts
- ZZ Top-Sleeping Bag
- Arcadia-Election Day
- Force MDs-Tender Love
- Lionel Richie-Love Will Conquer All
- Toto-I’ll Be Over You
I would normally build up to the number one song, but screw it. I’m just gonna get to the point and utter out three words that are guaranteed to send shivers down a music lover’s spine: Glory. Of. Love.
Finally, I get to talk about one of the most godawful pieces of music I’ve had the misfortune of subjecting my ears to. Since some of you have been patiently waiting on this and have predicted it to be number one, let’s tear into this trash heap, shall we? This is Glory Of Love, the first number one single for Peter Cetera ever since he left Chicago to pursue a solo career. This is every song Chicago said “no” to thrown into a blender and mixed with an entire bag of sugar. For a song called Glory Of Love, there’s nothing glorious about it. Todd’s rant on this song is more glorious than this fucking heap. It’s a dreary, over-polished shipwreck with more electric keys and synths than any of Chicago’s 80s hits and the guitars used to add power to the song end up being limper than an old man with ED. And not only does Peter Cetera’s whiny, screeching howl makes it more unlistenable, it kills the emotion and sentiment that this song is trying to sell. You can’t claim to be a man who’ll fight for someone’s honor and be the hero that they’re dreaming of when you sound like a dog being run over by a train twice. Did I forget to mention that this was the theme song to Karate Kid II? Yep. Karate Kid II. Let me remind you what the theme to the first Karate Kid was.
See? THAT is awesome. Glory Of Love, on the other hand, is shit. This is like going from a Phantom Rolls-Royce to a rusty, beat-up hooptie with no gas, bad suspension, and a wheel missing. Comparing these two is like comparing Toy Story to the fucking Emoji Movie. No wonder people didn’t like Karate Kid II that much, because this shit sandwich probably put them to sleep. This belongs to a Gary Marshall film, not a movie named Karate Kid. Goddamn it, Peter Cetera. Is there anything you WON’T ruin? “Congratulations” to Glory Of Love for being the worst song of 1986 and possibly, the worst song of the 80s period.
So those were the worst songs of 1986. In two weeks, BACK TO THE 80s continues with the Worst Songs of 1987.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
Rhinestone Cowboy-Glenn Campbell
Simple Minds-Don’t You (Forget About Me)
Won’t Back Down-Tom Petty