So I was warned by a friend about 1989. Boy, were they not kidding. Allow me to say something that a lot of other people have said: 1989 was an awful year for pop music. Hell, it might be one of the worst years for pop music period. The ballads were lamer and a lot of pop songs sound more and more manufactured. 1989 was so bad that I had to do something I hadn’t done in a while: expand the dishonorable mentions to 15. I hope you’re comfortable, ladies and gentlemen, because this is about to get really shitty.
We start the list with Richard Marx and his biggest hit Right Here Waiting. Seems about right. This isn’t even the worst song he’s ever made, but I still don’t like it. The instrumentation is easily the best part of the song, even if it is a typical ballad of the 80s with those synths and piano. It sounds nice, at least. My big issue with this song is everything else. Like I said in the last, I’m not a fan of Richard Marx vocally. He’s that combination of bland and raspiness that makes it sound like he’s in pain. And this could work with this writing, where Marx is patiently waiting on his girl even after they broke up. But because of how bland Marx is, I’m not invested. Plus, not to be Mr Buzzkill here, but at some point, you got to let shit go. Some things just aren’t meant to be. Just saying. This won’t be the last time you’ll see Richard Marx on the charts as you look into the 90s.
Before American Idol, Paula Abdul was a cheerleader for the Lakers and then went into choreographing music videos. And for some reason, she had a music career. Why, I’m not sure. Straight Up annoys me, starting with the production. The stiff percussion, the blaring synths pretending to be the horns, and weak guitars. This is late 80s pop at its most pathetic with no presence. Speaking of no presence, Paula Abdul has no business being a singer. It’s clear that she’s trying way too hard to be Janet Jackson. Writing-wise, it’s a typical love song that we’ve seen a million times before. The most notable thing about this song is that 23 years later, it was interpolated in a mediocre J Cole song. Not exactly a good first impression for him.
Time to talk about another weak-ass R&B ballad of the 80s, Shower Me With Your Love by Surface. Sweet buttery Jesus, this song is unbelievably corny. The instrumentation makes me want to barf. Those damn sugarcoated keys. And of course, there’s a saxophone solo. Why do a lot of corny 80s songs have sax solos? None of the guys are impressive vocally and the writing? Shower me with your love. That is preposterously lame. Good thing this wasn’t an R. Kelly song because that title would have a radically different meaning.
Just what I wanted to hear: mom music. Bette Midler is basically in the same boat as Barbara Streisand, a good singer whose music I do not care for at all. The instrumentation is typical of a boring adult contemporary song with those disgusting keys and strings. It’s a snoozefest. Bette Midler sounds fine, but that’s not enough to make a good song as the writing is revolved around cliches, the biggest one being “you are the wind beneath my wings.” How many times have you heard that phrase being used? It’s what desperate romantics say to their significant other when they want to be poetic, but don’t have any creative juices. Well, I hope you like the turbulence because there’s a lot of that coming into your future.
Are you hearing this, you guys? New Kids On The Block are hangin’ tough. Bruh, I can’t stop laughing at the thought alone. What brain-dead moron concocted this unbelievable nonsense? So, yeah. Hangin’ Tough. Not a convincing song. I don’t feel any sense of intimidation or force from this song that makes it tough. This is a boy band who regularly sings love songs and you expect me to buy that they have street cred? You’d have a better time making pigs fly. Add in some sloppy, messy production, some really bad attempts at rapping, and this…
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
… and we have what’s basically the song version of Scrappy Doo. Memory foam mattresses are tougher than these guys.
Ladies and gentlemen, the number one song of 1989. That’s how bad the year is when fucking Chicago is number one. This isn’t my first time talking about Look Away as I’ve reviewed it in a Target Practice long ago. And now I’m talking about it again. Look Away is another Chicago ballad with instrumentation rooted on synths and throwing away the horns. The writing depicts a guy who gets a call from his ex who starts a conversation about her new relationship. He claims to be happy for her, when in reality, he’s fighting back tears. Either their relationship ended on good terms or this woman is just being an asshole and trolling this dude about her own life to make him miserable. That’s what I got out of this song. Chicago, wasted potential.
Here’s what I’d like to call the Peter Cetera effect: when an artist is so bad that they drag other artists down to their level, even the good ones. One high-profile victim of this is Cher, who did a duet with Cetera called After All. This song fits perfectly with Cetera’s catalog of suckage. The instrumentation sounds like boring wedding music. The writing of this song requires a powerful emotional duet performance to work, but with this? Cetera’s singing is still unbearable like always. He does not fit with Cher, who’s also bad here. No chemistry whatsoever. They’ve always performed this song separately and never together. That’s pathetic. Not surprised what Peter Cetera brought to the table, but Cher, …
With how ugly the political climate is, you’d think this would be ripe material for protest music. A message to any artist now doing a protest song: don’t do what White Lion did and make something like When The Children Cry. This is protest music gone wrong. First off, the song is BORING. It’s an acoustic guitar ballad in the spirit of those 60s protests songs, but snooze-inducing. The lead singer’s voice is all levels of cringe. It’s a really bad rock singer’s voice that you’d see from amateur bands. And we haven’t even got into the worst part of this song: the writing. Basically, the narrator sees a kid crying because of the chaos going on around the world and he doesn’t know what to do. So the narrator suggests that the kid go be a leader who’ll create a utopia. How?
No more presidents
And all the wars will end
One united world under God
One, no sane person wants to live in a theocracy where God’s word is the law. We tried that before in the past and it ended horribly. Very horribly. Two, no more presidents and all the wars will end? So getting rid of world leaders will end every major conflict in the world and stop the military-industrial complex that’s feeding said wars? Get this Alex Jones bullshit out of here. NEXT!!
When I first heard this song, I didn’t know how to feel about it. Should I be pissed or pity? I’m still struggling with those feelings now. This is Miami group Will To Power, who scored a number one hit with a song that fused two classic rock staples together Human Centipede-style: Peter Frampton’s Baby I Love Your Way and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird. Dear Christ, they fucked up horribly. These covers don’t do the original song justice and putting them together along with some really cheesy synth production just makes them worse. Suzi Carr sounds fine, but Bob Rosenberg cannot sing to save his life. What was the point of this song? What were they trying to do with covering two classic songs besides make more late-80s soft rock crap? Who knows? This came so close to topping the list, but they got beat out. By who, you ask? You probably already know by now.
And now, here are some dishonorable mentions.
- Debbie Gibson-Lost In Your Eyes
- Simply Red-If You Don’t Know Me By Now
- New Kids On The Block-I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)
- Breathe-How Can I Fall
- Bad English-When I See You Smile
- Sheriff-When I’m With You
- Sheena Easton-The Lover In Me
- Bobby Brown-Every Little Step
- Donny Osmond-Soldier Of Love
- Tone-Loc-Funky Cold Medina
- Karyn White-Secret Rendezvous
- Samantha Fox-I Wanna Have Some Fun
- Tiffany-All This Time
- Sa-Fire-Thinking Of You
- Expose-What You Don’t Know
And finally, the worst song of 1989 IS…………
What I’m doing is kind of a copout, but I can’t tell these 4 songs apart, so I’m putting them all in one spot. No matter how our opinions differ, I think we can all agree that Milli Vanilli was a mistake. Basically, some hack music producer found a French guy and a German guy and had them be the face of a group that he created, showcasing music from studio musicians. In other words, the faces of Milli Vanilli you saw up there didn’t do any singing, writing, or producing. And for a while, they were ridiculously successful: Girl I’m Gonna Miss You, Blame It On The Rain, and Baby Don’t Forget My Number topped the charts while Girl You Know It’s True peaked at #2 AND they won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. And that was before the lip-syncing controversy reached its peak. Even then, the songs are garbage, representing the worst elements of the late 80s: some terribly cheap production, bad rapping, below-mediocre singing, and some really, REALLY bad, cliche-filled writing.
Girl, You Know It’s True-Milli Vanilli
Girl, you know it’s true
Ooh, ooh, ooh, I love you
Yes, you know it’s true
Ooh, ooh, ooh I love you
Girl, you know it’s true
My love is for you
Girl, you know it’s true
My love is for you
Girl, I’m Gonna Miss You-Milli Vanilli
All the love I feel for you
Nothing could make me change my point of view
I’m gonna miss you, baby
Blame It On The Rain-Milli Vanilli
And you feel like such a fool…
You let her walk away…
Now it just don’t feel the same…
Gotta blame it on something… (gotta blame it on something)
Gotta blame it on something…
(Blame it on the rain) that was fallin’ fallin’…
(Blame it on the stars) that did shine at night…
Whatever you do don’t put the blame on you…
Blame it on the rain… (yeah yeah)
You can blame it on the rain…
Baby Don’t Forget My Number-Milli Vanilli
Don’t forget my number
Love is stronger than thunder
Don’t forget my number
Love will see you through
Never has there been an obvious example of the music industry cynically manufacturing their own pop stars to create generic pop songs. This is a low even for them and the fact that people bought into it for a while is telling. Congratulations to Girl You Know It’s True, Girl I’m Gonna Miss You, Blame It On The Rain, and Baby Don’t Forget My Number for being the worst songs of 1989.
So those were the songs of 1989. BACK TO THE 80s will conclude next month with the 100 Best Songs of the 80s. There’s one more announcement that I was originally going to save for that upcoming list, but I might as well get it out the way now: BACK TO THE 70s will not start in November. Instead, the first post of the series, the Worst Songs of 1970, will begin next year on January 12. Remember this date: January 12. Also, keep an eye on the UPDATES page for more upcoming posts.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
Baby, I Love Your Way-Peter Frampton
Free Bird-Lynyrd Skynyrd
Alice Merton-No Roots
Just Can’t Get Enough-Depeche Mode