Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Don't Cut Off My Air Supply

A brilliant friend of mine – who happens to be a former singer/songwriter, current rockstar political consultant, and all-around badass -- started a grassroots e-newsletter called the Music Caucus. He recently came across a list of the “wussiest songs of all time” and decided to share the top 50 with the Cauci. Of course I’ve shamelessly decided to lift the list from him and post it here.

Now be careful, because when I first read the list I think I threw up in my mouth a little. Most of the songs are so saccharine they should come with a shot of insulin. Others are just plain bad.

But before I share the list... a does of chicken-fried honesty: There are four songs on the list that I actually don’t hate. Okay, okay, I even kinda like them.

1 – All Outta Love by Air Supply. What can I say? My musical tastes weren’t so discerning in the 5th grade and I’ve never lost my appetite for this one. I get such a kick out of the live version on iTunes. There’s overly dramatic drum solo and some fanned applause that extend the tune to 6:12 playing time.

2 – More Than Words by Extreme. Ah, the summer of ’92. I studied abroad in Italy and they played this song every night when the discos closed at 5am.

3 – Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill. I guess I’ve just always been intrigued by a pop song that can pull off the word “subsides”. Seems like someone had a Thesaurus nearby.

4 – You Light Up My Life by Debbie Boone. Because as a kid I covered this song nightly, with a hairbrush as my mic and a full-length mirror as my audience. I could do sultry better than any of the other 7-year old torch singers on my block.

Those are my four true confessions. Now here’s the list of the Top 50 Wussiest Songs of all time. If you are the original author, raise your hand so we can give you some credit. As for the rest of you, don’t be a wussy. Tell us which ones you secretly like…


50. 'I'm in You'

Peter Frampton (1977)
... You're in me? Whatever sort of love affair was going on here, Frampton charted higher with this dainty single (No. 2) than any of the blockbuster hits off his previous breakthrough album, 'Frampton Comes Alive.'

49. 'Hero'

Mariah Carey (1993)
Even the recording academy thought this hit was too sugary for its own good. Despite the song's presence at telethons, tributes and kiddie concerts, the '95 Grammy for Pop Female Vocalist went to Sheryl Crow's 'All I Wanna Do.' Proof that fun in the sun trumps multi-octive soul-searching.

48. 'Just the Way You Are'

Billy Joel (1977)
An instant cocktail-hour classic that featured a sax solo as creamy as a chocolate mousse, this definitive adult contemporary hit made Joel the envy of all sensitive males. "Don't go changing," he sang. Then he divorced his first wife and married Christie Brinkley.

47. 'Puppy Love'

Donny Osmond (1972)
If only he'd waited to hit puberty before branching out from the family act: Donny's first solo hit sounds like it was sung by Marie.

Listen to 'Puppy Love'

46. 'Hip to Be Square'

Huey Lewis (1986)
Huey Lewis, an Ivy Leaguer as a graduate of Cornell University, put his pocket protector on his sleeve and tried to convince the rest of us that it's actually cool to be a goody-goody. T'yeah! It's a darn shame this song never found its way to an after-school special.

45. 'Don't Give Up On Us'

David Soul (1976)
Before this singer-turned-actor became famous as Starsky's Hutch, he was a regular on 'The Merv Griffin Show.' Appearing as the Covered Man, he performed folk songs in a ski mask. We kid you not.

44. 'Invisible'

Clay Aiken (2003)
After belting out power ballads with MeatLoaf-like intensity on the show, the 'American Idol' salutatorian released this bashful, watered-down single about being too timid (and, apparently, transparent) to approach his heart's true desire. Maybe this is why Clay turned to online dating.

43. 'Annie's Song'

John Denver (1974)
This John Denver classic will fill up your senses -- and exercise your gag reflexes. It's the perfect song for swaying back and forth 'round a campfire. So, anyone up for a sing-along? We didn't think so.

42. 'When I'm 64'

The Beatles (1967)
No less icky now that Sir Paul has in fact turned 64, this song is a prime example of McCartney's affection for "the old rooty-tooty music" (as producer George Martin once called it) of his father's generation. Any Beatles fanatics out there whose grandkids are actually called Vera, Chuck and Dave?

41. 'You've Got a Friend'

James Taylor (1971)
Putting capital 'L' in Lite FM, this '70s folk rocker made us all feel cuddly, safe and warm inside with this super-sappy Carole King snoozer about cheering up the lonely, sad and pathetic. This is the 'Had a Bad Day' of the '70s.

40. 'God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You'

*NSYNC (1998)
Guys dig this song because they think chicks dig it. Chicks dig this song because they think guys actually mean it when they say they dig this song. God digs it because of the shout-out.

39. 'With Arms Wide Open'

Creed (2000)
Scott Stapp celebrated the birth of his son by proclaiming in his Eddie Vedder-wannabe growl, "We stand in awe, we've created life." Thankfully, he also had the self-awareness to admit, "If I had just one wish...I hope he's not like me."'

38. 'Alone Again (Naturally)'

Gilbert O' Sullivan (1972)
The guy's been stood up at the altar, his folks both dropped dead, even his God has deserted him. Now he's going to "treat" himself by jumping off a nearby tower. Oh, the humanity!

37. 'So Sick'

Ne-Yo (2006)
We've all been there. Post breakup, you find yourself sleeping in the T-shirt he left behind or refusing to wash the scent of her perfume from your pillow. Luckily, R&B's newest star put these emotions into words and gave us all the courage to finally move on.

36. 'Beth'

Kiss (1976)
Like Ringo, drummer Peter Criss got a token song on each Kiss album. How this henpecked apology got past uber-misogynist Gene Simmons, we may never know. Just imagine the razzing Criss must have taken whenever the missus phoned the studio and nagged him to come home.

35. 'She's Like the Wind'

Patrick Swayze (1987)
Just as we applauded Swayze as the dirty dancing man's man who refused to let Baby be put in a corner, the actor released this flimsy ballad. Though his singing isn't half-bad, the cheese factor caused the tune to dissipate as quickly as the air itself.

34. 'I'll Be Missing You'

Puff Daddy and The Family (1997)
Further confusing those who thought the Police's 'Every Breath You Take' was a love song, Puffy turned it into this sappy hip-hop tribute to his fallen friend B.I.G. Awkward moment of the year: Sting singing backup at the 1997 MTV VMAs.

33. 'My Heart Will Go On'

Celine Dion (1997)
After 'Titanic' broke every box-office record imaginable, Celine Dion's "love theme" from the film was inescapable to all but those under jury sequester. The bright side of the nauseating phenomenon? Years of sketch comedy material to come.

32. 'Think of Laura'

Christopher Cross (1982)
We are terribly sorry for the loss of Christopher's friend, Laura. And we do think she would laugh, not cry, if she heard the high-pitched vocals on this cheesy tribute. Did Christopher skip puberty?

31. 'Let Her In'

John Travolta (1976)
Vinnie Barbarino wouldn't be caught dead singing this, and Danny Zuko would probably sucker-punch its love-struck songwriter. "I'm different today," the aspiring singer-actor sang. Different from the characters that made his career, maybe: Here he plays a doormat.

30. 'Walking on Sunshine'

Katrina and the Waves (1983)
The title alone could qualify this hopelessly fizzy ditty. Optimism is for suckers!

29. 'Muskrat Love'

America (1976)
Yep, even semi-aquatic rodents got it on in the '70s. In addition to jitterbugging and tangoing, Muskrat Suzie and Sam enjoyed "doing it right" by candlelight. British lightweights America failed to crack the Top 40 with this ditty, but, unfortunately, the Captain & Tennille tried again three years later . . . and squirmed their way to No. 4.

28. 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go'

Wham (1984)
Maybe it was the way George Michael rhymed "go-go" with "yo-yo." Perhaps it's because he compared the sun to Doris Day. Whatever the reason, listen between the lines and you'll hear why the Whammer was left sleeping while his partner went out to boogie.

27. 'More Than Words'

Extreme (1991)
After this long-haired Boston foursome failed to hit big with heavy metal, they went straight for the sell-out ballad, complete with the requisite acoustic-guitars-on-stools video. More common at '90s high school dances than spiked punch.

26. 'Precious and Few'

Climax (1972)
With their shaggy hair and hip threads, these L.A. boys looked like rockers, but fructose -- not feedback -- poured out of their amps. This, their lone top 10 hit, was so sweet that it would be come a staple for TV commercials...alongside kiddies and puppies.

24. 'All Outta Love'

Air Supply (1980)
Robbed! That's what these Aussie wussies must feel about the indignity of seeing 23 titles above theirs. And they did everything right: woe-inducing string arrangements, insipid heartsick lyrics, a chorus that repeats itself 9,000 times -- with more and more emotion. Damn, this competition is tough.

23. 'Your Body Is a Wonderland'

John Mayer (2001)
We know, we know -- he's like, a respected blues guitarist now, right? But let's not forget that this boyish singer-songwriter once broke hearts with breathy, sugar soaked songs. God knows how he pulled off lyrics like "candy lips and bubblegum toes" without getting a beatdown by boyfriends everywhere.

22. 'You Light Up My Life'

Debbie Boone (1977)
Hey, it's not her fault -- Pat Boone's her dad. With a whopping 10 weeks spent at No. 1, this song falls squarely (and we do mean squarely) in the great tradition of spiritual treacle disguised as secular love songs.

21. 'True'

Spandau Ballet (1983)
Any band with the word "ballet" in its name is predestined to score high on the wuss meter. Add a lead signer who belts his lyrics with the overcooked, show-tune enthusiasm of Tony Hadley and the deal is sealed.

20. 'Such Great Heights'

Iron and Wine (2003)
The Postal Service originally delivered this love song with poppy synthesizers and sickeningly optimistic lyrics, so it has a level of wussness baked in. But have Iron and Wine cover it, put it on the 'Garden State' soundtrack and use it in an M&M's commercial, and you have yourself a wussy homerun.

19. 'Right Here Waiting'

Richard Marx (1989)
Richard Marx owes the public two apologies: One for the mullet and another for this mopey ballad, which still pops up just when we think it's safe to get our teeth cleaned.

18. 'I Believe I Can Fly'

R. Kelly (1996)
When Kenny G. covers your song, it's official -- your testosterone is waning. Backed by a full orchestra and choir, Kells' growing self-esteem left him poised in a cornfield ready for take-off. Now facing a child pornography trial, he probably wishes he really did have wings.

17. 'Close To You'

Carpenters (1970)
The Carpenter siblings laid the groundwork for an unparalleled career in low self esteem with their first big hit, a No. 1 tune written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Why do birds suddenly appear? Depends what kind. Vultures? Chicken hawks?

16. 'All By Myself'

Eric Carmen (1976)
Carmen's Raspberries were one of the power-pop firecrackers of the '70s. Going solo evidently sucked all the spark out of the poor shlub. This one gets the nod over 'Never Gonna Fall in Love Again,' another all-time pity party: It came first and charted higher.

15. 'Cry'

Johnny Ray (1951)
Poor 'ol Johnny Ray indeed. This pretty-boy '50s crooner didn't just sing about crying -- he practically cried about it. This gushy hit made teenage girls want to take this sad sack home and mother him. Their boyfriends just wanted to give him a real reason to cry.

14. 'Dear Mama'

Tupac (1995)
Code of the streets No. 1: Show love to no woman. Yet when 'Pac rapped, "Even as a crack fiend mama, you always was a black queen mama," he proved the rule's exception and caused thugs everywhere to wipe their eyes. One tear only, though. Any more than that, and you'd be a buster.

13. 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers'

Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand (1978)
It's the merging of guilty pleasures. Neil meets Babs in a violin-ridden tale of love that's expired like their careers. "You don't bring me flowers; you don't sing me love songs..." Sounds like an episode of 'Dr. Phil.'

12. 'I Want It That Way'

Backstreet Boys (1999)
"Tell me why" every Backstreet Boys song didn't make its way to this list? A sonic assault of sappy that stuck in your head like a bullet, this song's cloying chorus and the Boys' accompanying choreography were just screaming for a playground beatdown.

11. 'Hello'

Lionel Richie (1984)
Over a spare piano melody, the R&B romantic -- and daddy to Nicole -- sings of unrequited love. The woman he loves has no idea he exists, but that's not the point. He really cares for her. After all, isn't that why we all stalk people?

10. 'Fix You'

Coldplay (2005)
These British softies apparently didn't get the memo that 'Dawson's Creek' had been cancelled when they wrote this weeper. Luckily, the producers of 'The O.C.' love syrupy ballads, and frontman Chris Martin managed to outwhine the show's mighty Cohen.

9. 'If'

Bread (1971)
The uncontested champions of wuss, these hair-parted-in-the-middle, slacks-wearing California boys have forgotten more classic whimperings than James Blunt will ever write. Nothing showed off sensitivity to the ladies like a 'Best of Bread' 8-track. By comparison, the Eagles were Slayer.

8. 'Do You Really Want to Hurt Me'

Culture Club (1983)
While most '80s icons were out scoring with models, Boy George spent his free time weeping in his studio. Torn apart by his turbulent love affair with his Club's closeted drummer, the cross-dressing pop queen poured his heart out on this mid-tempo tearjerker. Listen closely and you can almost hear his mascara running.

7. 'What's Left of Me'

Nick Lachey (2006)
Newly-divorced Nick got his heart broken by mean ol' Jessica, and it spawned this syrupy serenade. He may be "half the man," but getting half the money can't be all that bad, can it?

6. 'Longer'

Dan Fogelberg (1979)
Of the lawsuits holding musicians responsible for violent lyrics, comedian Denis Leary once quipped, "Does that mean I can sue Dan Fogelberg for making me into a pussy in the mid-'70s." After citing a couple of this song's Hallmark-card metaphors, the prosecution could rest.

5. 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn'

Poison (1988)
Poison's rampant hedonism was just a cry for help from the band's secret, inner wuss. If the lipgloss didn't give it away, lyrics like "instead of makin' love, we both made our separate ways" exposed the guys as a bunch of softies. Any real metalhead would know that roses are only cool when paired with guns or tattoos.

4. 'You're Beautiful'

James Blunt (2005)
It's the classic, tragic love story: Stoned man sees pretty girl on subway, girl exits with boyfriend, man loses will to live...all set to a bitchin' Spanish guitar riff menacing enough to evoke Wham's 'Careless Whisper.'

3. 'Ben'

Michael Jackson (1972)
Long before he was accused of anything unsavory, Michael Jackson's mind was in the gutter -- singing this screechy love song to a rat. Yep, Ben, the protagonist of the movie of the same name, was a heckuva guy, but he ate garbage. We wish we could say that rodent love songs stopped here, but see also 'Muskrat Love.'

2. 'Sometimes When We Touch'

Dan Hill (1997)
It doesn't get much softer than this soft-rock classic from a Torontonian who barely got it up for one more Top 40 hit a decade later. He wants to cuddle his beloved "til the fear in me subsides." By the sound of things, that could be awhile.

1. 'Shiny Happy People'

R.E.M. (1991)
Disowned by the band on its 2003 greatest-hits album despite being one of the critically adored "college rock" group's biggest chart successes, 'Shiny Happy People' is a case in point that irony doesn't always translate.(That's why they created emoticons ;-) Supposedly written in response to the horrific Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989, the song finds poetic lyricist Michael Stipe borrowing from a bit of Chinese propaganda roughly interpreted as "shiny happy people holding hands." But the finished product was no trenchant political statement from a human-rights warrior exercising the power of his celebrity. Instead, it was an anthemic lobotomy, precisely the kind of pop puffery the band meant to skewer.


Maria said...

49, 48, 45 [Owen Wilson's version!], 44, 42, 40, 39, 37 [that's my shit], 34, 33, 30 [who doesn't like that song?], 28 [and this one!], 27, 26 [listen while high, it's awesome], 24, 23 [yummy], 21 [ it's like my favorite melody EVER], 19, [c'mooonnnn], 17, 16, 14, 12, 10 [it's Coldplay.], 5 [ although Rock of Love has me fed up with it], and #1.

Fans of all of them. Just like every sane person on the planet is.

Amy said...

Okay the Celine Dion song totally makes me cry every time I hear it! I guess I was just such a sap for that movie. And More than Words, oh man, that one brings back some secret memories!

LunaNik said...

Ok, so you don't even want to know how many of these songs I actually enjoy listening to.

terri said...

I will always love Donny Osmond! Shhh... don't tell Rick Springfield!

Donna said...

I am so ashamed. I really do like about a third of these, loathe a third and never heard of the remainder.

Angie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angie said...

I like When I'm 64 - I must like the rooty-tooty Paul, I guess. You've got a Friend - James Taylor. Half his songs are wussy, but I like his folk-balad-y way of singing
Beth by Kiss - one of the few I like by them.
U Light Up My Life. Makes me think of my mom - she loved it when I was a little girl.
Close to You - Makes me think of the movie Parenthood and I loved that movie. I like the song too.
More embarrassing is how many wussy song bandsI have seen live including Kiss in make-up when I was 7 years old (what WAS my mom thinking?) and Poison when I was 16 years old. YIKES For the record, Poison opened for David Lee Roth and the tickets were Give-aways, James Taylor (college) , Huey Louis and the News (11 years old)and Billy Joel (18 years old)

piper of love said...

WOW! This was an elaborate post... did you stay up all night? ~lol

#35 tore my jr high heart to pieces every Saturday night at the skating rink... I actually would cry.

#27, I know every word!

#19, see #35

Bret Michaels was singing #5 on his show, to the whores, and I was singing along. I lurved him, in 1990.

BusyDad said...

Oh, I have to admit I am a huge fan of 80's metal ballads. In college, I learned me about a dozen songs on the guitar. 2 are on this list. Every Rose Has Its Thorn and More Than Words. I can still do them to this day. Burned into my memory.

Anonymous said...

No list is complete without the sappy ballad about a dog that died.
Shannon by Henry Gross.

Another day's at end
Mama says she's tired again
No one can even begin to tell her
I hardly know what to say
But maybe it's better that way
If Pop-pa were here I'm sure he'd tell her

Shannon, is gone I heard
She's drifting out to sea
She always loved to swim away
Maybe she'll find an island with a shaded tree
Just like the one in our backyard

Mama tries hard to pretend
That things will get better again
Somehow she's keepin' it all inside her
But finally the tears fill our eyes
And I know that somewhere tonight
She knows how much we really miss her

Shannon, is gone I heard
She's drifting out to sea
She always loved to swim away
Maybe she'll find an island
With a shaded tree
Just like the one in our back yard
Ah, just like the one in our back yard
Just like the one in our back yard

Edward R said...

Hear hear on John Mayer. What a wussy song from such a badass guitarist.

Did I ever confess that my high school girlfriend dragged me to see Richard Marx at Carowinds (The Repeat Offender Tour, for those of you keeping score at home).

I LOVE "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. Amanda Ghost, one of that tune's co-writers, is actually a friend of a friend, and we saw her show here in NYC at Joe's Pub.

Don Mills Diva said...

Ok - I like All Ot of Love and You're Beautiful. Oh and maybe a few others. Just a few.

lizzie said...

I sang my way all through the post- Sad to say I knew all the words...thanks for sharing!

FUN-ky Mama said...

I confess, I love With Arms Wide Open and Just the Way You Are.

Kimmylyn said...

I love #36, 23, & 5.. BUT I will crank it as loud as it can for a little Tupac..seriously.. I love #5.. just the gansta in me I guess.. :)

♥♥♥ A- Licious ♥♥♥ said...

oh WOW...fanstical post!
i lOvE LoVe music!

and i actually like a LOT of those!


this rocked!



Momo Fali said...

I read that first line of your post and thought you were talking about me! Who know you had TWO brilliant friends?

GoteeMan said...

ok, yeah, so some of that is really weak, but some of those are awesome... Dats why there's different kinds of music... cuz opinions are like a-holes - everybody gots one... and some stanks worse than others...


suchsimplepleasures said...

i love your list! but...i'm not huge on a bunch of the songs from the 50 wussiest songs...but, i'm too tired to go into detail. so, before i start babbling on...we'll leave it at that!

Miss said...

OK I'll confess. I saw Air Supply at the House of Blues. Like 3 years ago.

Anonymous said...

More Than Words by Extreme...too good! And Coldplay is on this list? That's brutal! These songs all make me gag (except Coldplay), but I still like them. I love them / hate them. Wierd, huh?

Caffeine Court said...

Peter Frampton brings back SO many memories! I loved "I'm in You."

Most of these songs remind me of my sappy youth! It would be a fun iPod playlist!

Bloghopping-The Pink Mojito

Tara R. said...

I would add "I want to know what love is" - Foreigner (1985). Great list... how well I remember all of these.

Mental P Mama said...

Totally dating myself...I pretty much like them all. Sigh,

Judith Shakespeare said...

I love "Such Great Heights"... Seriously. I sing it all of the time.

Of course, I'm a nerd. :)

AntiBarbie said...

I love just the way you are! I don't normally *do* sappy but I think that's an awesome song about friendship :)

Anonymous said...

Um, I have 11 of those songs on my iPod, one of them twice with the album version and the live version. Oh, and you just reminded me of another song I'd like to have on my iPod. I know. Pathetic.

Allison said...

I could easily sing along with any of these songs if they came on the radio (though it's not likely, since I only listen to country now....and I prefer country christian music at the moment), but the ones that (a) have special marks on my life and/or are just AWESOME are as follows:

I agree with you on your 2 "guilty pleasures" shall we say?---"You Light Up My Life" and "More Than Words". But I must put in a caveat---I "covered" "You Light" in kindergarten...at a Catholic school, in the "talent" show at the end. I just mouthed my abc's. It was silly. But it makes it special. And my mom used to call "More Than Words" "the puke song" because she got so sick of hearing it. But I still like it....because it sorta defines my love life...in an odd way...if you've ever seen What Dreams May Come, that's "our movie". :-)

Also...Richard Marx will always have a special place in my heart, I love "Right Here Waiting" and always will.

Finally---who wrote this list??? I mean, they put "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" on a wuss list??? NO FRIGGIN' WAY!!! That's an AWESOME song. One of my FAVORITES!!! In fact, the rest can fall away---this one I will ALWAYS love!!! Even my FATHER IN LAW likes it. Enough that he went looking for the album with it once when he was visiting us. And T found it for him...:-) Silly people....

Hookin' Angel

Senora Patron said...

Ok - I can't say they're all favorites, but being a dinosaur, I have over half of them in my iTunes! :)

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