Rolling Stone recently released the results of a reader poll claiming to be the definitive list of “the 10 Worst songs from the ‘80s.” Such lists are a dime a dozen, and I don’t put much stock in them, but this one got me a little riled.

I’ll tell you why after I give you the complete list, for quick reference:

10. Rick Astley – “Never Gonna Give You Up”
9. Taco – “Puttin’ On the Ritz”
8. Toni Basil – “Mickey”
7. Bobby McFerrin – “Don’t Worry Be Happy”
6. Falco – “Rock Me Amadeus”
5. Men Without Hats – “The Safety Dance”
4. Wham! – “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)”
3. Chris de Burgh – “Lady in Red”
2. Europe – “The Final Countdown”
1. Starship – “We Built This City”

Yes, there are some truly bad songs on this list – and I’m sorry to say I actually used to really like a few of these songs that I now recognize as complete dreck (Europe, I’m looking at you. And you, Falco.)

And some of these tracks were just never good – I still don’t know how Rick Astley managed even to crack the charts! I feel vindicated now by the fact that I always hated that shit.

But there are a few items that, simply put, are out of place on this list, and I can’t abide seeing them included.

  • Safety Dance?! Come on! Yes, it’s a product of its day, but that was a good song. It hasn’t aged incredibly well, but it’s far from being in the bottom 10. Men Without Hats’ Pop Goes the World was SO MUCH worse.
  • Lady in Red – while I never particularly liked it – is certainly not offensive. It’s just innocuous. Forgettable, more than anything. I’d rather see Stevie Wonder’s I just called to say I love you on the list. Given Stevie’s history of great music, this song was an affront to his legacy… and much more saccharine than DeBurgh’s track.
  • Wake Me Up is pure pop. Aside from being overly-cheery, I see nothing wrong with it. I think a cover version could easily clean up any lingering instrumentation issues. There’s no reason this should be on the list and not Katrina and the Waves’ Walkin on Sunshine! That’s an affront! WoS is one of the worst pop songs ever released in any decade – and it just never goes away. It’s ubiquitous in every second radio-station and allergy-medication TV commercial nowadays!)
  • And now the biggest offender: We Built this City listed as #1 worst song of the ‘80s. I’m flat-out gob-smacked by this selection. Sure, the lyrics are a bit corporate, but the music is solid, and frankly still very listenable today. I don’t care what you might say about the rest of the list, but this song is just being slandered here. Unforgivable – especially since Billy Ocean’s Get out of My Dreams (Get into my car) is by all accounts THE worst song of the ‘80s – both musically and lyrically. Gah!

Clearly I’m getting myself worked up. <breathe> It’s just a list. Let’s focus on our common hatred instead. At least we all agree that Europe’s The Final Countdown is a horrible, horrible piece of trash. Mind you, on this week’s coverville – which featured covers of all these tunes – I was introduced to Dolapdere Big Gang, a Turkish band that has prepared an absolutely astounding cover of The Final Countdown. Brilliant:


8 responses »

  1. jandjsmum says:

    After I read your post it made me mad too- I don’t think Mickey deserves to be there either- that song epitomizes the 80s- it IS the 80s….when you think of 80s music, that song ALWAYS comes up- so if you say that is the worst of the 80s then you obviously hate the 80s. I agree with you on “We Built This City” – It is a fine song. So I decided that Rolling Stone doesn’t know hat they are talking about and I decided to compose my own worst of the 80s. Now- granted, I may have missed a song or two along the way- you might say “What about such and such” and Ill say “Oh yes, that should have been there too- sorry”….but you get the general idea. So here we go- The Worst 80s songs according to Me……

    10. China Girl- David Bowie (I just never got the whole speaking thing)
    9. Too Shy – Kajagoogoo (do I need to justify this?)
    8. Only in My Dreams- Debbie Gibson (I could have added Tiffany or Kylie Minogue here too)
    7. Neutron Dance- Pointer Sisters
    6. Never Gonna Give you Up- Rick Astly (or any other Rick Astley song)
    5. Get Outta My Dreams (get into my car)- Billy Ocean (Had a hard time deciding between this and Caribbean Queen)
    4. Relax- Frankie Goes To Hollywood (I just never got he appeal of this bad)
    3. Kiss- Prince (HATED the entire Prince Revolution….this to me was the worst of the worst)
    2. Walk Like and Egyptian- The Bangles
    1. Ghostbusters- Ray Parker Jr

    And as an honorable mention, the worst Canadian 80s song ever “Rise Up” by Parachute Club.

    Now I know you may disagree- in fact, I know you will disagree with FGTH and probably will balk at Prince and David Bowie, but its my list and Im sticking to it……

    Now I need to go do my top list…..

    • jandjsmum says:

      Oh- need to add “Nineteen” by Paul Hardcastle…terrible song!

    • RoC(k)r says:

      OMG – Ghostbusters TOTALLY deserves to be on this list. Wretched song. And Neutron dance was pretty bad. Unfortunately, I have to endure it regularly as it’s a track in bodystep and some instructors quite like the workout. I cringe every time.

      I always thought you liked the song Too Shy. Guess you learn something new every day. I have no qualms with you putting Prince on the list (Kiss is particularly bad) and I can see putting China Girl on the list – though in general, Bowie doesn’t deserve to be here.

      Personally, I don’t mind FGTH – I don’t have them on my iTunes, but I wouldn’t change the channel if it came on the radio. But you’re the second to mention it, so I guess it’s generally not very well liked.

      I do take issue with Rise Up. That’s actually a pretty good song. If I had to pick a Canadian entry, I’d probably list I’m an Adult now by TPOH. I always hated that song. Or maybe Mimi on the Beach by Siberry.

      And thanks for mentioning Nineteen. I had successfully blocked that song from my memory. Now it’s part of my consciousness again. Jerk 🙂

      • jandjsmum says:

        I like TPOH- Im an Adult Now… lets just agree on “High School Confidential” by Rough Trade as the worst ever Canadian song- although in general, I would agree with Jane Siberry….Or anything by The Tragically Hip…..they arent 80s but I generally HATE them.

      • RoC(k)r says:

        I can get on board with Rough Trade 🙂

  2. jandjsmum says:

    So I decided to make a list of some of my favorite 80s songs. I didn’t want to rank them- that is just too hard to decipher which would be #1 for me, but I have realized that almost all of these songs have huge meaning for me throughout my life- so Im not saying that everyone would think these are the best songs of the 80s- but to me they are. Ill only try to list my top 10-15……otherwise we could be here all day:

    * Def Leppard- Photograph (I remember hearing this song for the first time and thinking – WOW this is a sound Ive never heard before-it opened my eyes to a whole new genre of music)
    * JOhn Cougar- Jack & Diane (I remember getting this record for Xmas and wearing out this song- I think its the first record I owned that neither Mom or Dad liked)
    * Blondie- Heart of Glass (This song is STILL on my playlist- I remember Dad had this album- how weird is that? Dad was actually current with rock at one time- or was it a fluke?)
    * Journey- Stone in Love (This reminds me of 7th grade walking to school and some smokers would hang out listening to this as I walked by them- I remember thinking that this song was amazing)
    * Clash- Rock the Casbah (Reminds me when you and I used to listen to the top 40 and draw pictures of the titles of songs- this and Dirty Laundry were the 2 I remember- The Clash were so different at the time- love them)
    * Queen- Under Pressure (Didn’t become of a favorite of mind until way after the 80s, but I cant tell you how much Queen means to me now)
    * Rolling Stones- Start Me Up (Not a huge Stones fan, but I remember you winning a mirror of the Stones at the Ex one year throwing darts- this song is about my only real favorite of theirs)
    * Bryan Adams- Summer of ’69 ( I may have to rank this one as my #1 if I was forced to do it)
    * Inxs- Devil Inside (THe guitar alone makes this song and still hold up today)
    * Outfield- Say it isn’t so (this reminds me of 1st year university- I LOVE the outfield for the memories)
    * Tom Petty – Free Fallin (again, like Queen, I didn’t really appreciate this song until my Toronto years- but I just love this song)
    * GNR- Sweet Child O Mine (Such a different sound- not as huge of a shift as Nirvana, but a pretty major shift in 80s music when this one came out)
    * The Kings- Switchin’ to Glide (Reminds me of Magic Mountain)

    Anyways, there are tons more that I could include(Come Dancing/The Kinks, Jessie’s Girl/Rick Springfield, Goody Two Shoes/Adam Ant, One Night In Bangkok/Murray Head, Life in a Northern Town/dream Academy). Funny that Duran Duran didn’t make my list- although they still mean the world to me. Thanks for letting me write this- I know this wasn’t the original intent of your blog but I appreciate you letting me take a walk down memory lane.

    • RoC(k)r says:

      Happy to read it – you should actually repost it on your own blog – It might be something you want to refer to down the road. I was shocked to see no Duran Duran on your list.They’re the band I think of first when I think of you in the 80s. Synonymous. I might have to change that mental connection.

      As for Dad’s musical taste, don’t forget he also had Donna Summer and Saturday night fever – so he was partly current at least through the disco era.

    • RoC(k)r says:

      Oh, and I’ve listened to One Night in Bangkok recently. It’s actually a pretty bad song (sad cuz I used to love it, AND it’s from a musical by the two guys from ABBA!)

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