10. The B-52s – “Love Shack” is one of many songs — along with the Macarena, Who Let the Dogs Out, Celebration, YMCA and Mambo No. 5 — that will be included on a “Do Not Play or You Will Die” list given to the DJ at my wedding (if I ever get married). The only slightly acceptable B-52s song is “Roam,” but even then I can only handle it for about 57 seconds.
9. Bon Jovi – My distaste for Bon Jovi is most likely due to hearing one too many horrible karaoke versions of “Livin’ On A Prayer.” I cannot listen to them for an extended period of time before feeling like I’m in a giant karaoke club. The karaoke club of death. And I must get out! I will say, however, that the live acoustic performance of “Wanted Dead or Alive” that was performed on the awards show circuit in 1989 is excellent.
8. Poison – The 80s hair band contingent has now officially written me off. The long hair, the hairspray, the spandex, it was, and still is all very confusing to me. It’s like someone put all of the most unattractive attributes for a male into a blender and voila, out came hair metal bands! Though these days Bret Michaels seems to exist solely to provide reality television shows with contestants, he did have a very successful band once. But, they’re a crappy band. Give me Warrant, or heck, even Winger, any day before Poison.
7. Chicago – The 1980s were not kind to Chicago. Or, shall I say, Chicago in the 1980s was not kind to anyone in any kind of relationship at all whatsoever. The 80s Peter Cetera-era (Cetera era!) put Chicago on the map for quite possibly the sappiest ballads of all time: “Look Away,” “Hard Habit to Break,” “You’re the Inspiration,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”…the list goes on. They may as well have included a box of Kleenex and a pamphlet on why suicide is not the answer with every cassette tape sold.
6. Patrick Swayze – First of all, RIP Mr. Swayze. I liked you as an actor, and you seemed to be an all-around good guy. What you were not, however, was a good singer. Your song, “She’s Like The Wind,” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack was a noble effort. But you are on this list by default based almost entirely on the first seven words of that song: “She’s like the wind…through my tree.” Today’s songwriters, please learn from this epic, epic fail.
5. Kenny G – Oh, Kenny. Kenny Kenny Kenny. Where would we be without your sweet saxophone stylings? You undoubtedly were the soundtrack to endless wedding dances and video montages of lovers walking on the beach. No, wait, that was you…in a wife beater, in the “Songbird” video. But I digress. The musical time capsule that is the 1980s would not be complete without you, in all of your corny instrumental glory.
4. Irene Cara – I never understood the whole Flashdance thing. Maybe I was a little bit too young. “What a Feeling” oozes cheese for me…but, then again, my favorite movie of all time is Footloose, so clearly my cheese meter needs to be checked.
3. Toni Basil – I realize that “Mickey” is probably on every single “Best of the 80s” mix ever made, and the video is iconic and all that. But why, oh why, must the song be so grating? I’m pretty sure my ears bleed a little every time I hear that song.
2. Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians – Ugh, Edie Brickell and her annoying hippie weirdness. Her voice is irritating and the lyrics to “What I Am” are just as irritating: “I know what I know if you know what I mean…” No, I don’t know, and frankly don’t want to know. Now shut up.
1. Abba – Technically Abba is a 70s band, but they released their last album in 1981. Abba songs make me truly physically ill. If you ever want to torture me, force me to go see “Mamma Mia.” All the singing along and people clapping to horrible, horrible music. I can’t even…just…no.
10. Billy Squire. Every time I hear “Everybody Wants You” on the radio, I think to myself that Billy Squire is guilty of being the biggest rip off of both Robert Plant’s vocals AND Jimmy Page’s riffs.
9. Warrant. Warrant enjoyed the very height of the hair band era, when the Spandex just couldn’t get any tighter and the hair any bigger. That era ended abruptly when Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was released in the autumn of 1991. I remember going to see Warrant in concert at Great America — hey, my buddy had a free ticket! And they were playing with Trixter and Firehouse — What a treat! It was about a week after I had first heard Nirvana, and I remember being struck by how utterly fake and contrived Warrant seemed. They didn’t sing about anything, they didn’t stand for anything. Their music was an empty calorie meal. Thankfully, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Tool all emerged in 1991 to fill my musical stomach with nourishment.
8. Talking Heads. Maybe I just don’t “get” the Talking Heads, but to me, David Byrne’s vocals sound warbly and off-key. Not a big fan of the music, and I still scratch my head when they are talked about as one of the most influential bands of the 1980s.
7. Paula Abdul. I heard “Opposites Attract” on the radio last week, and I never realized before how awfully limited a singer Paula Abdul is. In the days before “vocal correction” in the studio, upon which many of today’s pop stars rely, Abdul’s two-note melody lines and tone-deafness reach through the speakers like a hypodermic needle piercing your ear drum.
6. Journey. I could never get behind this band for some reason. Their songs sound forced, somehow. I’m not denying their musical talent; Neal Schon and Steve Perry are juggernauts. I just don’t care for their songwriting. It really sounds of the time, and the songs haven’t matured with age. Great songs and great bands get better the more you listen to them. Journey makes me cringe ever harder with each listen.
5. Fine Young Cannibals. One of the most annoying songs of all time is “She Drives Me Crazy.” That alone lands FYC on this list.
4. Def Leppard. To qualify, I’m talking about the one-armed “Hysteria” era of the band. Talk about the most overproduced rock album of all time. What does Joe Elliot’s voice really sound like in person? My opinion of the Lepp really took a dive when I watched the VH1 Classic Albums about “Hysteria.” The band relied completely on “Pyromania” producer Mutt Lange (a great album, Pyromania; wish they would’ve quit then and there…) that they couldn’t even write a song without Lange holding their hand.
3. The Cure. Mopey lead singer Robert Smith should’ve just quit playing music if he was so unhappy.
2. New Kids on the Block. OK, I know I just pissed off every female reader of the blog of a certain age … my age. My seething dislike for “NKOTB” goes way back. My friend Rob and I penned our first song together around age 11, and it was an Ode to New Kids. Best lyric of the bunch? “They wish they could be me/So they could stand up and pee.” Brilliant stuff, about on par with actual New Kids lyrics. But I digress. Another reason for my lingering discontent over the existence of New Kids is that their popularity spawned every future boy band from N’SYNC to Backstreet Boys to, now, One Direction. And they all make me want to stick my head in the oven. But my oven is electric. Damn you, New Kids!
1. REM. Michael Stipe can kiss my white British ass. This is a guy who said the Beatles and Rolling Stones were like “elevator music” to him. Oh yeah? I say REM, with Stipe’s whiney vocals and pouty disposition, is a much better candidate by which to torture terrorists than the heavy metal bands the CIA usually goes for during interrogations.