Every decade has its fair share of crappy music. The ’50s gave us “Giddy Up A Ding Dong,” “Martian Hop,” and “Short Shorts.” The ’60s gave us, “Sugar Shack,” “Tell Laura I Love Her,” and “Snoopy Vs the Red Baron.” The ’70s gave us “Lucky Stars,” “I’ve Never Been to Me,” and “We Do It.” And the ’80s, well, the ’80s gave us more crappy music than you can shake a Shakin’ Stevens CD at. But what can you expect from a decade that started with Culture Club and ended with Milli Vanilli?
There is so much sink-foot-into-speaker music of that grievous decade to choose from that I would have to compile many lists to do all of it justice. So I’m going to list just one category of music: the dreaded pop dirge. The dictionary defines a dirge as a “funeral song or tune” or “any composition resembling such a song or tune in character.” The ’80s dog paddled in dirges.
1. I Won’t Let You Down, PHD
This could well be the dirgiest. That the public actually went out and bought this record, which sounds like somebody with a mouthful of tapioca pudding, burbling to an elephant breaking wind, probably means that all hope is lost for humanity. Scratch probably.
2. More than I Can Say, Leo Sayer
Leo has sung some fine songs over the years, but what the hell was he thinking when he put his vocal imprimatur on this soporific tune? The song waffles on longer than a proselytizing Scientologist, and did they play it to death on the radio, though it was reportedly seen shambling about biting chunks out of the living not long after.
3. Fast Car, Tracy Chapman
The ’80s saw the rise of political correctness, so the dopes who decide what goes on radio playlists thought they’d be extra-progressive by letting this painful slog through setting concrete burden our ear drums. Tracy Chapman was a black feminist with a cartoonish crop of hair who sang about the deeper things of life—fast cars for one. How could they say no?
4. The Power of Love, Jennifer Rush
Three separate songs titled the Power of Love charted in the ’80s—as if one wasn’t enough. But this was easily the stinkiest. It was a big hit at weddings. No wonder the divorce rate soared higher than a taste tester for a Colombian drug cartel in that decade with this syrupy salute to ennui symbolizing so many marital unions.
5. Waterfalls, Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney has written and performed some of the greatest pop songs of all time. Unfortunately this isn’t one of them. It’s a dismal oil spill of a tune that coated the airwaves in sludge. If Linda had fed Paul a t-bone steak once in a while, the former Beatle would never have pumped out this musical pollutant.
6. Classic, Adrian Gurvitz
“Gonna write a classic. Gonna write it in the attic.” Maybe Gurvitz couldn’t get into the attic, because this is no classic. I’m not sure whether it’s even a song, since it has no discernable melody, certainly none worth discerning. Next time write it in the study or, better yet, don’t write it at all.
7. Take My Breath Away, Berlin
This was on the soundtrack of Top Gun, in which Tom Cruise plays a navy fighter pilot. What a pity he didn’t fire a couple of rounds into this yowling alley cat of a dirge before it slinked out of the recording studio. If the anemic droning of the female lead singer wasn’t excruciating enough, there’s the plodding synthesizer, an interminable feature of ’80s music.
8. Girl I’m Gonna Miss You, Milli Vanilli
This song was so bad that the original singers were too embarrassed to put their names or faces to it, but not the two poseurs and extremely poor lip-synchers who comprised Milli Vanilli. To think they won a Grammy, which was cheerfully revoked when it was revealed they couldn’t sing their way out of a karaoke night at a seamen’s mission.
9. Right Here Waiting for You, Richard Marx
Whatever became of Richard Marx? Once you’ve had a listen to this stultifying track, your answer will be “Who cares!” This song is like tooth decay: it’s slow, inexorable, and when it’s finished leaves you groaning in agony.
10. One More Night, Phil Collins
One more night, and one less song, namely this one, would have been good. Not a song you could sing around the campfire. Not a song you could sing anywhere really, unless you mumbled it under anesthetic during a liver transplant operation or something. Collins should’ve got the chair for this atonal drivel, but he’s still walking the streets. Tell me where’s the justice in that?