It’s easy for people to look at music today and claim it was better way back when. But they seem to forget there was a lot of questionable music back then too. Eras like the 80s and 90s were filled with tons of terrible songs, yet at the time, they were hits. Now, we recognize them are bad songs or “guilty pleasure,” but when they were first released they were popular despite how dumb they were. So let’s look back at stupid songs we all loved at one point.
“Achy Breaky Heart” – Billy Ray Cyrus
Though this song is now known as one of the worst songs of all time, it was actually a hit when it came out in 1992. Originally titled “Don’t Tell My Heart” it was first performed by The Marcy Brothers in 1991 but didn’t get much airplay. It wasn’t until Billy Ray Cyrus recorded his own version that the song exploded. It reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and peaked at number four on the Hot 100. And yes, I even liked it when I was a kid. It’s one of those song’s that’s terrible but has an earworm hook that burrows its way into your brain. It’s pretty bad with the stupid hook and Cyrus’ faux accent. For the longest time, we thought this was the worst thing Cyrus would give to the world. Boy, were we wrong.
“I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred
Released in 1991, UK duo Right Said Fred earned a number one hit with this ridiculous song about being so sexy “it hurts.” What started as a joke between the two Fairbrass brothers turned into an international chart-topping single. The track makes fun of the superficiality and narcissism of being a supermodel. It’s another one of those songs that’s so stupid you end up liking it. You gotta admit, the opening line of “I’m too sexy for my shirt” is kind of hard to forget. Now considered one of the worst song’s of the 90s, it’s something most of would rather forget was ever a thing.
“Higher” – Creed
Creed is one of those bands no one wants to admit they liked at one point. Sort of like Limp Bizkit. Before becoming of the music’s biggest jokes, they were one of the most successful acts of the late 90s. This song, along with the sappy “With Arms Wide Open” helped their second album, Human Clay, reach platinum status eleven times. Kind of disturbing when you think about it. This pseudo rock song was inescapable when it first came out. It was all over the radio and the lame video received lots of airplay on MTV. Listening to it now, it’s hard to think how anyone took this song seriously. Frontman Scott Stapp sounds like he has a sinus infection while singing and though the band denied their religious connotations, it’s pretty easy to hear all over this song.
“Blue” – Effiel 65
There are some songs whose origin and popularity can’t be explained. Why the hell was Effiel 65’s “Blue” a chart topping hit in 1999? We still have no idea. With a generic dance beat, the most memorable lyric in the mindless “da bee dee da” the singer keeps mumbling over and over. The rest of the lyrics are baffling as the singer goes onto talk about having a blue girlfriend, house, and dog. Why blue? Is he literally blue or is this supposed to be a clumsy metaphor? These are questions we’ll probably never have answers for. Even though the song is terrible, you couldn’t but singing it whenever it played. As a kid, I thought the song was weird, yet would happily sing it in the car whenever it came on.
“Rico Suave” – Gerardo
Everyone talks about how awful today’s music is and how things were better in the 80s and 90s. But then you remember a dark time in 1990 when Gerardo gave us the travesty that is “Rico Suave.” Looking back at it, it seems like a bad joke: the cringy lyrics, the mindless hook, and the questionable mariachi band in the video. While it never hit number one, it did reach as high at number two on Billboard’s Hot Rap Track and number seven on the Hot 100. The song is unbelievably bad making you question who actually bought it when it came out. While it can be a fun song to take the piss out of when hanging out with definitely not something you listen to for pleasure.
“Barbie Girl” – Aqua
This is one of those songs that could only exist in the 90s. In 1997, Danish group Aqua dropped this annoying song on the unsuspecting masses. And it took off. Supposedly a commentary poking fun at the superficiality of the doll, it’s a song you hate to get stuck in your head. The hook manages to be infectious, yet completely annoying. Her voice is too squeaky, while the guy’s faux gruffness comes off as slightly creepy. The single charted number one around the world and even caught the ire of Mattel, who later tried to sue the band. When this song came out, I remember teachers trying to ban us from singing it because it was supposedly dirty. And then someone went and made the Ken song, which all the boys in class loved singing.
“Party All the Time” – Eddie Murphy
Hot off the heels of Beverly Hills Cop, someone convinced Eddie Murphy to get in the recording booth and make this stupid song. The sad thing is as dumb as it is, it’s really catchy. Part of that has to do with the inane repetitive hook and the help of funk master Rick James. Listening to the song and watching Murphy trying so hard in the recording booth, you’d think it was an elaborate joke. That’s probably what people were hoping. Unfortunately, it was all too real and even led Murphy to record an album. And it was a commercial success. Murphy tried to have another hit single in the 90s with “Whaazup with You” with some help from Michael Jackson. While Jackson saves the song a little bit, it’s more atrocious than this. At least it gave us a killer Children of Bodom cover.
“Ice Ice Baby” -Vanilla Ice
Vanilla Ice is a hard phenomenon to explain today. Looking back at his biggest hit, it’s clearly bad. It’s one of those songs hipsters like ironically. But back in 1990, Rob van Winkle was the hottest rapper around. This song, which stole the riff from “Under Pressure” and led to a hilarious Vanilla Ice moment, graced the top of the charts around the world making his international debut To The Extreme, a success. It sold 15 million copies and spent 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. A short time later, people realized the song was dumb and Vanilla Ice was pretty lame. It didn’t help that Jim Carey poked fun at him and his lame dance moves in a great In Living Color sketch.
“Macarena” – Los del Rio
We all knew this was coming, so let’s get it over with it. The Macarena was one of those inexplicable fads of the 90s. What started out as an obscure dance song soon exploded around the world thanks to the stupid dance associated with the song. Soon the dance was being done at proms, weddings, and in your mom’s backyard. The best videos on America’s Funniest Home Videos were Macarena failures. It prompted several parodies, including a memorable one from the Animaniacs. It was so popular my school even made kids in an assembly do it on stage. Soon, the fad died out with slap bracelets, frosted tips, and JNCO Jeans. But with so many 90s trends coming back into fashion, maybe this duo is prime for a comeback. Let’s hope not.
“The Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats
Play this song for someone under 20 now and they’d probably wonder if it was a joke. Listening to the song and watching the weird video now, it’s still not all that clear if it is a joke. Written about bouncers trying to stop kids from pogo dancing in clubs, the song is baffling. The lyrics are weird with the odd yet memorable line “we can dance/we can dance/everyone look at your hands” while the music sounds like it was inspired by a Renaissance Fair. It’s one of the weirdest songs from the 80s, yet it was successful. It reached the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Club Play and peaked at number three on the Hot 100. And to think, for years people thought it was a song about safe sex.
“Watch Me” – Silento
Dance crazes are something the world should’ve left behind with the “Cha Cha Slide.” But somehow we all get swept up in them when a new one pops up every few years. When Silento hit the scene with “Watch Me” everyone from your mom to Jimmy Fallon started singing the mindless song. The track is nothing but different hip-hop dances phrases (Stanky Legg, Crank That) mashed together repeatedly throughout. And no matter how hard you try, it’s almost impossible not to “whip” and “nae nae” when you hear it. Even the Nickelodeon remix was catchy. I had to change the channel every time it came on so it wouldn’t get stuck in my head. It’s by no means good, but with a simple chorus and fun music, the song is hard to ignore even if you hate it. The track ended up in the number three spot on the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for six consecutive weeks. Thankfully, people seem to have forgotten the dance, but it makes me wary for the next dance craze.
“What the Fox Say” – Ylvis
This is one of those rare instances where an obviously terrible song turns into a big hit. Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis recorded “What the Fox Say” as an “anti-hit” for their comedy show Tonight With Ylvis. It didn’t take long for the video to hit Youtube and explode all over the internet. It was a song designed to be terrible and hilarious, yet it turned out to be successful. It’s reached platinum status in the States and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is nothing but random noises and generic dance music, proving that the internet gets obsessed with the weirdest things. Since the song was everywhere, I couldn’t find the humor in it and just found it to be another mindless, terrible song. Luckily, the duo said they don’t have plans to make a sequel.
There are more lovably stupid songs out there, so which ones did I miss? Which of these songs is your guilty pleasure? Let me know in the comments!