The Worst Song I Have Ever Heard, and More Thoughts

So this is kind of a toss-up, but I am going to choose Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten as the worst song I have ever heard. In a very close second is Train’s Hey Soul Sister, second only because I think it is more obviously bad to more people, and I think that there are many other sources in agreement that could articulate their reasoning better than I.

So why is this the worst song I’ve ever heard?

First: It has all the elements of an annoying “chick empowerment song.” I say chick instead of female, because I think she only speaks for a (hopefully) narrow selection of women. The song starts with some lame guitar loop and pseudo-humming that is very Alanis Morisette-esque. It reeks of mid-90’s divorce-angst-turned-empowered; It sounds like a song that a dopey recent out-of-shape divorcee would wake up to to before beginning her Special-K weight loss challenge for the 3rd attempt this month, or be used in a commercial for it. I can hear the cereal and orange juice pouring now. “It’s a new day,” she thinks, looking smug and ready to tackle her inner demons. This is not me attempting to take a stab at women, just unthinking women. I guess at unthinking men too; this song just seems like it was marketed to one-dimensional people. I mean, if you’re one of these people that Ms. Bedingfield (or her producer and label, more like it) is targeting, there is a lot better music that you can listen to if you want to feel better or empowered.

Secondly: Its just plain trite. Overused metaphors, shower imagery (hence the usage in the shampoo commercials?) and it just feels cheap. It sounds way too overproduced. Way too white. I feel like it was written for a commercial, like it was written by formula in order to sell something. The wailing and flourishes are so overproduced, too much overdubbing. And what does “no one else can feel it for you” even mean?

Third: This is not so much her fault as it is The Hills, but it was used as the theme song for that show. I have never watched it, but knowing that it was on MTV and about high school/college aged girls, and set in LA, I can only guess what kind of garbage ethos it’s producers hocked. I don’t have a clue what this song is about really, nor what it has to do with that show. The first time I heard it, I thought it was from 1993, and not in a good way.

But that Train song is really annoying too.

This could lead into another discussion altogether- How exactly does top-40 radio programming work? Or better yet, What makes a song “radio friendly?” I mean, I can identify a song that is or is not radio friendly, but there are some very grey areas. I know for me, part of the appeal of indie music (and a lot of older music) is that not everyone knows about it, but I also just plain like it. Why does it seem that it’s mostly bad music that gets popular (overplayed on radios, commercials, and lately, Fox’s Glee)?

One thing that also bothers me-and this ties into my “Generation Gap” post from earlier-is that people who don’t listen to music (as an aside, I feel that people who list on their Facebook or in person that they like everything [as in all music] really don’t like any of it; as in they have no opinion really on anything.) are really averse to indie. I could play the most radio friendly Wilco, Dr. Dog, LCD Soundsystem, or whatever for them, and get an “eh” out of them. Then they’ll turn around and listen to a song that either sounds similar, or is just stupid. It’s even worse when you play a really powerful song (see Wake Up; Arcade Fire, At Least That’s What You Said; Wilco) and they have no emotion whatsoever. Ugh. I just don’t understand not feeling anything from music whatsoever. OR “feeling” something from bad music, like Unwritten.

Sorry for the rant, and the convoluted paragraphology.

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2 Responses to The Worst Song I Have Ever Heard, and More Thoughts

  1. Speaking from experience as a radio DJ, the reason why much of top-40 music sounds bad to you, is because it’s too familiar to you. Popular music becomes, well, popular because it has familiar ingredients: a certain BPM range, a memorable enough chorus, and some sort of emotional hook for the listener. Most popular music will share the same drum patterns, same melodies, same subject matter, etc. You’re just sick of familiarity, that’s all. It’s like being fed the same exact diet; after awhile, you get physically sick from eating the same garbage, so you look for something new.

    It’s not that your tastes are superior to the next person, you’re just fatigued from having the same exact impulses in your brain be triggered by similar sound waves. Also, it doesn’t help that commercial radio revolves around block formatting, and that songs are strategically played multiple times at certain intervals so as to maximize their exposure. The idea is, very few people will listen to an entire block all the way through, so they’re playing a song again for the benefit of a new listener who has just found the station.

    Furthermore, a dirty little secret of the music industry is that, the louder the song, the more likely it is to be popular compared to a similar song that isn’t engineered as loud. The reasoning is, our ears are conditioned to like what stands out more, so a louder song will usually win out over a modest recording. Nothing to do with the quality so much as the composition.

    • LukeR84 says:

      I agree. That’s why I don’t listen to the radio! There are a few stations that have decent programming (non-talk), but they are the exception.
      I still wonder though how some people just refuse by instinct, it seems, to enjoy actual good non-popular (top 40) music. I’m still glad they don’t, but I feel like more people should be won over to the merits of Indie_____ (insert genre here)

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