With more than 5.5 million articles, Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, whether you’re throwing a term paper together at the last minute, or trying to figure out who’s responsible for that off-key Groupon jingle that plays on YouTube constantly so you can murder them. We explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 5,509,334-week series, Wiki Wormhole.
This week’s entry: List Of Music Considered The Worst
What it’s about: Music. Sure, there have been a few good songs throughout the years, but there have been so many bad ones. And while forgettable, lackluster songs are written and recorded every day, some terrible songs and albums have broken through to be immortalized as some of the worst music of all time. Naturally, Wikipedia is there to name names.
Biggest controversy: Some of these songs aren’t half bad. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” makes the list, partly because John Lennon supposedly hated the McCartney-penned tune, and because it came up in a listener poll sponsored by a candy company—not exactly the utmost authority. Spandau Ballet’s “True” also makes the list despite being, as far as we’re concerned, pretty good.
Strangest fact: That there is a clown-themed rap-metal novelty act that doesn’t know how magnets work. No matter how many books A.V. Club alumnus Nathan Rabin writes about the Insane Clown Posse, we will still have trouble believing that they’re a real band, with enduring popularity, and a song that asks, “Fucking magnets, how do they work? / And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist / Y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed.”
Thing we were happiest to learn: Being terrible is no obstacle to success. Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park” is often cited as the worst song ever written, but it reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts, went to No. 1 in Australia and Canada, and was covered by Waylon Jennings and Donna Summer (whose disco-fied version was No. 1 for three weeks in the U.S.)
Likewise, “insipid” and “indefensibly stupid” Phil Collins number “Sussudio,” “We Built This City,” “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” “Ice Ice Baby,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” “Thong Song,” “You’re Beautiful,” and “My Humps,” all made this list, and were all huge hits in their day.
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: Talent is no guarantee of quality. Take Lord Sutch And Heavy Friends. David Sutch performed horror-themed rock shows through the ’60s, under the stage name Screaming Lord Sutch. In 1970, he put out an album backed by a murderers’ row of British rock that included Jimmy Page (who produced and co-wrote several songs), John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Rolling Stones pianist Nicky Hopkins, and Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding. The result was an album Rolling Stone called “absolutely terrible,” saying the backing band was “a fouled parody of themselves.” Sutch went onto questionable fame running more than 40 different gag campaigns for Parliament under the banner of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party (losing all of them).
Also noteworthy: Some albums are so bad they destroy everything they touch. In 1977, Southern rocker Gregg Allman was married to Cher (who had split from first husband Sonny Bono). The two released an album, Two The Hard Way, credited to “Allman and Woman.” Apparently named by Animal from the Muppets, not only did critics call the album “worthless,” and “bottom of the barrel,” the duo’s tour hemorrhaged money, reformed alcoholic Allman resumed drinking, and the couple divorced quickly afterward. “Woman” eventually bought the rights to the album, to ensure it’s never re-released.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: We’re almost afraid to go down this rabbit hole, but this page links to List Of Most-Disliked YouTube Videos. The majority of them are music videos, with Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift all being represented multiple times. However, while some of these videos are universally disliked, some have merely been viewed so many times that sheer quantity puts them on the list. Psy’s earworm “Gangnam Style” was disliked 1.92 million times, but that was only 12.44 percent of the votes. Likewise, this year’s viral hit, “Despacito” was only disliked 9.69 percent of the time (the most favorable song on the list), but that still worked out to 2.51 million dislikes, putting it at 7th on the list.
Further down the Wormhole: In 1997, the duo Komar and Melamid tried to create the worst song of all time. They surveyed people to find out what people found most annoying in a song, and then combined the responses to create, “The Most Unwanted Song,” which included some combination of country, opera, and bagpipes, plus a children’s choir urging listeners to shop at Wal-Mart. The country’s largest retailer displaced the livelihoods of small-town America by using economies of scale to sell all manner of products under one roof, from clothing to auto parts to eyeglasses to baked goods. While any number of foods are baked, bread is the rare foodstuff that can be created by applying heat, and then changed into a different food by applying more heat, namely toast. We’ll tackle that dry subject next week.