The actual 10 WORST SONGS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS below. To be fair, I excluded any song picked by any entrant in the contest.

10. Blondie, “The Tide Is High” – Overplayed then. When was the last time you heard this on classic radio?

9. Bangles, “Walk Like An Egyptian” – Were it not for the serendipitious timing of this, hot girls, and the advent of video, you would never have heard this one.

8. Michael Jackson, “Bad” – Michael Jackson threatening to beat someone up. No apparent irony.

7. Culture Club, “Karma Chameleon” – This song introduced the world to Boy George. I rest my case.

6. Madonna, “American Pie”–I’m not a fan but the woman has talent. She displays none of it here.

5. Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – It would be easier without drivel such as this.

4. Ricky Martin, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” – Chris Rock once called it the Hispanic “Whoop, There it Is.” I rest my case.

3. Los Del Rio, “Macarena” – Aaaaaaaaaah. Were it not for the Al Gore jokes this later facilitated, it would have come out even lower.

2. Nena, “99 Luftballoons” – Turned back US-German relations 30 years.

1. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”–This song is simply dreadful. The lyrics are lousy. The signing is worse. And yet the critics love it.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brett says:

    Jim, Jim! I think there’s a hidden message here: at least 5 of your “worst songs” would go on my “most memorable songs” list, at least the top 100. Clearly we’re talking to each other across a deep cultural divide.

    And how can you trash Nina Hagen and the Culture Club? You’ve really thrown down the gauntlet on this one. . .

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’ll agree that several of these songs are memorable; I just remember them sucking. 🙂 I intentionally chose major hits. I didn’t pick anything by, say, “Taco.”

  3. “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I can’t call it the worst song. Rather, I’d call it the most overrated. It merged metal with punk into an exciting combo. It blew away the stagnant hair metal scene, but people and critics got sooo googily over Nirvana. Pearl Jam’s Ten and Soundgarden’s Bad Motor Finger are better albums.

  4. Ian S. says:

    It’s popular now after 12 years of “grunge” to mock “Teen Spirit”, but in 1991, in that context, SLTS was the Best. Song. Ever. Your alternatives on the radio consisted at the time of aging hair metal and Paula Abdul, who was sorely lacking Simon to tell her she sucked. Sure, there were far better “grunge/alternative” albums later (notably “The Colour And The Shape”), but groundbreakers don’t have to be good to be celebrated, just first.