Top 10 Worst Song Lyrics of All Time
[This article contains discussion of rape and sexual assault in general.]
Great lyrics can often make a song. Imagine The Notorious B.I.G’s “Juicy” without “It was all a dream, I used to read word up magazine!”, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)” without “Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone” or Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” without that line no white person can say, and the songs are suddenly that much weaker. They lack a certain presence and personality as a direct result.
That said, the inverse is true less often. There are plenty of great songs with terrible or nonsensical lyrics, after all. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, for example. Do you know what Kurt Cobain is singing about? No! But that doesn’t make it any less of a banger. It takes a special kind of atrocious, a kind of “Did they really just say that?” to really make a terrible song lyric stand out and ruin the entire song.
As you’ve probably gathered, this is about those lyrics.
Dance songs are generally under the “lyrics don’t matter” category I mentioned above. The most important they generally get is when they’re shouting out dance moves. Dance songs are pretty much designed to be noise that fades into the background, so how could a dance song’s lyric be so bad as to make this list, even at #10? How… cancerous would it have to be?
“I’m as serious as cancer, when I say rhythm is a dancer”
Rhythm Is A Dancer, Snap!
Yeah. The thing about this line is that both parts of it are pretty bad, and combine into the most baffling lyric in dance song history. “I’m serious as cancer” isn’t a good way to punctuate any sentence. I don’t want to get political, but I’m going to be bold and say that cancer sucks pretty hard. So, it’s really hard to say that something is as serious as cancer, because very few things are. It’s one of humanity’s biggest killers, and a reminder of our own mortality.
On the other hand, “rhythm is a dancer” is fucking nonsense. It’s the kind of lyric that gets stuck in your head and drives you mad because you can’t figure out what it means. Like, for instance, the entirety of American Pie. Combining these two lyrics results in something that is both incredibly jarring and hilarious, since you’re extremely serious about nothing in particular. Just like politicians. Hey-o!
This is such a weird song. It’s probably the most European song ever, even though the guy doing the rapping is American. Which surprised me, because I figured a line like this would be as a result of someone having a loose grasp of English. But, nope, apparently. The guy knew full well what he was doing. This just barely edged out an Ed Sheeran lyric, but we’ll get to that later.
What makes a woman attractive to you? Is it her eyes? Her hair? Her boobs and/or ass? Her feet, if you’re one of those kinds of people? Whatever it is, I’m going to assume that it’s not the brand she wears. However, 5 Seconds of Summer would beg to disagree.
“You look so perfect standing there/in my American Apparel underwear”
She Looks So Perfect, 5 Seconds Of Summer
There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to suggest American Apparel sponsored this song, but I really hope that they did. I cannot accept the idea that anybody would write this lyric of their own volition. The chorus would do a decent job of building up the song’s momentum if it wasn’t for this line causing the whole thing to come to a screeching halt.
If it’s product placement, leave that to the music videos and not the actual music, especially if it causes lines like this to happen. If it isn’t, they missed out on a big money-making opportunity. Because, hey, once you do American Apparel sponsorship, why stop there? Especially when you apparently don’t need to worry about making it actually fit into the song. I can’t help but wonder what other forms this line could have taken.
You look so perfect standing there, drinking from my Coca-Cola can!
You look so perfect standing there, buying cheap, affordable products from Wal-Mart!
You look so perfect standing there, watching me put on my Trojan condom!
She looked so perfect, flying my General Atomics Aeronautical Systems attack drone!
They slot in just as seamlessly as the real lyric!
Sometimes, great artists can make a terrible song. Sometimes, they keep putting them out for years. Sometimes, they decide that it’d be a good idea to start off a Greatest Hits album with one of these terrible songs.
“Now see that gerbil, grab that tube, shove it up my butt, Let that little rascal nibble on my asshole”
We’re in the red zone now. We’ve moved beyond weird obsessions with American Apparel and cancer and into shoving gerbils up assholes. It’s only downhill from here, folks. I’d have put this higher, but if nothing else, it’s probably the most successful lyric on this list. “FACK” is written to be gross-out comedy, and it accomplishes at least half of that, because it certainly is gross-out.
As comedy, though? It’s a complete failure. There’s nothing, either in this lyric or the song, that’s funny. It’s just obnoxious and gross. The song is likely meant to be a reference to Lemmiwinks from South Park, Eminem’s love of which is well-noted. But the humour of Limmiwinks went beyond it just being gross. The comedy came from the sheer absurdity of a classroom gerbil crawling through a gay man’s asshole being treated as an epic quest, complete with theme music and a Star Wars-style spirit advisor. Eminem misses that and instead just tries to be as gross as possible, an attitude that this lyric perfectly encapsulates.
Eminem can make genuinely funny music, as he’s proven with songs like “Role Model” and “The Real Slim Shady”. This, however, is a complete and total misfire.
All I really knew about Nickelback before doing this list is that people really, really hated them. And going by this, there’s a good reason for that!
“I love your lack of self-respect/while you’re passed out on the deck/I love my hands around your neck
Figured You Out, Nickelback
There’s…a lot going on here. This line isn’t quite as bad in-context as it is out of it. But it’s still pretty fucking bad. The song is about dating someone who turns out to be addicted to drugs, and that causing the singer to realise they don’t have much in common beyond sex. Which is fine, I guess, but then there’s this lyric, which comes across as really, really creepy and mean-spirited.
“I love your lack of self-respect” is already pretty skin-crawling. It comes across as really condescending towards drug addicts. “Pfft, look at them, addicted to drugs. Don’t they care about their self-image?” I could live with that, though, if it wasn’t for the implied visual image of him choking an unconscious woman. It might be the case that he isn’t actually choking her and is merely threatening to do so, which…isn’t much better.
Some lyrics can be looked at on their own, and you’d get a good idea of why they’re terrible. You probably didn’t need an explanation for why “FACK” was awful, for instance. Some, however, require it to be painted in the context of the rest of the song, both what goes before the line and what goes after it. This is the latter.
“Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me/Cause only those I really love will ever really know me”
7 Years, Lukas Graham
On the surface, it seems fine-ish. Standard “Oh, I don’t care about fame! I only care about my family!” stuff, right? However, the rest of the song undercuts it completely. For instance:
Soon we’ll be thirty years old, our songs have been sold/We’ve traveled around the world and we’re still roaming
Boasting about selling a bunch of albums is fine, but you can’t put a line like that when you just said that glory bores you. It evidently does not, because you just bragged about being famous and rich. Either stick to “We don’t care about fame” shit or “We’re rich and famous, fuck y’all!”. Don’t try to do both, because it’s really, really disingenuous. The whole thing comes across like an unironic version of “I’m So Humble”.
Remember Soulja Boy? If you don’t, it’s probably because you actively repressed the memory. In the mid-2000s, though, he was one of the biggest music stars on the planet. Which was quite a feat, considering his music was pure, utter shit.
Part of the reason he was so successful is that he had a certain cred. “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was one of, if not the first, songs to become big off of YouTube. As a result, Soulja Boy tried to paint himself as a big nerd. Which was a smart move, given how it was at the peak of internet nerds trying to convince themselves they were part of some special club. But it all came tumbling down when he tried to release a song to prove how nerdy he was.
“I’m lookin like Vegeta man/lookin like Gohan/lookin like Piccolo/Lookin like: anime, lookin like Death Note.”
Anime, Soulja Boy
Alright. So, first of all, here is Vegeta, Gohan, and Piccolo.
Now, to be fair, Vegeta and Gohan are not exactly polar opposites. Akira Toriyama is a talented man, but he’s not very good at different faces. So, I at least get that. But I can’t exactly say the same for Piccolo. He’s a green, pointy-eared alien from space. I can’t see the similarity here. I don’t get how you can look like all of these characters at the same time. If Soulja Boy just said Piccolo, I’d buy that. If he said he, himself, was a green, pointy-eared alien from space, I’d 100% believe that.
That’s nothing compared to the last sentence, though. “Lookin’ like Death Note.” In case you aren’t aware, Death Note is not the name of the main character from Death Note. It’s Light Yagami. Here is Light Yagami, and Death Note.
See, Death Note isn’t actually a character. It’s an object. It’s the notebook where you write people’s names on them, and they die. Which should be pretty fucking obvious, because “Death Note” doesn’t even sound like the name of a character.
People make jokes about how “Oh, I love Halo! He’s my favourite character!” and “Why can’t Metroid crawl?” but at least those could potentially be character names. Pretty stupid character names, admittedly, but still character names. And I always thought those jokes were played out, but here’s Soulja Boy, doing it in absolute sincerity.
After this, whatever cred Soulja Boy had as being a nerd was destroyed, and we all went back to Kanye West being the requisite hip-hop anime nerd.
A recurring theme on this list is good old fashioned sexism. A lot of song writers seem to be clueless about boundaries, for whatever reason. Take, for instance:
“I mean no disrespect/It’s my right to be hellish/I still get jealous”
Jealous, Nick Jonas
It’s not your right. Feel like that doesn’t need explaining. Apparently, it does. Y’see, Nick, women’s lives don’t actually revolve around your dick. They have jobs, and responsibilities, and lives. So if you’re hellish, they might actually leave you. It’s a hard concept to grasp, I know. It’s really hard to know how to interpret this other than domestic abuse apologia.
Nick Jonas has been trying to position himself as a “bad boy” for a while now, but he really overshot here.
I’m actually surprised at where this lyric ended up placing on the list. It was #1 for a good while. In fact, the lyric is the reason I started writing the list in the first place. I heard it, and I knew right there and then that I was going to need a platform to yell about it. It does kinda feel like I’m betraying myself when I don’t put it right at #1. But I’m being honest with this list’s numbering, so…here we are.
Cause space was just a word made up by someone who’s afraid to get too close Close, Nick Jonas
Yep, that’s right. Two Nick Jonas lyrics in a row! Seriously, whoever your writer is, fire them. If you write your own songs, fire yourself. I’m sure you can figure it out. There’s so much wrong here, I don’t even know where to start.
Let’s go with the fact that we already know that Nick Jonas isn’t the delicate type, going by that “It’s my right to be hellish” lyric. So I fully understand why women don’t want to get too close. He strikes me as more than a little possessive.
Even ignoring that, though, the line is Jaden Smith level bullshit. I’m not completely thick, and I get what this line is trying to communicate. It’s trying to say that he’s not one of those people who won’t fully connect to someone in a relationship and he’ll be there for you. Which is fine, but this is the dumbest possible way to phrase it.
I probably shouldn’t have to explain that “space” was not, in fact, a word made up by someone who’s afraid to get too close. Space is an abstract, metaphysical concept related to how objects have relative position and direction. The idea of “Space” referring to metaphorical space between in a relationship came later. To properly tear into this, I actually looked up the origins of the word “space”. Then I realised that was a moronic waste of time. Rest assured, this lyric is godawful no matter how much research I put into it. Seriously, fuck Nick Jonas.
There are a lot of rape-y song lyrics. Like “It’s my right to be hellish”, for instance. But there was one lyric that stood out to me for dropping the y and essentially just being straight up rape-.
“Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it, I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it”
Rocko ft. Future & Rick Ross, U.O.E.N.O
This lyric was rapped by guest vocalist Rick Ross and not Rocko himself. Which is a real shame, because I had all sorts of great jokes about Rocko’s Modern Life. It would have been hilarious. Anyway, holy fucking shit.
Rick Ross has apologised for this lyric, but it’s of the “sorry for the misinterpretation” variety. It’s hard to really know what the hell he was intending, if not rape. This isn’t even “Blurred Lines” rape, where there’s at least a theoretical middle ground, it’s full on Cosby-style drugging. I can’t even come up with an absurd, ridiculous joke explanation. Maybe… “enjoyed it” means the champagne? That seems like a wildly impractical and convoluted way to take drugs.
This lyric was, unsurprisingly, highly controversial, and pretty much the only reason people remember the otherwise completely forgettable song. He had a contract with Reebok that they ditched as a result, and a concert at Carleton University got cancelled amid protests that he was promoting rape culture. It’s hard to really argue against that. It’s kind of unfair, though. He had such a spotless record otherwise. Rocko ended up having to remove the lyric from the song so that radio stations would actually play it, lest they be accused of also being complicit in rape culture. That wacky Heffer!
“Good girl, I know you want it, I know you want it, I know you want it”
Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke
Blurred Lines is probably one of the most controversial songs of the decade, and that’s pretty understandable when you have lyrics like this. Still, after that Molly line, this seems pretty tame in comparison. Let it be clear that this particular word crime is a hideous attitude, though.
“Who’s coming with me, to kick a hole in the sky?”
Bottom’s Up, Nickelback
I have no idea what this means, and it’s pissing me off. It sounds like he’s about to destroy the time-space continuum. Which would be a pretty awesome premise for a song, to be fair.
“Shay with a gauge and Vanilla with a nine, Ready for the chumps on the wall, The chumps acting ill because they’re full of eight ball”
Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice
Yeah, I can’t exactly picture Vanilla Ice as being a badass, hardcore gangsta. Even when you strip away the whole “His entire backstory was a lie” thing, he really, really doesn’t sell it.
Also, I just want to say that I’ve noticed “Ice Ice Baby” being used in more and more advertisements in the UK as of late, and I just want to say: cut that shit out. Nobody who lived past 1992 likes it, because it’s a fucking terrible song.
“That pussy’s my lobby. I’mma eat it. I’mma eat it.”
Ayo, Chris Brown and Tyga
“Are we human, or are we dancers?”
The Killers, Human
This line always made me irrationally mad, and I’ve never quite been able to zero in on why. It’s not like it’s the only bit of meaningless nonsense to grace a dance song. Maybe this one gets me because it’s trying to sound meaningful, which it very much is not.
“Hoes on my dick, Cowboy Bebop when I’m blastin”
Anime, Soulja Boy
You may have gathered by now that “Anime” is not a very good song.
“And I know you love Shrek, ’Cause we’ve watched it 12 times”
Wake Me Up, Ed Sheeran
Here’s that Ed Sheeran lyric I mentioned earlier. I swear I didn’t make it up. I can’t get over the visual image of Ed Sheeran sitting down, taking a deep sigh, with his girlfriend to watch Shrek yet again.
My main problem is that I can’t get over the film in question being Shrek. Admittedly, that’s probably just because of the film being turned into a punchline. I’d give this a pass if it was something like Casablanca, When Harry Met Sally, or, hell, even There’s Something About Mary. Maybe Sheeran could have went the other way with it and wrote about seeing A Serbian Film 12 times. Maybe then he’d finally be interesting.
In 2013, country musician Brad Paisley had an epiphany. “Racism…is bad.” As he got out of his confederate flag bed sheets, he went to his toilet, passing by a framed platitude saying “Segregation happened before you were born…get over it!” As he brushed his teeth, he came to another realisation. “Sometimes, people don’t realise how racist they can be!” After he was done, he smelt his own farts before contacting his agent and demanding the biggest name in Hip-Hop — LL Cool J. Again, this was 2013, not, like, 1990.
This musical dream team sat down to record a song about prejudice and racism in America, and how people can often accidentally cause the proliferation of racist or otherwise problematic symbols because they don’t understand their history. They wanted it to be a provocative, deep, and important song that healed the race divide in America.
Because this is #1 on a list of the worst song lyrics, you’ve probably guessed how well it went.
“If you don’t judge my gold chains/I’ll forget the iron chains”
Accidental Racist, Brad Paisley & LL Cool J
See, the problem is that if Paisley wanted to do this song right, he’d need self-reflection. He’d need to sit back, and think about what he supports and what he represents. He’d need to go out there, apologise for his usage of historically toxic symbols like the confederate flag, and buy new bed sheets. He doesn’t want to do that. He hopes that with a little hug and pat on the back, he can solve everything and not have to worry about it ever again.
Doesn’t quite work like that. Paisley is aware that slavery was a thing, and might even understand why black people didn’t like being treated like they were less than animals, but what he doesn’t understand is why they might still be upset over it.
Now, I don’t know who wrote this lyric. LL Cool J is the one who raps it, and, indeed, he is credited as a songwriter. So him writing the lyric is a pretty safe bet. But both of them deserve blame here. This is a song that’s practically an ode to false equivalence. This particular lyric just happens to be the most obvious example.
A white person who judges a black person for wearing gold chains is probably racist. Not being racist should really be one of things that people do without saying, like not shitting your pants or stabbing a co-worker.
At the very least, it’s on a different level of decency from forgetting about fucking slavery. I think it’s worth remembering, too, that slavery didn’t happen that long ago. There’s a woman who is still alive whose grandparents were slaves.
I think if you want somebody to forget the “iron chains” you’re going to have to do a lot more than not actively be racist. Iron chains were used to capture black people from their homes, imprison them, and force them to do chores until they were set free with no education and forced to try and make it on their own, an effect that still lingers to this day. I’m just saying, I think you might need to try a little harder. Gold chains, on the other hand, have not been involved in anything except being in the music video for “Laffy Taffy”, a crime which, admittedly, cannot go completely ignored.
This song has so much wrong with it, outside of this one lyric, that I can’t cover all of it. To that end, I’d actually recommend reading the Genius page for the song, which tears into it on a line-by-line basis. That said, there’s one line earlier on that very verse that isn’t quite as bad, but speaks to the larger problems with the song as a whole.
If you don’t judge my do-rag/I won’t judge your red flag
See, Brad Paisley doesn’t want to put in that effort. He wants to just write a stupid-ass song where he can try to justify his decision to keep wearing a racist symbol. Some people, after hearing this song, went “Well, at least it had good intentions?” I won’t be so kind. Brad Paisley is a complete dipshit who only cares about racism insofar that he can just complain about how, like, sometimes people just judge him, too. Don’t give him any credit. Talking about racism just isn’t in his wheelhouse.
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