It’s the beginning of a new month, and so we’re going to start in earnest with the project begun back in January: finding what might just be the worst songs ever recorded. Since we last met, there has been a fairly high profile article written on just this very thing, specifically defending perennial whipping-song “We Built This City.” I agree with the general assessment, that the Starship bomb is fairly indicative of its surrounding cheese milieu, and therefore not very special in its lack of quality. It’s an easy mark, but not remotely the worst of the worst. I also agree with the assessment that, as I stated last month, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” may well be the worst, though I’m not willing to damn Meat entirely. So I know you’re out there watching, Mr. Good Listener. I can keep it on the DL. Just give me a shout-out next time.
Needless to say, Starship is not going to be discussed here (at least not in that context: my colleagues can choose to do what they will). There are certainly a few gems that I noted in the comment thread below said article, but even most of those won’t quite make it… I can’t make an entire list, for example, of xenophobic country or putzy lounge music (it simply would never end). It would be too easy.
This is the point of the project, of course: the idea that, when the year ends, it’s super easy to deem a song “the worst ever” because it’s prominent. Anyone can hear “Blurred Lines” and talk about its blatant sexism and solid creep factor, but that ignores a couple other factors, not the least of which that for every person who hated the song, for any reason, there seemed to be 30 who loved it. Some of our most beloved performers, for example, were regularly just as sexist. Anyone hearing Thicke and wishing for the good old days has probably never heard Frank Sinatra, for example. I’d argue “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” is, in its own way, just as blitheringly sexist, but we’ll never end up taking Ol’ Blue Eyes to task for it. Should we? That’s not my place to argue (ok, yes, we probably should). My point is that this sort of thing is nothing new. Which leads me to our #10 slot.
“Girl Watcher” is, for the most part, no different from any other song of its era: it’s bouncy, relies on upbeat harmony, sounds like a stroll down a summer boardwalk, is at least vaguely stalkery… wait, what? Far be it from me to damn a song for playing the stalker angle; darkness can be a brilliant choice to break up the monotony. The issue with this is its complete lack of awareness. Sting plays up the tension in “Every Breath You Take.” Billy Corgan makes his fawning peeping tom in “Lily (My One and Only)” comic, which both neuters his threat and paints him as anything but a role model. Instead, the O’Kaysions (or at least their lead singer) just watch girls. Which, I’d say most of us have done this; upon finding a beautiful person of the gender we prefer, our mouth drops. We consider their beauty, their well formed this-or-that, the color of their whatever. Entranced, we watch. It’s normal behaviour for sexual adults, if arguably a bit tacky. This instance, however, seems to cross into unhealthytown.
See, if we call ourselves a girl watcher, we are defining it as a habitual, intentional practice. We seek out girls to watch, to hone in on. It makes the whole thing seem like Forrest Gump on a bench, just staring at thousands of legs, day in and day out. It goes from understandable consequence of attraction to creepy-old-man in no time flat. Add to this the fact that the singer notes “there goes one now!” He cannot even focus on the song without having his eyes drawn to some woman. At best, he is mentally unstable, probably due to minimal intimate contact or unrealistic sexual expectations. At worst, he’s an inveterate stalker. He would never use the oh so romantic “you the hottest bitch in this place” line, but only because he’d be too busy looking at the entire roster to ever select one for the honor.
The thing that really puts it over the edge, though, is the sheer virility the singer tries to project through his story. Watching girls is just what a manly man does when he grows up. The girls are clearly the unwitting sex object (object emphasized) and nothing more. They’re “putting on a show,” yknow, by walking and junk. Again, sexual attraction is plenty normal, and we cannot help the occasional thoughts, but there’s a decided air of women being nothing more than runway models, ones who should be happy to slow down for a better ogle, and tempted to come closer because hey, they’re hot, right? It’s not quite “I know you want it,” but it’s not like there’s any awareness of the fact that no, they probably don’t, especially since the album also features a track called “The Soul Clap.” No one is interested in what you’re selling, guys.
If we’re going to say that terrible beliefs make for a terrible song, or that outdated, oppressive views do, it’s certainly easy enough to lay into the modern. In 2014, we should know better. Still, even in context, this 2.5 minute romp not only is bottom of the barrel in terms of song quality, but when it comes to misogyny, it’s outstanding in its field. Or perhaps out peeping from its bushes.
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