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“Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas

Is this where emo really began? Over busy, fan-described “progressive” hard rock backing, singer Steve Walsh, full of earnest portent, sings lines such as, “If I claim to be a wise man/ It surely means that I don’t know.” Know what? Know return? Kansas and this single in particular always represented to me the bone-dry well that was hard and progressive (read: busy musicianship) rock by the time Leftoveroverture (ugh) was released in ’76. I detest hearing this song when it comes on the radio; the layered, buffoonish intro harmonies, Walsh’s aforementioned wide-eyed vocals, the obnoxious competition of Walsh’s organ with the main riff, that guitar-face making lick at 3:25. So much to hate.

In high school, I had a similarly buffoonish art teacher; he was a hobbyist bodybuilder, had something of a rattail, always rolled his sleeves up and would frequently stop us students working on our projects to impart irrelevant, straight-shootin,’ slice-‘o-life stories about how great he was (“So, I pulled up alongside this guy on Roosevelt Blvd and he had a sign; needed money.” I rolled down the window – didn’t care if he was just gonna go drink it away – and I handed him a 20. Turned to my son, I said, ‘Son, never forget your brother.’ OK, guys, back to work.”) The class’ saving grace was that we got to listen to the radio. One particularly dreadful WYSP-filled day, “Carry On” began. My eyes rolled into the back of my head; I looked up and saw my teacher pump his fist, saying, “Aw, they’re playin’ the good stuff today.” He later got promoted to assistant principal. – Chris Middleman

“Tik Tok” by Ke$ha

How this song is so ubiquitous is a disturbing testament to the devolution of American culture. The first 10 seconds of “Tik Tok” boast some of the most shrill, nasal, irritating and heinous talk-rapping – excuse me, Auto-Tuned talk-rapping – in pop history. The beat is laden with anemia, the melody infectious only in a morning-after-venereal-disease way. Just listen to the song, because to further describe its atrocities against music is a waste of my time and yours. – Jory Spadea

“Firework” – Katy Perry

Do I even need to explain this? The über-lame, clichéd imagery? The über-lame, dated production? The fact that it’s destined to be played at every ice skating pageant from now until the end of time?

No. These are not the things I hate most about “Firework.” I absolutely, positively cannot STAND being told by Katy “I kissed a girl and I liked it, teehee, wasn’t that SCANDALOUS of me, do you like me yet?!” Perry that I should feel good about myself. I loathe being patronized in general and Katy letting me know that, “There’s still a chance for you” sends me into frothy rage. I hated this song a decade ago when it was called “Beautiful,” but in retrospect “Beautiful” was actually kinda well-written and certainly didn’t have lyrics like, “Make ’em go oh!/ Oh! Oh!/ As you shoot across the sky.” In short, “Firework” is the worst kind of bullshit. GO CONCERN-TROLL SOMEWHERE ELSE, KATY PERRY.

Full disclosure: However, I would excitedly rock the firework bra she wears in the video every day of my life if I could. That thing is awesome. – Ashley Thiry

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

Although “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is barreling its way up the ranks of songs that make my skin crawl, there will always be a special place in hell for Whitney Houston’s cover of the Dolly Parton song “I Will Always Love You.” Released in 1992 for The Bodyguard’s soundtrack, this abomination gets frequent airplay, making me flee from shops and hunker down over my food when Houston’s bloodcurdling voice comes on for nearly 20 years. Just last week, my wife sang it in my face, unaware just how much I hated the song. The worst part? That soaring chorus where Houston sounds caught somewhere between Bobby Brown crying out for a fix and a cat with its nuts in a vice. It’s like nails on the chalkboard; I shudder to think. -David Harris

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles

For how important it is, The White Album is pretty shitty. That’s what makes the Beatles so interesting to me, though – their humanity as some of their creative endeavors go tits-up. As one of the major templates of rock ‘n’ roll bands, the unlistenable troughs are just as important as their glorious peaks. There is no Beatles song more wretched than “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

“Paul’s granny shit,” John Lennon derisively referred to it, with its bouncing highlife/reggae pillaging. Part of my hatred for it comes from that shouty “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da/ Life goes on, ah!” chorus where everyone is having fun but you. The other part comes from the annoyingly cutesy lyrics about Desmond and Molly doing stuff, which read like Paul McCartney fished some discarded notes out of Ray Davies’ trash and scrubbed all the wit out.

One time I was in a Mediterranean restaurant in a college town and the song was playing. I remarked loudly how much I hate this song, accidentally as a waiter walked by. “Me too,” he said, made a beeline for the offending iPod and changed it to Radiohead or something. Now that’s service. – Danny Djeljosevic

“Up, Up and Away” by the 5th Dimension

You know how whenever you see a hippie just a’ traipsin’ down the lane wearing tie-dye and rose colored glasses, you just want to kick them in the fucking stomach until they vomit blood? “Up, Up and Away” by the 5th Dimension is the reason why. Released during 1967’s fabled “Summer of Love,” this sickening mass of rainbow-colored treacle is the reason why we lost in Vietnam. Written by the songwriter Jimmy Webb under the direct instruction of Nazi demon child rapists in order to drive sane people crazy and make babies cry, this three-minute pop music abortion is the single worst thing that has ever happened in the entire history of the world. I mean, just get a load of these lyrics: “My beautiful, my beautiful balloon/ The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon/ It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon/ We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky/ For we can fly! We can fly!

FUCK! Just typing those words out made me want to kill Wavy Gravy. Please, dear reader, please do me a favor – the next time you hear the shimmering hazy sunshine of “Up, Up and Away” start to squeeze its hippy-dippy way into your ear canal, please run to the nearest turntable or iPod and start blasting Fugazi or something. It’s the only way to ensure our nation’s continued existence. I mean it. Thank you, and God Bless America. – Shannon Gramas

“Hotel California” by the Eagles

The Eagles are a shitty band, man. This day and age, most people assume that opinion comes from a culture obsessed with The Big Lebowski, but that movie was just the gateway to a larger truth. The Eagles write crappy, wussy “rock” with clunky lyrics that truly capture the idiotic essence of lead singer Don Henley (except for “Desperado-” that song is rad.)

Perhaps the turdiest turd in their catalog is arguably their most popular song- the horror that is “Hotel California.” What is it that people love about that song? Is it the sleep-inducing guitar riff, with its rocking lullabye timbre? It sounds like Glenn Frey was falling asleep, being woken long enough to strum some bullshit. Or the complex, stirring lyricism, such as, “Some dance to remember/ Some dance to forget“? Goddamn Henley, drop that science.

In case I wasn’t mean enough, I hate “Hotel California.” There’s more hate in my heart than is justifiable for what’s essentially an inanimate object. It’s a shitty song by a shitty band and I’ve written more on it than it deserves. Fuck this song in half. – Rafael Gaitan

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“I’ve Got a Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas

I’ve always thought that the Black Eyed Peas were created by Matt Groening as a long-form exercise in parody and that, around 2016 or so, we’d find out that it was just one elaborate prank. They remind me of something that should have been cooked up in “The Simpsons” writing room if they needed a band to play the Springfield State Fair and couldn’t find a guest star for that weeks show. That thought is really a coping mechanism though; it’s the only context in which I can even remotely stomach the Black Eyed Peas.

Just the simple act of the first synth notes from the intro crossing the threshold of my eardrums sends me into a psychotic fit. The lyrics sound like they were spit out by some sort of autolyricmatroninator3000 set to the second grade level and then focus-grouped for maximum appeal. “Fill up my cup/ Mazel tov.” WHO THE FUCK COMES UP WITH THIS SHIT? Four hundred years from now when some noted historian of the day settles down to write The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, he need look no further than the popularity of the Black Eyed Peas as a symptom of American depravity. – Tom Volk

“Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon

This song inspires me to apply steady pressure to my temples. It’s completely artless. I suppose the logic is that any time you make your sexual references even remotely ambiguous, you’re leaving money on the table.

Kings of Leon do deserve a certain modicum of respect, though. I mean, it takes some kind of balls to write a song about contracting a venereal disease and then to play it as a genuine sex anthem before packed stadiums while remaining straight-faced. I’m assuming there’s no way that anyone could be so obtuse as to write this song and miss the joke. “You/ Your sex is on fire.” Hot coffee, or hot bath water and we’re still talking sexy temperature, but anytime you invoke an actual burning sensation in reference to sex, it’s a medical issue. Not only that but the lyric is sung by Caleb Followill in that forced moan that evokes an ailing gonorrhea patient more aptly than someone in the throes of passion. Follow that corn-riddled shit of a lyric with a guitar riff that belongs in a car commercial and you have one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard mercilessly overplayed on the radio. – Ryan R. Crawford

“Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright

How much do I hate you, “Dream Weaver?” Do I hate you enough to feel my skin crawl every time that stupidly ominous, John Carpenter-style synthesizer intro begins? Do I hate you for your insipid (even by prog-rock standards) lyrics such as, “Though the dawn may be coming soon/ There may still be some time/ Fly me away to the bright side of the moon/ And meet me on the other side?” Do I hate you for every single moronic “Wayne’s World” reference you cause? Do I hate you for claiming artistic inspiration from not one, but two Beatles and then sounding like pap neither George Harrison nor John Lennon would knock off at their most stoned and lazy? “Dream Weaver,” I hate you for all these reasons and much more. But mostly I hate you for being the worst song committed against anyone who’s ever had to listen to office Muzak. – Nathan Kamal

“Vertigo” by U2

The first time I heard this song, I was already thinking “oh no, this is going to hurt” before Bono’s count could get to “catorce.” I was right. Just hearing the chorus refrain, “Hello, hello/ I’m at a place called vertigo,” while giving the song a requisite listen before writing this, wasn’t just like grinding nails on a chalkboard, it was like grinding down chalkboards into powder, forming them into synthetic nails and then grinding them against a chalkboard. It just made me angry. The main riff, a clear attempt by the band to prove its relevancy to the kids, is at most a toned-down, radio-friendly statement of their desperate need for attention; it sounds like sometime told the Edge, “write a ‘driving riff'” and he just did exactly as asked. To me, “Vertigo” epitomizes the downward spiral U2 started in the late ’90s, serving as a perfect example of the band’s apparent effort to seriously amp up the cheese factor. I’m cringing just thinking about it. – Jordan Ardanaz

“Drops of Jupiter” by Train

Everything is so terrible in this song. Everything! Even the sustained piano notes at the beginning somehow manage to reek of pretension. And that’s even before lead singer Patrick Monahan, bellowing with a bizarrely disaffected yearning, starts spitting out agonizing lyrics such as, “Since the return from her stay on the moon/ She listens like spring and she talks like June, hey hey.” That’s right, they manage to deploy one of most hackneyed rhymes in the annals of pop songwriting and combine that colossal lack of imagination with lyrics that make no fuckin’ sense at all. Producer Brendan O’Brien layers on the bombast like poisonous caramel dumped over rotten fruit. “She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo/ Reminds me that there’s room to grow, hey hey.” Punishing. – Dan Seeger

“Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

How I hate this song. I only listen to this song if and when it comes on and I can’t control it – usually at a bar. This just adds to my hatred. The opening notes are immediately followed by a cacophony of high-pitched screams from all the brown-eyed girls in the bar as I groan in despair and start drinking faster. The girls then talk about how this is THEIR song, ignoring the fact that brown is the most common eye color in the United States.

Besides the obnoxious girls that adore the song, it just plain sucks. The music is campy and it’s such a novelty song. The chorus is basically this: “Sha la la la la la la la la la la te da,” repeated about five times with Morrison yelling a line or two in between. What a piece of shit chorus. I would gladly lose a pinkie to ensure I would never have to hear this song again. – Tris Miller

“Hey, Soul Sister” by Train

My hate for the band Train has been a developing for years, and their aesthetic is faceless and watery enough that I’ve managed to hate three of their songs before realizing they had written them. “Meet Virginia” annoyed the shit out of me even in an era when I still watched VH1’s Top 20 countdown and thought Lenny Kravitz was kind of cool, provoking some buried nerve that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. “Drops of Jupiter” was even worse, played ad nauseum in the supermarket where I worked, dooming me to a summer where I eventually memorized every miserable line. For years I thought the nightmare was over, but then came “Hey, Soul Sister,” another masterpiece of inane, mind-rotting cutesiness which I was only able to attribute to the band last week, at the same time I learned they had just started their own wine club. Supposedly the song is a loving ode to Burning Man, which speaks for itself. – Jesse Cataldo

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“Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson

There are a lot of reasons to really hate this song, but for me, it comes down to just two. Firstly, it sounds like a nursery rhyme set to pseudo-Hawaiian music. If people were pissed about Led Zeppelin and Elvis mauling and reinterpreting black music for a mostly ignorant white audience, they should feel the same way about the faux-culture of Johnson. The biggest crime committed by “Banana Pancakes” though has to do with the social perception of the guitar. Young boys everywhere pick up guitars to impress chicks. Before Johnson – more a significant point of reference for the aughts, not a blatant fact – they inspired to play like Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour and Carlos Santana, winning the hearts of women with sweet solos and tones. Then Johnson and “Banana Pancakes” came along and said that all you needed were three bubbly chords and a cute title and you would have women jumping your bones every time you picked up your axe. For middling, overindulgent, privileged, non-confrontational whiteness and allowing douchebags everywhere to be perceived as guitar players, I fucking hate “Banana Pancakes.” – Kyle Fowle

“Billionaire” by Travie McCoy feat. Bruno Mars

Why does my blood boil at the thought of this song? First of all, a grown man is calling himself Travie and that’s insufferable. Second, I call bullshit on a wealthy pair of recording artists singing that if only they were billionaires, they could give some shit away and feed their apparently starving friends and family (“I’ll probably take whatever’s left and just split it up/ So everybody that I love can have a couple bucks/ And not a single tummy around me would know what hungry was“). I have two jobs, the larger of which is about to cut a quarter of my hours, and I still gave $25 to the World Food Programme this week, you rich assholes. Third, “I wanna be a billionaire so freakin’ bad“. Now we’re both about to spend all afternoon beating your temple with a cinder block just to get rid of that earworm. – Katie Bolton

“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey

Judging by this song’s barroom jukebox ubiquity, half of all drunken revelers and wannabe karaoke stars are or were previously a “small-town girl/ Livin’ in a lonely world” who have or plan to take “the midnight train goin’ anywhere.” Besides the fact that, as anyone remotely familiar with train timetables could tell you, there is no such thing as a train going “anywhere,” let alone a midnight one that does so, if you’re unfortunate enough to make such a mistake in booking a late-night trip, chances are you’ll end up somewhere you didn’t want to be, like Buffalo or Phoenix. An asinine cookie-cutter pop song in an age of asinine cookie cutter pop songs (and big hair), numerous reasons exist justifying how much I loathe this particular one. But the endless stream of tone deaf and dead drunk singers belting out, “Some were born to sing the blues” from coast to coast between the hours of 1 am. and 3 am is, I believe–and won’t stop believin’–reason enough. – Joe Clinkenbeard

“Sweet Caroline,” Neil Diamond

Drop by the Wikipedia page for “Sweet Caroline” and you’ll see the section and note “‘Sweet Caroline’ is popular at sporting events.” If you’ve spent any time at the University of Wisconsin — or likely any Big 10 campus, East Coast university or MLB stadium — you’ll know that’s a bit of an understatement. It plays at the campus sports bars, with a bunch of stupid-drunk Neil Diamond single-song acolytes singing along and pumping their fists merrily. It pops up at the local karaoke houses, more uncomfortable performance-art than music. It booms across the stadium in Madison, red-garbed masses swaying along. Yes, “Sweet Caroline” is ubiquitous. Too bad I never liked the song all that much, yet had to hear it everywhere for my college days. Now I hate it. Too bad — it does have a catchy verse. – Michael Merline

“La La” by Ashlee Simpson

The shining gem of instant migraine that is “La La” came to us from Ashlee’s full-length debut, Autobiography, which in itself is an album I can barely stand but was subjected to many times over due to the fact that I had the misfortune of being in middle school when the future Ex-Mrs. Pete Wentz ruled MTV. Ashlee describes “La La” as being a “tongue-in-cheek anthem” but all I hear is a euphemism for sluttiness. Not moving beyond a range of two hoarsely rasped notes, Ashlee informs us all of how this someone makes her want to “La La”- you know, La La, like “in the kitchen/ On the floor.” Hearing her sing lines such as, “I’m like an alley cat/ Lick the milk up I want more,” in this obnoxiously catchy song makes me ashamed to know that at one point the world thought Autobiography was a contribution to young girls from a future role model to all little sisters. Nothing says hero figure than a 20-year old singing songs about letting a guy dress her in diamonds, dirt, French maid costumes – whatever will make him want to fuck her the most. – Sam Gordon

“Lovefool” by the Cardigans

Back in my mid-’90s college years, whenever “Lovefool” came on the radio, my roommate’s girlfriend would squeeze his mouth into a pucker and make him coo the words to this crappy Cardigans song. A predictable pattern soon developed; since his chances of getting laid dictated that he go along with it, he’d endure it, we’d mock him relentlessly and he’d bitch that he never quite scored as much as by rights he should have.

To this day it remains one of the most emasculating and pitiful things I’ve witnessed, made possible by one of the biggest stinking piles of whiny co-dependence ever written. – Eric Dennis

“Jump Around” by House of Pain

In competition for my most hated song came down to a toss-up between House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain.” To me, they’re the same song but of course they’re not the same song at all, though it’s hard to tell through the cloud of pot smoke. But that SOUND. That loud, high-pitched, whirring, squealy, god-awful SOUND. What the HELL is that SOUND?!?! And it’s constant. CONSTANT! It’s like a personalized dog whistle that instantly gives me a homicidal cluster headache. Shut the fuck up, sound!!!

Can you tell me what Prince, a saxophone and a horse all have in common? They were all reported to be the sample source of this maddening racket! No kidding. Although it’s not true that the origin of “Jump Around”‘s irritation is a snippet of Prince’s opening scream in “Gett Off” but instead a blip of a saxophone blast from Jr. Walker and the All Star’s “Shoot Your Shot,” it’s pretty hilarious that it’s hard to tell the difference. And “Insane in the Brain’s” headache-maker is attributed to a horse whinny from Mel and Tim’s “Good Guys Only Win in the Movies.” See? I learned something. And yay! Those other three songs are really awesome! Sorry, “Jump Around,” you still suck. And stop telling me what to do. – Stacey Pavlick

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