It’s an all too common feeling that you get into a track because of its riff, listen to it and over, before finally listening to the lyrics and realising that they’re awful and ruin the song. For every subsequent listen, you can only sing along to the riff, and you need to pretend that the words don’t actually exist; it’s too embarrassing to sing them aloud. These are 12 of the biggest offenders; amazing riffs ruined by truly terrible lyrics.
If someone told you that Muse‘s modern day lyrics were penned by a politically charged 12 year old who just watched a bunch of Russell Brand videos on YouTube, albums like Drones (the band’s latest) would make a lot more sense. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Although the album featured some of the band’s most badass riff-work in years, it also included some truly shocking lyrics, all relating to drones and how they’re bad and shit, because of the man, and war and, y’know, politics or whatever. Case in point – lead single ‘Psycho’.
Lead singer Matt Bellamy does the impressive job of ruining a simple yet epic riff (which has been floating around the band’s collective brains for the past 16 years) with blatant and downright stupid lyrics about military brainwashing.
Most Cringeworthy: “Your ass belongs to me noooooooow”
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Purple Stain
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Anthony Kiedis is an integral part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ sound, and he does know how to belter out an emotional lyric now and then (‘Don’t Forget Me’ manages to hit me in the feels every time). Unfortunately, he also knows how to drop a steaming load of horseshit over Frusciante, Flea and Smith’s best efforts.
Seriously, how many songs do you have to write about drugs, women and California?! The Kiedis formula is so predictable that people actually thought this was a real song for a while. It’s hard to pick the worst example of his lyrical nonsense, but Kiedis does do an excellent job of ruining Frusciante’s funky guitar in ‘Purple Stain’ by rapping about period sex and dropping pointless references (“Python power straight from Monty”).
When asked about the song, he explained, “Purple stain refers to a double entendre of a girl’s hair dye staining your pillow and a girl’s menstrual flow staining your everything.” Nice.
Most Cringeworthy: “To finger paint is not a sin / I put my middle finger in / Your monthly blood is what I win.”
Jet, Are You Gonna Be My Girl
Say what you will about Jet and their approach to song-writing (did someone say cliched overused riffs?), there’s no denying that they know how to pen a catchy tune. Tell me you don’t get the bassline to ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ stuck in your head as soon as you hear the first note. Unfortunately, the song is completely ruined about 30 seconds later with some lyrics which sound like they were written by a lovesick kid asking his crush to the school dance. I mean seriously, rhyming “fine” and “mine”…good stuff.
Most annoying about the song, and many of Jet’s other songs, is lead singer Nic Cester’s insistence to end every line with a “Yeah?” Does the proclamation that “You were with another man” really warrant a yeah? Surely that’s the opposite of a yeah moment…a nah moment perhaps…
Most Cringeworthy: “One, two, three, take my hand and come with me”. Do countdowns really work as pickup lines?
Don’t really know what to say about this one, apart from remind you that the lyrics to the song pretty much consist of Phil Jamieson saying “dead cat” over and over and over.
Most Cringeworthy: “Dead Cat”
Limp Bizkit, Nookie
If we were being perfectly honest, then this list would only consist of Limp Bizkit songs, but where’s the fun in that?! Still, no list making fun of music is complete without at least one mention of frontman Fred Durst and his antics. If you’ve ever wondered why the vocalist, and nu-metal as a whole, cops so much shit, then look no further than the chorus to ‘Nookie’:
“I did it all for the nookie
So you can take that cookie
And Stick it up your, yeah!
Stick it up your, yeah!
Stick it up your, yeah!”
Most Cringeworthy: The entire fucking thing.
Def Leppard, Pour Some Sugar On Me
Like the Chilli Willys, Def Leppard are one of those amazing bands where despite almost always using nonsense lyrics, people still singalong to them and enjoy them. There’s no denying that the fellas know how to write a fun song and how to apply the cheese when needed.
‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ is probably the quintessential example of this formula, but with especially shonky lyrics. Even lead singer Joe Elliott had to admit to MTV that he has “no idea” what the song is about.
Most Cringeworthy: “I’m hot, sticky sweet / From my head to my feet”
Daniel Johns does know how to crack out a good lyric when needed, even back in Silverchair‘s early grunge days. Unfortunately ‘Freak’ is not one of those moments, and features some of the lamest and blandest self-deprecation ever laid to tape.
As Beck and Radiohead both proved (in ‘Loser’ and ‘Creep’ respectively), you can land a solid, self-depreciating chorus if you throw some good lyrics in between. ‘Freak’ on the other hand just includes a bunch of nonsense in between the “Yeah, I’m a freak” refrains.
Most Cringeworthy: “No more maybes / Your baby’s got rabies”
Lenny Kravitz, Fly Away
Ah yes, the penis guy who sounds like a budget version of Jimi Hendrix. Seriously though, jokes aside, Kravitz truly knows how to write a funky, bluesy riff. He just doesn’t know how to pen lyrics to go along with them.
They may be catchy, but are the lyrics to ‘Fly Away’ not the most annoying, simplistic and repetitive thing ever? Sounds like a kindergarten kid found a crayon and decided to write a story after looking out the window.
Most Cringeworthy: “I wish that I could fly / Into the sky / So very high / Just like a dragonfly”
The Killers, These Things That I Have Done
The hardest thing about writing lyrics is that it only takes one shitty line to ruin the entire song. Case in point: ‘These Things That I Have Done’ by The Killers.
The lyrics start off strong before losing steam about halfway through with the whole “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier” refrain. At first it sounds cool, especially with the layered backing vocals, but after a few listens you realise how meaningless it is. Which is a shame because the band literally repeats it over and over for the middle section of the song. Frontman Brandon Flowers definitely knows how to write a catchy and meaningful hook, but unfortunately this one misses the mark.
All of the top comments on the YouTube upload of the song are people taking the piss of this lyric. My personal favourites: “I got arms, but I’m not Armenian” and “I got pie, but I’m not a pirate”.
Most Cringeworthy: “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier”
Van Halen, Hot For Teacher
This is a tough one, which could easily fall into the “so bad, they’re good” style of lyricism (I’m thinking of ‘Cherry Pie’ right now). You could be in either camp, but there’s no denying that the guitar work is phenomenal and the lyrics are, well, there are some words over the top of the guitar.
Personally, I think I’d rather an instrumental, ‘Eruption‘-style take on the track.
Most Cringeworthy: “I think of all the education that I missed / But then my homework was never quite like this”
Bullet For My Valentine, Riot
File this one under the Muse-dominated, pseudo-political category. Once again, the lyrics sound like they were penned by an angry kid rather than actual band. Repeating “riot” over and over isn’t making a political statement, it’s making a bad song!
Most Cringeworthy – “Whoa oh run from the sirens, run from the law / Whoa oh! / It’s time to tear it all”
Iron Butterfly, In A Gadda Da Vida
Hey, it’s that song from The Simpsons!
Seriously though, the song may be regarded as one of the first transitions from psychedelic rock into heavy metal, but nonsensical lyrics make the whole thing seem like a bit of a joke.
Legend has it that the main refrain, “In a Gadda Da Vida”, came along one day when the lead singer was too drunk to pronounce “garden of Eden”. It’s a pretty funny story, and it is a pretty “rock and/or roll” move to include it in the final song, but unfortunately the joke becomes less funny around the millionth repetition.
Most Cringeworthy: “In a gadda da vida, honey / Don’t you know that I’m lovin’ you”
Now let’s all forget about these shitty lyrics and watch that Simpsons clip!