What is a fad song? Can it be a good song? Sure, but most often it is not, and is identified with a moment of madness shared among the American music-listening populace all at once. Since the late-summer the Internet has been abuzz with K-Pop star PSY with his rap song (or presumed rap song) “Gangnam Style.” Mostly, people have been taken by his little ride-em-horsey dance he does throughout the music video. However, most people are not waiting, with baited breath, for PSY’s next international sensation. Matter of fact, by late-spring we may not even remember what the hell a PSY was, much less why the U.S. fell for him. He seems an awful lot like a one-trick-horsey.
He’s not alone, however. There have been plenty of songs that have infiltrated the charts and many defied logic on several levels. On the musical Scales Of Justice, where will “Gangnam Style” reside once the spice has evaporated from this slice of pop kimchi?
7 (dishonorable mention) Aqua – Barbie Girl: I should be offended by how misogynistic this song is with it’s “undress me everywhere” attitude, it’s lame dance club vibe that has absolutely no distinction from any other dance club track, that stupid “C’mon Barbie, let’s go party!” jerk, or any number of pop sins committed in its timeframe. I should be, but I’m not. What offends me is that it became a phenomenon, made a lot of money, the U.S. pop charts allowed it to be taken seriously rather than relegating it to third-rate novelty song status, and we allowed it via our consumption. So we, the public, are really at fault for Aqua being Aqua. So we hate ourselves for it.
6 (I never ever need to hear this again) Lou Bega – Mambo Number 5: Some of the things Lou Bega introduced into the pop gestalt are a somewhat retro vibe that allowed other, far better, acts to make interesting songs; a handful of reiterations of “Mambo Number Five” including a Christmas version; and sexually transmitted diseases. Okay, that’s a low blow. There’s always been the air of promiscuity in pop, so it isn’t like Bega’s doing anything unique here. But for a song that could alternately be titled “To All The Girls I’ve Humped Before,” couldn’t it have been more than (at first) an annoying earworm and (eventually) one that makes you go for the big switch on the fuse box?
5 (only intended for drunken irony) Baha Men – Who Let The Dogs Out: Who let this crap out?
4 (for weddings from hell) Los Del Rio – Macarena: Ever have elderly relatives that get stuck in a memory loop, repeating the same story over and over like it is the first time? Do you feel sad and empathetic toward them? I do. I do except for the collective of Los Del Rio who put it to song, made a mint off it, and made a pact with the Powers That Officiate that this will always be the song played after the “Chicken Dance” at EVERY wedding held from here to infinity. “Macarena” gets our Depends Undergarment Award on this list for no other reason than they’re both full of crap.
3 (the low end) Las Ketchup – The Ketchup Song: Never heard the English translation of this, nor do I care to. Why? Because the tune as is actually isn’t all that bad. In fact, the melody is — dare I? — kind of pretty. So it would be devastating to find out their lyrics as translated are: “Hi, we’re The Ketchup, this song is ‘The Ketchup Song,’ we like ketchup, here are the brands we prefer…” and so on. It would be even more devastating if they translated into, “Yes I really, really wanna zig-ah-zig-ahh!”
2 (you wouldn’t mind it if you heard it again) OMC – How Bizarre: During it’s brief stint in the spotlight this song was the height of unavoidable, and like almost everyone on this list the Otara Millionaires Club (OMC) wound up being one-hit-wonders. That said, the song has aged more gracefully than others. When I popped on the video, I didn’t cringe. Am I rushing to iTunes to buy the track? No, but I’m not splitting my PC with an axe either (looking at you, Lou Bega).
1 (okay, you were kinda hoping to hear it again) Chumbawamba – Tubthumping: We loved ourselves some Chumbawamba. Why? Damn it, the song still is hooky, albeit dumb as one brick laid on top of two bricks. The groove here is not too far from other tunes of the times like EMF’s “Unbelievable” or, stretching it a bit, Jesus Jones’ “Right Here Right Now,” except that Chumbawamba were SCARY, EDGY ANARCHISTS (so they say). They’re also a footnote in pop history. But we have “Tubthumping” and we still giggle when the vocalist sings sweetly, “Pissing the night away.” She said pissing! Titter!
You know you’d like to hear the song again. I know I did, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
PSY probably ranks number four on the Scales of Justice, bumping the “Macarena” back where it damn well belongs. “Gangnam Style” isn’t something you’re going to play for your kids one day with tears of lost youth and nostalgia. Rather you may ask yourself, “WTF was in my drink?” Perhaps it was Korean for “funky cold medina.”
Several songs that also attained this magnetic status were not included in the list. These songs were deemed to be actually worthy of hub-bub, albeit not perhaps the outsized hub-bub they received. These included Outkast’s “Hey Ya” (still fun), Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (in doses), and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” (time will tell if this ages well or not).
Do you dispute the Scales Of Justice? Think some of these songs are better than we have assumed? Are there ones far worse and more popular? Let us know in the comments!