World’s Worst Songs: Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne”

Instead of a photo of Dan Fogelberg, please enjoy this photo of tasty macaroni and cheese.

Dan Fogelberg’s wuss-rock holiday epic “Same Old Lang Syne” is the foundation stone upon which World’s Worst Songs is built. In the Olympics of Suck, it’s Michael Phelps. I have written about it several times over the years. Therefore, I will condense my problems with it into a handy bulleted list. Clip and save!

  • Even a true story, which “Same Old Lang Syne” is supposed to be, can be told badly, and this one rings false from start to finish. The details are all wrong. Bars closed but liquor stores open?
  • Miserably clunky writing: “then her eyes flew open wide,” “we drank a toast to innocence / we drank a toast to now,” “the beer was empty and our tongues were tired.” Lame as the latter is, it’s worse because Fogelberg doesn’t need “tired” to rhyme with anything. It just sits there like a meatball for no good purpose.
  • I have no sympathy for wealthy and famous rock stars who bitch about how travel makes it hard to be wealthy and famous. If travel is so bad, the McDonald’s around the corner is probably hiring.
  •  “As I turned to make my way back home, the snow turned into rain.” In Fogelberg tunes, it frequently rains or snows as if the universe were wryly commenting on Dan’s life. As if the universe gives a shit.
  • The song ends with a hideous smooth-jazz “Auld Lang Syne.” If it takes place on Christmas Eve, what’s that doing there?
  • Wimpy singing, wimpy playing in general. Fogelberg could be a competent performer of rock songs, but by 1980, he was content to ride the soft-rock train all the way to the bank. Over and over and over.

More than any other song I have written about, “Same Old Lang Syne” generates passionate defenses from people who like it. Before you fill out the “comments” form below, please refer to this guide to determine whether your point has been made previously by another Fogel-fan.

“How would you know if it’s any good? Have you ever written a song? As my Popdose colleague Jack Feerick once said, “You don’t have to be a dancer yourself to notice when the ballerina falls flat on her ass, my friend.” Related: quoting Brendan Behan on critics being like eunuchs in a harem. I’m impressed with your erudition, but if you’re so smart, how come you like this song?

“But it’s a true story! I experienced that very thing, just like Fogelberg did.” I experienced something like it too, but I didn’t write a crappy song about it.

“As a piece of music, it’s beautifully constructed.” Hell yes, it’s pretty. It should have been an instrumental.

“Dan Fogelberg is much more popular than you are.” Kim Kardashian has 17 million followers on Twitter. Next question.

“You’re an idiot/dork/moron/asshole.” Yes, I am. What’s your point? Related: “You have no soul.” Maybe not, but I’ve got ears.

My all-time favorite comment was from an English teacher who accused me of being a complete literary philistine. “You’re just like my students who dislike Shakespeare,” he wrote. “You fail to understand his genious [sic].”

If Dan Fogelberg is Shakespeare, then I’m Brendan Behan.

Yeah, I hate “Same Old Lang Syne,” and I’m prepared to hate anybody who doesn’t hate it as much as I do. Here it is, dramatized in Legos, which improves it immensely.

  • Ted

    You’ll get no argument from me on this song. It’s been a piece of crap
    seasonal song on AC radio for…well, I don’t know how long. And every time it comes on, it’s a groaner. Speaking of when Fogelberg was rocking out, remember this stiff from 1984?

  • abyssgazer

    Dan Fogelberg wrote some very nice songs in the mid-70s and then he totally lost his muse. I think he wanted to be more than a craftsman of pretty good songs–he wanted to do Art. Kind of like Joni Mitchell, who tended to aspire to things outside her range, but at least Joni was/is much more talented and could ride her coattails when she reached too far. Fogelberg ended up writing overwrought crap like “Run For the Roses”, “Leader of the Band”, “Longer” {shudder}, and, yes, “Same Old Lang Syne”. Too bad.

  • jabartlett

    Very well said. You have described the problem with his 80s work exactly.

  • Guy Smiley

    Yep… His one moment of success in the MTV era. Pretty lame.

    But then, all of his stuff was pretty lame. I mean, there isn’t one song of his that I loved or even really liked. None that I really hate either, not even “Same Old Lang Syne,” but Fogelberg’s stuff was always just… there. Not horrible, not great. Dan Fogelberg merely existed, for a time.

    For some, that was probably the equivalent of pulling a favorite, old flannel shirt out of the closet and putting it on for the first time in a year. Feels good, pretty comfy, and now pour yourself some tea and watch the snow coming down.

    James Taylor is sort of like that for me, except I think JT’s songs are/were a lot better. They’ve certainly held up better. Even his later stuff.

  • Stephanie

    thank you, just thank you so much…now if only someone would take this song out of Christmas rotation…the music of this season is suppose to make you happy, not make you wish you were dead… :D

  • jackie3

    I have to join in with the chorus of defenders; perhaps its my age. I was 7 when that song was popular, and therefore not able to make a legitimate criticism (although I *hated* Loverboy by then). The song makes “cheesy love song” playlists of mine, and I own a copy of DF’s greatest hits. The cheese factor makes the tune irresistable, along with my particular nostalgia for that period’s lust for “soft rock” (or, The Bridge, XM Sirius-style), but I also know what it means to hate a song one finds utterly crappy (most of Green Day’s catalog comes to mind). I feel ya.

  • Old_Davy

    Dan made three great albums…Souvenirs, Nether Lands and High Country Snows. Souvenirs was his rock album and benefits greatly from being produced by Joe Walsh. Nether Lands sounds like his aural equivalent of The Wizard of Oz and it works quite well. Dan took his particular brand of soft rock a step closer to country/bluegrass with High Country Snows and made a great album that sounds effortless. This song is on none of these albums, but was included on his ambitious and sprawling double LP called The Innocent Age that makes a BIG STATEMENT ABOUT LIFE. Dan tried way too hard to make this an IMPORTANT RECORD, and more often than not, fell on his face. When he took it easy and let things happen naturally, his music rang much truer and was enjoyable.

  • David Medsker

    You had me at the picture of macaroni and cheese. And the Lego video.

  • Ted

    His songs were “just…there.” Well put. I think over time, though, when I hear his music it’s more of an assault on my ears than just background music.

  • breadalbane

    I can’t bring myself to hate this song, although I can see where repeated exposure to it would soon grow wearying. It does at least, however (and by your own admission) have a pretty melody.

    Fun Fogelberg fact: his hometown has renamed a stretch of road “Fogelberg Parkway” in Dan’s honour. The Parkway ends at the convenience store where Dan’s real-life “Same Old Lang Syne” encounter took place.

  • David_E

    Troll bait. Busted.

  • jabartlett

    This. Yes sir. Well said.

  • Pico

    It’s the “The Long And Winding Road” of ten years hence.

  • Adrian Qiana

    This guy is supposed to be a singer/songwriter, telling a story of meeting a real life old flame and we get lines that bog the story down, details that make no difference like ‘ the food was totalled up and bagged’ That is poor, nay, boring songwriting, though we missed out on verses like this:
    She had a coupon for a dollar off
    And it was triple coupon day-ay-ay
    The Sizzlean rang up for $2.09
    So the cashier had to pay-ay
    Wonder what song Dan was inspired to write driving drunk of the slushy mountain roads of Aspen that night.

  • AM Radio

    Not that it will matter in your universe, you miss the metaphor of the snow turning to rain. The ‘rain’ is tears.

  • Fletch

    Amen. It’s a killer last line

  • jabartlett

    I get it. You’d have to be six years old not to get it—and not much older to think of it. The obviousness of the metaphor proves my point, that this is a ham-fisted and clumsy record that’s not remotely good enough to deserve the reputation it has.

  • DwDunphy

    “Just there” is the perfect summation. It doesn’t generate enough passion for either hate or love.

  • Delano

    Possibly THE CHEESIEST SONG EVER!!! The fact that people would spend money to hear this crapola is SCARY!!! I also hate anyone who likes this song!!! Even bashing it does it too much justice!!!

  • deedee24

    I just heard this… er… excrement, for the first time. On a station playing all Christmas music. At first I couldn’t figure out what it has to do with the holidays. But by the end I was left feeling like I had been had by the Grinch of holiday music – determined to ruin Christmas forever.

    Excuse while I resume puncturing my ear drums so that I’ll never have to hear it again.