Thailand is a country that runs rich with musical culture. From the traditional folk sounds of Luk Thung and Mor Lam, to the national affinity for Jazz nursed by the late King Bhumibol, to the Phleng Phuea Chiwit (“Songs for Life”) style of classic rock epitomized by the moustache-loving Carabao, and even the modern soft-rock “string” style of pop music omnipresent in Thai shopping centers and Cafés today, Thai culture is decidedly musical. How is it, then, that only after moving to Thailand did I come to recognize the worst song ever written?
If you had asked me five years ago what I thought was the worst song ever written, I wouldn’t have had an immediate answer. Sure, overplayed American crap like Justin Bieber, Nickelback, and Katy Perry comes to mind, as do ridiculous international pop songs from the ‘80s, such as “Barbie Girl” or “Ice Ice Baby.” None had set itself apart from all others, though.
Before I go any further, let me clarify: the worst song ever written is not Thai. In fact, it is a song that I knew before I left the United States. You will seldom recognize that a given song is the worst ever written the first time you hear it. Imagine: there are undoubtedly thousands upon thousands of dismal singles written by obscure, talentless performers that you’ve never heard of (if in doubt, look up “Clownly Clown Clown” by B-list actor Crispin Glover), but they’re hardly worth labeling with superlatives if you never have to listen to them. Following this train of thought, I have established three criteria by which a definitive assessment of potential candidates can be made:
- Is it overplayed to a nauseating degree?
- Do other people think it is actually a good song?
- Is it even worse when others try to sing it (via karaoke or cover band)?
Any Westerner who has lived in East Asia will confirm that countries like Japan, Korea, China, or Thailand have been exposed to a relatively narrow subset of Western pop music. For example, if you ask a young, English-speaking Thai woman to name her favorite English-language male pop artist or group, about 90% of them will answer one of the following: Bieber, Adam Levine (of Maroon 5), One Direction, Bruno Mars, or Ed Sheeran (to be fair, the last two have some good tunes).
This effect is intensified as you look further into the past: My first day in Thailand, I met a local man with very good English who was amazed I didn’t know the words to “Take Me to Your Heart” by Danish band Michael Learns to Rock (little did he realize nobody has heard of them in the US). Earlier, when I lived in China, I was forced to endure a few too many drunken karaoke renditions of “Cunty Load” than my sanity was able to bear. I would go on to detail Thailand’s relationship with the Bee Gees and the Carpenters, but I think you get the point….
So what is the worst song ever written? I suppose the answer will be different for each person. I asked my good friend John, and he answered “George Michael or Wham.” While it’s not exactly my style, I have surely caught myself singing along to “Faith” more than once. No, the one I am thinking of is not merely an annoyance, but a cancer; once heard, you can never forget it. In my opinion, the worst song ever written is an English adaptation of “Le Moribund” by Jacques Brel, which with its amorous French lilt, is not a bad song. Unfortunately, the emotions expressed in the original are lost in translation when set to the English by whiny Canadian one-hit-wonder Terry Jacks. That’s right, the worst song ever written is “Seasons in the Sun.”
I understand that it’s a song about saying goodbye, but when he gets to the line, “goodbye Michelle, it’s hard to die,” I only wish he would die more quickly. When the key change hits, I find myself wanting to drop dead. Worst of all, with each successive cover and remake it seems to get even whinier and more annoying. On the occasion that I am in the presence of karaoke (rare these days), some drunk idiot always seems to choose this song, and I must literally remove myself form auditory range. Why Thai culture has held on to this unoriginal and repetitive song by such a mediocre musician for so long is beyond me. I mean no offense, but I think it’s time to be like Disney and “Let it Go.”
I wonder if any other members of the Sweet3Mango family have opinions on this subject. I challenge anyone to name a worse song according to the aforementioned criteria….
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