It's no secret that chart success is no real guarantor of musical quality. Hell, "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" went number one way back in 1952, pissing kids off so badly that they had to invent rock 'n roll. Twenty-five years ago this week, however, Billboard reached a new low when mall-pop singer Tiffany's Tommy James & the Shondells cover "I Think We're Alone Now" went number one. The song stayed in the top spot for two weeks, a triumphant glory for possibly the '80s most cheerfully disposable bubblegum. After Tiffany, it seemed as though any old crap you could think of was capable of hitting number one on the charts.
Sadly, the past two-and-a-half decades have only confirmed and reconfirmed that notion. "I Think We're Alone Now," unfortunately, was only the first of dozens of intensely grating, cloying and irritating tunes to top the Billboard Hot 100. As proof, Rocks Off has assembled the 15 worst #1 hits from the past 25 years for your amusement, delight and disgust. Prepare yourselves.
15. Gwen Stefani - "Hollaback Girl"
This track hit number one in 2005, causing most of the nation to immediately begin questioning why, exactly, everyone was riding the Neptunes' nuts so hard. At least, that's what should have happened. Instead, "Hollaback Girl" was nominated for two Grammies and became the first digital single to sell a million downloads. Sure, Gwen looked amazing in the music video, but this shit was NOT bananas. It was just shit.
14. Soulja Boy - "Crank That"
Who was blasting this godawful garbage rap and dancing like an idiot back in 2007? YOUUUUUU. Somehow, this infectious tripe had the whole country supermanning any number of hoes before we all began wishing Soulja Boy's career would be given a military funeral.
13. Rick Astley - "Never Gonna Give You Up"
For about five minutes in 2007, this infectiously awful number one hit from 1987 became hilarious. Then it went right back to being insufferable. Trust us, Rick, you can go ahead and give us up already. God knows you've already made us cry.
12. Prince - "Batdance"
Sure, sure: Prince is a genius. But the runaway success of this forgettable soundtrack fodder is more a tribute to the massive popularity of Tim Burton's "Batman" than the creative talents of The Artist. The song went number one in '89 and featured an inventive video starring about 100 Batmen and Jokers, but it's rarely been heard (or requested) since.
11. UB40 - "Can't Help Falling in Love"
"Can't Help Falling in Love" was one of Elvis' more eye-rolling soundtrack hits from his Hollywood period, and absolutely no one was demanding a middle-of-the-road, pop-reggae cover version 32 years later. Undaunted, UB40 defied logic by turning the old chestnut into one of the '80s most insipid number one hits, cementing their status as one of history's whackest bands in the process.
10. Beach Boys - "Kokomo"
Did you know there's no Kokomo anywhere near the Florida Keys? If only this song could join that fictional place in the misty ether of unreality. The group that recorded this pastel paean to middle-aged vacation time could hardly even be called the Beach Boys: drummer Dennis Wilson had drowned five years previously, and songwriting savant Brain Wilson had long since left the band to focus on his mental health. The remaining Beach Boys didn't even write this turd. You know a song sucks when the Muppets' cover version has more edge to it.
9. Creed - "With Arms Wide Open"
This smash hit not only served as the influential low point of late-'90s alt-rock, it also became the yarling ballad most closely associated with one of the country's most reviled bands. Creed's Scott Stapp apparently wrote this overplayed annoyance upon learning he'd be a father. (He named the kid Jagger. Jesus, dude.) There is absolutely zero doubt that "With Arms Wide Open" be played on both nights of Creed's upcoming two-night stand beginning April 30 at the Verizon Wireless Theater. May as well perforate your eardrums now.
8. Bobby McFerrin - "Don't Worry Be Happy"
Bobby McFerrin stole the name (and repetitious refrain) of this song from a freaking motivational poster in 1988. The song did not rise above its source material. Rocks Off has never met anyone happy or worry-free enough to stand this song for more than a few seconds. From McFerrin's ridiculous bowtie to his whistling to the presence of the highly irritating Robin Williams in the video, everything about "Don't Worry" seems engineered to annoy the hell out of us.
7. Billy Ray Cyrus - "Achy Breaky Heart"
This country "classic" introduced most of the world to line dancing back in 1992, proving so popular as to become inescapable in the East Texas craphole where you probably grew up. No formal records were kept detailing the rise in suicides attributable to this song, but we're pretty sure that we lost some good ones. The mullet, God help us, lives on.
6. Lou Bega - "Mambo #5"
One of the many awful trends to emerge in music in the late '90s was the so-called Latin Explosion, which foisted Latino "artists" such as Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and -- for one intensely grating single -- Lou Bega on to the American pop landscape. Turns out, Bega wasn't even Latino; he's a German guy of Italian and Ugandan descent. Nobody cared back then, when "Mambo #5" went Mambo number one. And nobody cares now, because the song has mercifully disappeared from the sonic landscape entirely.
5. James Blunt - "Beautiful"
Remember that douchey jerk that lived a couple doors down in college and broke out his guitar to play the same saccharine tripe over and over every time chicks were around? James Blunt sucks worse than that guy, because he got rich doing it. In the appropriately silly video for this song, Blunt illustrates the sincerity of his helium-enhanced bleating by stripping off his clothes in the snow and jumping into a frigid lake.
4. Puff Daddy - "I'll Be Missing You"
When the Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in 1997, it was a tremendous loss for hip-hop that reverberated around the globe. So naturally, Puffy decided to pay tribute to his fallen superstar by rapping over a sample of the Police's creepy-ass stalker anthem "Every Breath You Take." Thanks to the public's undying love for both commercialized sentimentality and bloodless rap balladry, "I'll Be Missing You" spent a record-breaking 11 weeks at number one -- truly a hip-hop milestone (for assholes).
3. Crazy Town - "Butterfly"
By 2001, the second wave of nu metal was taking over the airwaves. With one pervasive song, Crazy Town single-handedly began the backlash. The number one hit single "Butterfly" and its accompanying video embodied many of the genre's most maligned attributes, including exceedingly whack white-guy rapping and absurdly prominent star tattoos. Mercifully, Crazy Town went away quietly and stopped bothering people not long after the song's release.
2. Elton John - "Candle in the Wind 1997"
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When Princess Diana died tragically in a car accident in 1997, the global outpouring of love and grief for the royal icon more or less demanded a musical tribute. Instead of writing that tribute, however, her good friend Elton John elected to simply rearrange a few lyrics to his decades-old hit "Candle in the Wind" to fit the occasion, instead. Turning an unsettling stalker's prayer to Marylin Monroe into a tribute to Princess Di might have been the height of laziness on John's part, but that didn't stop the single from becoming one of the biggest-selling records of all time.
1. Starship - "We Built this City"
Starship's "We Built This City" sucks on a couple of different levels. Principally, it's the soul-dissipating nadir of corporate pabulum from some of the '60s' most influential counter-culture icons. But it's also just a terribly lame '80s pop song, regardless of authorship. Despite the single's refrain, there is no rock and roll whatsoever to be found on this track. Just the dead-eyed commercialization of a '60s progressive spirit long since crushed under Reagan's boot heel.