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Bad Song of the Year

December 31st, 2008 by Kevin Murphy · 75 Comments

16794031 16794034 slargeit’s a daunting task, chasing down a song that will plainly and commonly be considered bad by peoples of all cultures, ages, races, sexes and nationalities.  I find I must leave my own eclecticisms behind – e.g. my affection for the assless be-underpanted idiocy of Devendra Banhart – but I must also keep my bile firmly in place, which is simply impossible whenever I hear No Handlebars.

Kid Rock1No, we must be brave my friends, and rise above our own petty dislikes and seek the truly bad. Fortunately, 2008 has blessed us with a panoply of bad music in every popular genre. gap sweater vest fall 2007 john mayer 1The bench was deep, what with your dependable Dolls of Pussycat and your John Mayer out there.  We’re all grateful to Kid Rock for the things he tried and smoked, and of course the songs he stole.  beverly hills chihuahua02 1And a glib band of human-voiced rat puppies turned a shrill kid’s ear-worm into the shrill ear-worm of an entire nation.

This year’s true badness belonged to the breakout acts.  Take for  example Vampire Weekend, with a blend of African rhythms performed so dorkishly that it could only emanate from a band of white boys from Columbia University.  vampire weekend 04And although Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa was officially released in 2007, disqualifying it from this year’s crown bid, its whiteness leaked through campuses and clubs all over this great country of ours, as pea-coated Lit majors bounced and twitched to the rhythm like ergot poisoning victims long into the new year. I encourage you to savor the charm and inexplicable success.

But rhythm wins – it burrows into ones head and replaces the brain with thoughts of tight skirts with Uggs, Soco-and-lime-laced vomit and where the after-party is.   There is a new Queen of Badness, and her name is Lady GaGa.

BAD SONG OF THE YEAR: Lady Gaga, Poker Face

Lady Gaga – Poker Face ( with Chace Crawford )

Striking, isn’t she?  And by that I mean to say that she could beat me to death without putting down her Hennessy and pomegranate.  Here we have the swagger of Trace Adkins, the fashion sense of Cher, the robotic lockstep twitch-dancing of a Madonna or a Britney, the P-funk costuming and art direction, the nasally minor-third drone that passes for vocals, the rhythm that reminds you that Hell is eternal, all wrapped up in one sublime video.

I kept thinking that I was watching Dee Snider in a Japanese girl’s club wig. Then the lyrics washed over me:  “Russian roulette is not the same without a gun.” “I’m bluffin’ with my muffin / I’m not lying I’m just stunnin’ with my love-glue-gunning.”  It’s all here, folks; like Lex Luger before her, Lady GaGa is The Total Package.

Tags: Bad Music · Creepitometry · In the Media · RiffTrax · Riffer Blogs · Trends

75 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jon on Dec 31, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Ok, it’s official.

    I thought I could just forgot about that song after watching it, but I’m going to need a power drill to remove it from my brain. That or some insidious J-pop to overwrite it.

    When did we as a civilization decide those were acceptable lyrics? Make the hurting stop.

  • 2 Will on Dec 31, 2008 at 7:29 am

    It’s like a song for sociopaths pretending to be in love!

  • 3 Fifty "Percent" Kreiger on Dec 31, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Despicable, lack of respect.

  • 4 Steven on Dec 31, 2008 at 7:35 am

    Did Kevin Murphy just reference professional wrestler Lex Luger!?!?!?

    How the HELL do you know who Lex Luger is!?!?

    (This isn’t meant as an insult. I am a closet professional wrestling fan and I take joy when my all-time favourite comedians reference a professional wrestler whose name isn’t Hulk Hogan or The Rock, who EVERYONE knows).

  • 5 Casey on Dec 31, 2008 at 7:36 am

    UGH… The Rifftrax blog is now renown for blighting its innocent readers with images and song that will be burned into their brains forever… We will enter 2009 trying to get this song out of our heads… and since they say that what one does on new years day will be what makes up the entire following year… I think we have more stuff like this to… uhm.. look forward tol.

  • 6 Nick Fechter on Dec 31, 2008 at 8:02 am



  • 7 Nick Fechter on Dec 31, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Normally I have lived through this year and watched the music genre of “The Diva” suffer deterioration, but this video, in my opinion, truely heralds it’s demise. The destruction of our once cherished celebrity Britney Spears was only the first sign in a long line of black omens that took the form of Katy Perry, The Pussy-Cat Dolls, Madonna, Christina Agulaira, and ofcourse, Lady Gaga. Sure the process of hypnotizing viewers with ronchy sex videos to distract them from an obvious lack of talent had a good run, but this only proved to be a sharade once the sheep outfit was ripped off and reveiled a dispicably ugly wolf at the 2008 American Music Awards. This spell they have cast over us seems to be loosing its power, but I don’t think this monster will keel-over and die just as easily as Disco did. It will be up to us, the fans, to make sure that this tryant of totalitarianistic tom-foolery in our music is vanquished once and for all! So with all the strength in my being I feverently cry: GIVE ME GOOD MUSIC, OR GIVE ME EAR-PLUGS!!!!

  • 8 Ariel on Dec 31, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Dear Noodley Appendaged Lord,
    Protect me from this…

  • 9 Kevin Murphy on Dec 31, 2008 at 8:34 am

    You know, you spend enough time in Minnesota, and wrestling creeps into your skin. During the formative days of MST, our little UHF station produced the weekly wrestling news program “Saturday Night at Ringside.” I met Nick Bockwinkel, Verne Gagne, Baron Von Rashck and a host of old-school giants. Nice guys to the last.


  • 10 Tv Miller on Dec 31, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Does this also suit the categories of 2008’s Worst Producer, Director, Writer, Wardrobe, Makeup, Grip and Parents?

  • 11 Ninjew on Dec 31, 2008 at 8:54 am

    The guy in the first picture looks like he’s trying to squeeze his man-boobs together to get fake cleavage.

  • 12 Mike Nelson on Dec 31, 2008 at 9:01 am

    I have scoured the British Historical Museum and I can find no reference to the family Gaga having any legitimate Peerage or connection to the royal fount! Scandalous! (Yes, there is a Viscount Gagah, but the line died out in 1213.

  • 13 Nick Fechter on Dec 31, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Congratulations! You just made the video ten-times more disturbing! :D

  • 14 Conor Lastowka on Dec 31, 2008 at 9:36 am

    “Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun”. Can we see some analysis of this? How much of Russian Roulette remains the same, while how much is changed once the gun is removed? Charts are needed here…

  • 15 Laura on Dec 31, 2008 at 10:32 am

    My sister likes Lady Gaga, except for that song, so good on ya :D .

    I personally can’t stand any song by that girl in Montana named Hannah or the Brothers Jonas.

    I found a song, though, that I’m addicted to called Corona And Lime by Shwayze. And I loved the beat of Let It Rock, until Lil’ Wayne came in and f-cked it over. I also loved Black And Gold by Sam Sparro.

    It’s rare that I actually like any music from this era *stares at her Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’ poster*. Yeah, that’s right, a teen who likes classic rock. A teen who listens to vinyl. C’mon, I’ll fight ya, let’s go.

    (Oh, and look up Devil In Me by 22-20’s/album titled 22-20’s, a Brit band. I love the whole sound of it!)

  • 16 James Shearhart on Dec 31, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I fear the horror is not over – this will turn up as the going-to-commercial music for televised poker tournaments, and will eventually become the theme for an advertising campaign for Las Vegas….

  • 17 NanoRiffite on Dec 31, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Wrt: “It’s rare that I actually like any music from this era”

    It sounds like you might like Porcupine Tree, or some of the other groups like that which are around. There’s still good music being made, it’s just that the record industry has no clue.

  • 18 Robyn on Dec 31, 2008 at 10:47 am

    What the hell? Who calls their “muffin” a muffin!? It…it’s nothing LIKE a muffin! Ladies, if your “muffin” in any way resembles a muffin, please see a doctor. Thank you.

  • 19 NanoRiffite on Dec 31, 2008 at 10:51 am

    I like several different genres of music. Often I can find something to like about most of the “worst songs” that you’ve picked (although it was tough with Devendra Banhart). I’ve listened to this three times now, and can’t imagine anything positive to say about it. Each listen it just seems worse than the previous time.

    I don’t know if it’s the worst song of the year, but I can’t think of anything which could compete against it.

  • 20 NanoRiffite on Dec 31, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Okay, this is as close as I can come to something positive:

    The song is about having an expressionless poker face. And she does almost manage to sing most of it with a totally flat, emotionless voice. But there were a few moments where some inflection snuck into her voice, so she fails even at that.

    Well, after the fourth listen I find that I’m actually starting to feel physically ill, so I won’t be making any further attempts.

  • 21 Bill Corbett on Dec 31, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Different strokes, I guess. I happen to be a fan of songs about whoring.

  • 22 NanoRiffite on Dec 31, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Here’s a collection of musical classics that give a good overview of 2008:

    “Uncle Jay explains the News” – year-end edition.

  • 23 NanoRiffite on Dec 31, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Well, the topic certainly is as old as the music profession itself, but she brings a certain “je ne sais quoi” to it.

    Only in her case it’s more like a “Je ne sais pas chanter”, and “Je ne sais pas la musique, pas même musique de disco”.

  • 24 NanoRiffite on Dec 31, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Well, note that Queen itself told us about Radio GaGa, which certainly seems both royal and related to this video.

  • 25 NanoRiffite on Dec 31, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    “Happening Roulette”, where you stand out in a field and wait for the breeze which has your name on it. They say you never hear the one with your name on it. Unless your name is Mariah, of course. Mariah Carey, now there’s some wind! And I’m even on topic with a source of bad songs!

    I really should drink less of this Blue Rasberry Jolt.

  • 26 Brian O. on Dec 31, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I bring you both a bad song AND a bad video, Apache by Tommy Seebach. I don’t care how old it is, it’s bad in any year.

  • 27 Nick Fechter on Dec 31, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    And thus disco died a gruesome death, never to return again…..

  • 28 Remmie Barrow on Dec 31, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    There are only two words that could ultimately explain what I am feeling after seeing that “video”- DEEP HURTING!!!!!!!!!

  • 29 Auntie Maim on Dec 31, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Something tells me this song was very popular in Europe. I could be wrong; Cher’s “Believe” from ‘99 (?) seemed perfect for export, but I never heard over there.

  • 30 Lyndsey on Dec 31, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Is she married to “Sir Goo Goo”?

    gay, I know…

  • 31 MonkeyCheezPants on Dec 31, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    That was a hilarious spoof… really, great satire. I was laughing at how accurately that video zinged overwrought pop music…

    …wait, you don’t think that was meant to be taken seriously, do you?

    Why, that would be as ridiculous as, say, bluffin’ with one’s muffin.

  • 32 Jeffrey Thames [King of Grief] on Dec 31, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    I’ll grant that “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” is one of the weaker tracks (and exposes its whiteness with a Benetton reference), but the Vampire Weekend album defiantly remains in my top 5 for the year. I’ll have a taste of this Lady Gaga after a few New Year’s sippables.

  • 33 Laura on Dec 31, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    As much as I like the song Walking On Air by Kerli… it may be considered bad. But it was so awesome to see performed live at the SCREAM Awards last October.

    i iz nut loggin ur keeyz.

  • 34 Setsuled on Jan 1, 2009 at 6:30 am

    I foresee Weird Al Yankovic making “Polka Face”.

  • 35 Jeffrey Thames [King of Grief] on Jan 1, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    It’s New Year’s afternoon, said sippables have long worn off, and I made it to the first line of the chorus, never to return again. Think I’ll fire up “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” to cleanse the palate. Benetton be damned.

  • 36 R.A. Roth on Jan 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    To my sensitive ears, this atrocity is just another numbing dance mix cipher bereft of heart and soul. The woman beneath the wig, behind the strange gelatinous outfits might as well be the Crypt Keeper. My attraction to this ensemble from Hell would be no different.


  • 37 Natureboy (Ken) on Jan 1, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Mentioning Lex Luger in the same sentence as Verne Gagne is a crime punishable by pistol whipping in some states.

  • 38 MonkeyCheezPants on Jan 2, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Much as one can’t help but slow down to look at gruesome fatal auto accidents, I was curious enough to look up Her Ladyship on the Wikipedia.

    Apparently, she is the opening act for the tour of the reunited New Kids on the Block.


  • 39 ldt on Jan 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Poker face has provided my Nephew and I endless fun in tormenting his sister with our alternative version “My Mamy Poko Pants”.

    Poko Pants being a diaper brand available in Asia.

  • 40 deldobuss on Jan 5, 2009 at 10:04 am

    All I could think of was the disturbing 80’s bands, rightly referenced by Kevin (Dee Snider), and then I thought of wrestling, thanks to Kevin (Gold-dust), and then I thought of the poor innocent souls who will see this and think it is an expression of creativity.

    Oh, what has our world come to?
    Why have you opened my eyes, KEVIN!!!!????

  • 41 deldobuss on Jan 5, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Oh, Kevin didn’t reference Gold Dust, he referenced Lex Luger, but all I could see in the backs of mine eyes was a tramped up Gold Dust.

  • 42 Katy on Jan 6, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    I tried, Kevin, I really tried to watch the video. On my second attempt I got up to the part where she was wearing what appeared to be the remains of Wolverine’s X men suit with the yellow spandex ripped out.

    How can you wade so far into the cesspool of pop music and not have your body melt away Lost Ark style?

  • 43 Teaflax on Jan 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    You seem to have forgotten that Jack White’s attempt at stitching more than two ideas together and failing miserably (what with it being his first attempt at such sophistication), a.k.a. the latest Bond theme, was released this year. Worst song of the decade; no actual melody, no coherence, no structure and godawful production. Yes, there is one good idea in it – it’s David Arnold’s.

    In the category of landing furthest from the goal, it should win hands down. At least Lady Gaga pretty much seems to do exactly what she set out to.

  • 44 Vg on Feb 2, 2009 at 6:07 am

    Chorus melody on Poker Face is a rip off from some 90’s eurotechno song.

    What song?!
    Not a direct sample, just a plain melody rip off!

    Tell me! Help!

  • 45 jordan on Feb 9, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    dude, i’ve been searching for this same thing. The descending notes, “can’t read my, can’t read my” is a complete rip off, but the song escapes me…if you do figure it out, post back here and i’ll do the same. it’s a mission.

  • 46 g-money on Feb 14, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I’ve been scouring the web for two days trying to see if anyone else figured it out. Someone, please? We three can’t be the only ones who noticed.

  • 47 vain on Mar 23, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    “Chorus melody on Poker Face is a rip off from some 90’s eurotechno song.”

    +1 I’ve heard this before.. my mind is tricking me. Maybe Culture Beat or something..? I can’t find it…

  • 48 stevo on Apr 1, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Could it be “I want my, I want my, I want my MTV”? Descending C-B-G over Am. This has been bugging me since I first heard Poker Face.

  • 49 stevo on Apr 1, 2009 at 3:10 am

    Ah… should have been a reply to #30.

  • 50 Quasar on Jun 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    The melody is definately from a 90’s song, i’ve emptied my draw of all of my dance cd’s and I still can’t figure it out – the rest of the internet is no help either…this is going to destroy my brain…

  • 51 Matty B on Jun 9, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    My vote goes for Brittany’s “just like a circus”

  • 52 km on Jun 25, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    This is killing me too! The “can’t read my can’t read my” tipped me off right away. Some euro mix of that 80’s song “you belong to the city (you belong to the night)” that Jay Z sampled? Please let me know if you figure this out it is killing me. Why I care is beyond me…

  • 53 km on Jun 25, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Should have replied to 30, whoops.

  • 54 km on Jun 25, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    see below>

  • 55 gt on Aug 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    The “can’t read my can’t read my” is similar in sound to an 80’s dance club song. I even remember the club I heard it at but can’t remember the song. I think the wording was a little different but the melody was definitely the same. Noticed it the first time my daughter played the song and it’s been driving me nuts ever since.

  • 56 Jiller on Sep 23, 2009 at 8:07 am

    I have also been wracking the music archives of my brain to come up with the 80’s or 90’s dance song that the chorus of “poker face” remindes me of. It has the same beat. Anyone??????

  • 57 Vayle on Oct 31, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I haven’t been able to figure out the “can’t read my, can’t read my” either, but its still annoying me to death. My brain latches on to these things and won’t let them go.

  • 58 Bella on Dec 8, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I remember this chorus in the 90’s either. It’s getting really weird… I searched all my CDs and nothing… Anyone figured it out?

  • 59 smarterthanyall on Feb 1, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    glen frey, you belong to the city. it’s similar but not the same.

  • 60 BG on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    she seemingly has ripped off her chorus style from a few 90’s euro songs…Just Dance is a rip off as well….obviously pokerface has the same repeat chorus style…take your pick (for all those pulling their hair out at trying to recall the names) at te list below

    La Bouche: Be my lover……..
    Snap: Rhythm is a dancer…….
    Culture Beat: Mr. Vain……
    2 Brothers on the 4th floor: Dreams (Will come alive) 1994…….

    She illustrates very little originality other than the composition and even then takes assistance (Red One)

    She is a fake….and a very trashy knock off… obviously catering to a younger generation that does not recall euro pop techno from the 90’s….and hoping that the few of us that do recall, don’t speak up…

  • 61 Chr0n05 on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    It is certainly a rip off of something. Both my GF and I have been trying to figure it out. But I know it’s not Glenn Frey. It was deffintley some song playing in the clubs in the 90s though. We are being punished for listening to Lady Gaga. Good luck to all in finding an answer!

  • 62 GM on Jun 18, 2010 at 2:01 am

    My guess: Afrika Bambaataa “feel the vibe”

  • 63 rap beats maker on Nov 13, 2010 at 2:33 am

    LoL. But why do people bite her stuff. She’s got a great bad ass promoter and marketing strategy.

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