The ‘00s gave us brilliant things: Arctic Monkeys, The Wire, Spotify, the iPhone. But it also gave us some truly, unforgettably horrible songs. Here are 20 of the worst:
Sandi Thom, ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)’, 2006
What made it so bad: Cast your mind back to 2006, when you had to ask your parents to stop using the phone so you could connect to dial-up, and a time when webcams were a relatively new invention. Initially a chart failure, ‘…Punk Rocker…’ found unexpected success when free spirit Sandi Thom did a “virtual tour”, whereby she performed gigs via webcam and streamed them online. It was a novelty at the time, honest. The point being: had this song not existed within a viral fad, literally nobody would care. And on closer inspection, Thom’s debut is a nauseating hark back to the oh-so-glorious olden days, with several factual flaws, the most notable being that Johnny Rotten wouldn’t be seen dead with flowers in his hair. “I was born too late into a world that doesn’t care,” she sings, dreaming of a time “when music really mattered” (vom), “when accountants didn’t have control / And when media couldn’t buy your soul.” ‘Real music’ didn’t win, on this occasion.
Worst bit: When she reminisces about how the “only way to stay in touch was a letter in the mail.” Banksy rang, he wants his money back.
Bob the Builder, ‘Can We Fix it?’, 2000
What made it so bad: When you become a parent, you tacitly sign up to watch an endless amount of children’s TV. Josh Homme might pop up and read a kid’s bedtime story every so often, but it’s a by-and-large mind-numbing existence. So when something half decent comes along, it’s easy to get carried away. But nothing excuses a throwaway, novelty kids TV song about a builder fixing things, managing to shift over a million copies, becoming the highest-selling song of 2000 and the first Christmas number one of the ‘00s. There’s innocent fun, and then there’s ruining a new millennium before it’s barely begun.
Worst bit: ‘Can We Fix It?’’s constant, cheap garage beat, the audio equivalent of someone drilling a hole in your conscience.
DJ Otzi, ‘Hey Baby’, 2000
What made it so bad: One happy clappy singalong of ‘Hey Baby’’s chorus is nice, harmless fun. It’s an instant fix, like downing a couple of fizzy drinks in one go. But Austrian disc-spinner DJ Otzi doesn’t know too much of a good thing. He needs that sugar hit again, and again, and again. And there comes a point in ‘Hey Baby’ when it threatens to never end.
Worst bit: The key change nobody asked for.
Nizlopi, ‘The JCB Song’, 2004
What made it so bad: It’s a song about a tractor, for starters. Nobody’s done it since, and not because folk duo Nizlopi are boundary-pushing innovators. Because nobody will stand for this ever again. It was a mistake. It happened. Tractors and saccharine folk should not mix. We know this now.
Worst bit: The faux-cockney tone of Luke Concannon’s vocals, as he sings, “My dad’s totally had a bloody hard day / But he’s been good fun and bubblin and jokin’ away.” Oi oi, guvnor!
True Steppers and Dane Bowers ft. Victoria Beckham, ‘Out Of Your Mind’, 2001
What made it so bad: First of all, the world is a better place with ‘Out of Your Mind’ in it. Let’s not neglect how wonderful it was to witness a puffa jacket-wearing Dane Bowers singlehandedly stinking out Posh Spice’s big solo move. The video is something special too, a mad vision of the future from the mind of someone who put too much faith in the plot for The Matrix. But the song. Oh god, the song. No Spice Girl was better placed to rule the charts than Victoria Beckham. But then this happened.
Worst bit: Bowers.
One Night Only, ‘Just For Tonight’, 2008
What’s so bad about it: It’s an ‘80s power ballad dressed up like a mid-noughties indie rock, and ain’t nobody got time for that. This song isn’t really so bad in of itself – it’s more the fact that it introduced the trend of over-produced pop guff purporting to be massive indie bangers. What we’re saying is: One Night Only are directly responsible for ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’, a 2011 song we’re inclined to erroneously include in this list just in order to give it a kicking.
Worst bit: The rolling piano refrain is actually quite good, which throws the whole song into stark relief.
Daniel Powter, ‘Bad Day’, 2005
What made it so bad: In theory, ‘Bad Day’ is a touching, uplifting number to raise the spirits, a reminder that everyone feels down in the dumps sometimes. But in practice, it’s a soulless, sappy ghost of the past. Powter sings in generalisations (“You’re faking a smile with the coffee to go”, “You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost”), somehow sounding like he’s never actually been sad in his entire life – quite the achievement, in hindsight.
Worst bit: The post-Coldplay minor key pianos, which were absolutely everywhere around 2005.
Crazy Frog, ‘Axel F’, 2005
What made it so bad: How did this happen? ‘Axel F’ was one of those irreversible mistakes, the kind that spirals out of control before you realise what’s actually happening. Like Piers Morgan. No ‘00s hit has been so purpose-built to wind up as many people as possible. With that in mind, you could actually claim that ‘Crazy Frog’ was punk. But that would be to ignore just how difficult 2005 was, when this cartoon frog became synonymous with back-of-the-bus ringtones, before becoming a UK #1 single. It was an actual, living hell.
Worst bit: Its very existence.
Chico, ‘It’s Chico Time’, 2006
What made it so bad: It’s 2017 and we’re wise to how The X Factor works. We’re aware of how a novelty act can be ridiculed by Simon Cowell in the first round, before finding unlikely success as the show progresses, before releasing a chart-bound single via Cowell’s label Syco. But we were naive in 2006. We didn’t see Chico coming.
Worst bit: Chico’s inability to explain why exactly it was Chico time.
Counting Crows ft. Vanessa Carlton, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, 2002
What made it so bad: Somewhere, Vanessa Carlton is still perched on a travelling piano, playing the blissful notes of ‘A Thousand Miles’ as she navigates the Sahara. But she was briefly waylaid by evil, earnest-types Counting Crows when they convinced her to help slaughter a Joni Mitchell song.
Worst bit: Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz’s purring “la la la la” chants.
Alvin & the Chipmunks, ‘Get Munk’d’, 2007
What made it so bad: Spurred on by Crazy Frog’s chart heroics, convinced that literally anything could be released as a single, it’s ‘Get Munk’d’’s parody of hip-hop culture which really burns. “Yo wat up,” goes Alvin Chipmunk as the song kicks off. “Yo,” echoes Theodore. What’s worse is just how seedy it all is, way too post-watershed for rodents. “Hot body, rock the party / Give me some of that sugarland! / Get it crackin’ / Don’t stop, get it get it.” This was for a kid’s movie.
Worst bit: It’s chipmunks singing about sex. Nothing gets worse.
Orson, ‘No Tomorrow’, 2006
What made it so bad: That lumpen power chord riff is bad enough, but when the lead guitar does nothing more than imitate it, it becomes all too clear that we’re looking at a music hate crime.
Worst bit: The way the singer wears his hat in the video.
Scouting For Girls, She’s So Lovely, 2007
What made made it so bad: Pop music’s often simple and repetitive, and that is absolutely fine. Yet there’s a difference between simple pleasure and mind-numbingly dumb. Scouting For Girls, you crossed the line about eight choruses ago.
Worst bit: The lyric: “She’s flirty / Turned 30 / Ain’t that the age a girl gets really dirty?” No for you, my lyrically challenged friend.
David Hasselhoff, ‘Jump In My Car’, 2006
What made it so bad: In which The Hoff – who, lest we forget, should not be hassled – winds down the car window and leers at passersby over an exquisitely uninventive rockabilly riff. Admittedly the song is a cover of the 1975 song by the Ted Mulry Gang, and Hasselhoff, when hassled about the song, claimed his video was self-parody. Doesn’t make it funny, though, does it?
Worst bit: When you stop to think about the number of people involved in the making of this song and its accompanying video.
Westlife, ‘You Raise me Up’, 2005
What made it so bad: The fact that it’s the sound of slipping into a coma. Goodbye, cruel world. It’s not even the proper Westlife line-up, as this version of a traditional hymn was released the year after Brian McFadden left the band, so Shane Filan and the gang are left to the do the heavy lifting between them. By this time Westlife were six albums deep into a career built upon dull, saccharine ballads and the formula was very tired indeed.
Worst bit: When you think the song has faded out but, oh no, here’s another chorus – this time with overblown gospel choir!
Shane Ward, ‘That’s My Goal,’ 2006
What made it so bad: He delivers the song with the enthusiasm of a man signing a contractual agreement to see Simon Cowell in the flesh every single day for the foreseeable future. Ward was crowned the winner of The X Factor before releasing this radically uninventive ballad, which sounds like every single X Factor winners’ song ever. Shane now stars in Coronation Street, which seems fitting, considering the emotions conveyed here seem every bit as genuine as pint from The Rovers Return.
Worst bit: When he sings “I’m here to win your heart and soul” and you think, “Just let me stop you there, Shane…”
Take That, ‘Patience’, 2006
What made it so bad: Mainly the chorus, which sees Gary Barlow wailing like he’s just opened a tax return. This was the first single from the band’s comeback album ‘Beautiful World’, and that comeback has brought nothing good to the universe (except the song ‘Shine’, which is admittedly quite likeable). The boyband became a manband, encouraged countless ’90s reformations that we did not ask for or need, and ushered in the inexplicable revitalisation of Gary Barlow’s career. Just have a little patience while I bang my head against this wall and wait for the pain to eclipse the misery of this song.
Worst bit: The way it builds to the chorus with grim inevitability.
Plain White Ts, ‘Hey There Delilah’, 2005
What made it so bad: It’s earnest, self-indulgent pap of the highest order. This song is so wet that it’s given me swimmers’ ear, which makes the narrator’s self-regarding message – stand by myself while I take over the world with my forgettable, dreary acoustic guitar song – even more egregious. From whence you came, Plain White Ts.
Worst bit: The lyric: “Hey there, Delilah, you be good and don’t you miss me / Two more years and you’ll be done with school / And I’ll making history like I do.” Oh, you sweet, deluded fool.
Jet, ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’, 2003
What made it so bad: That opening bassline kicks in and for a few sweet seconds you think you’re listening to ‘A Town Called Malice’ by The Jam. Instead we get three-and-a-half minutes of highly derivative pop-rock that evokes memories of a hundred shit mid-noughties indie nights in damp provincial towns. It’s cruel, really.
Worst bit: The band reformed in 2016.
Black Eyed Peas, ‘My Humps’, 2005
What made it so bad: This might the laziest song to become a bonafide hit (it reached number three in the UK singles chart). Yes, lazier than ‘The Blobby Song’. Its sexual politics are questionable at best – Fergie sings about shaking her moneymakers to get ahead in life – and the song relies on fairly pitiful rhymes (“They say I’m really sexy / The boys they wanna sex me”) to make its dubious point. In short: a song so inane and dumb that electroclash legend Peaches felt compelled to write a parodic riposte, the bracingly gross ‘My Dumps’.
Worst bit: It’s not even the worst Black Eyed Peas song.
Words: Jamie Milton and Jordan Bassett.