Posted by
Jim Goad
• 01.13.14 10:10 am

So are you trying to say that the one with a hat isn’t a man?

I spent a good chunk of the past weekend asking people to name the most annoying song of the 1980s, and I’m still unconvinced that the decade burped up anything remotely as annoying as “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats.

Although the band sounded to me like Jethro Tull with synthesizers—an even worse combination than pickles and ice cream—I’ve never known a girl who doesn’t LOVE that fucking song, as well as most of the plastic-sounding, hyper-emotive, barkingly faggy, mostly British synth music of the early 1980s.

To my ears, the decade produced some great hip-hop and the occasional decent hard-rock album, so long as the latter was produced by Rick Rubin, who could produce a solo acoustic flautist and make it sound like Armageddon.There were bushels of bad metal and punk, too, but I’m able to humor such music more easily than anything by Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Haircut 100, Kajagoogoo, Depeche Mode, Big Country, or Wang Chung.

For me, the worst music of the 80s was all British, almost entirely from the first few years of the decade, and performed by men with enough product in their hair to build the West Bank barrier.

I can even forgive “Sister Christian” and “Mr. Roboto,” but if you play some Wang Chung, one of us is going to get hurt.


  1. ChazWorm says:

    Men without hats were Canadian. I think We Are The World was the most annoying. Self righteous tripe!

  2. Joey says:

    I didn’t know there was hip-hop in the 80’s. Back then we called it rap…

  3. Jim Goad says:

    The term “hip-hop” goes all the way back to the first line in “Rapper’s Delight” from 1979.

    And from 1988: “Stop the violence in hip-hop, Y-O!

  4. VW says:

    My first thought was safety dance as well. However, Paul Simon’s you can call me Al is pretty rage-inducing…

  5. Ecgtheow says:

    We Built This City To Rock and Roll – vacant and unengaging in every way. Add any maudlin gas farted out by Richard Marx.

  6. “Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Haircut 100, Kajagoogoo, Depeche Mode, Big Country, or Wang Chung.”

    I didn’t like them either — at the time. But has anyone else experienced this phenomenon?

    “Wow, this music is terrible.”

    Ten years go by:

    “Wow, this music is terrible. I kind of miss Duran Duran now…”

  7. the roller says:

    What, no one mentions the long version?

  8. Boogadoo says:

    Hip-hop is a music style. Rap is a vocal style. Simple as that.

  9. Dudley Morris says:

    “We Built This City”. A tuneless, tinny irritant full of dated sounds, shrill synth stabs, and artificial excitement underpinning a moronic set of words that manage to be both vacuous and arrogant. This sounded dated even before it was released. Part of why Grace Slick has stayed out of the music biz is likely pure shame at having been involved with this as much as her age.

  10. Larry E says:

    Anybody who can seriously write the phrase “great hip-hop” has a tin ear, abominable taste, and a giant screw loose in the cranium. Cease and desist writing about music!

  11. AnthonyX says:

    In Canada we celebrate Men without Hats day every April 31st. You are treading on dangerous territory here dammit!!!!

  12. Michael Minnott says:

    I assume we are limiting the discussion to english language music. Asian popular music has enough sugary sweetness to decimate entire regions with typeII diabetes.

    The early 80’s had the best of heavy metal, new wave and the last embers of punk. Just about anything after 1984 (the year, not the album) was best forgotten.

  13. SUZANNE says:

    Anything by Wilson Phillips.

    I loved Duran Duran and Wang Chung. So sue me!

  14. PeePee says:

    “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is the most annoying song of the 1980s

  15. Warren says:

    ‘I Miss You.’ Not only is it the musical equivalent of someone pouring cold cream of wheat in your ears, soulfully wailing a common unadorned sentiment like, ‘I miss you’ makes – to quote James Dickey – my rectum and intestines contract.

  16. Nick says:

    I happen to love British 80s pop.
    To me, the most annoying 80s song is “Word Up” by Cameo.

  17. Half Canadian says:

    Two of Hearts – Susie Q – hate it.

    Still like Big Country. Fields of Fire is a genuinely good song.

    And anything by Culture Club is crap.

  18. Mr Ramen says:

    “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell = aural faggotry.

    Also “Living on the ceiling” by Blank mange is horrible.

  19. Rick says:

    Everything in the 80’s was tripe, including the tripe. For gag inducing, incomparable emetics like major TV networks used to make, you have to go back to the 70’s. I give you “Sometimes When we Touch”, and “Alone Again, Naturally”, as merely two examples, the mere typing of which causes… Oh man, where’s the JOHNNNNN!!!!!…..

  20. Sid vicious says:

    Glory Days. – Springsteen

  21. Brother John says:

    I don’t mind “Safety Dance” much – it was the inspiration for “Brady Bunch” by Weird Al, and that one still makes me laugh 30 years later.

    HATE “We Are the World.” HATE it. Viscerally. Don’t mind the Band Aid song that much, though the lyrics are every bit as insipid.

  22. Sniffy says:

    No one mentions Dire Straits? ANYTHING BY THEM is crap.

  23. Tres Generaciones says:

    Everyone here is missing the monthly barge. “Voices Carry” by ‘Til Tuesday is by far the worst song of the eighties. The song, especially the ball-shrinking chorus, is a perfect example of the irrationality of feminism. Every woman wants to be taken care of, but feminists claim dependence without independence is oppressive. What the fuck? The only redeeming note about the song is the fact that Aimee Mann said she originally wrote the song from a man’s perspective, but eventually gave in to the record company’s request(and every woman’s inflated ego)to change the song into a wounded vagina torch song.

  24. Guy Lafleur says:

    “Who’s Johnny” by El Debarge

  25. kentonk says:

    Agree with We are the World and We Built This City as contenders, but I would have to go with Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean. That or Freeway Of Love by Aretha Franklin.

  26. Matt says:

    I thought the science was settled?

  27. jackytar says:

    That awful song by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Their only “hit”.

  28. Exurban says:

    Supertramp was still active in the 80s. Anything by them is worse than most of the stuff posted here.

  29. Alec Leamas says:

    Will to Power “Freebaby: Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley.”

    You may now close comments and have Goad put up a new blog post.

  30. Jason in KT says:

    a-ha, “Take on Me”

    Mediocre song lifted to hit status on the basis of the music video.

  31. Alec Leamas says:

    I can’t believe nobody named runner-up Jermaine Stewart’s 1986 hit “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off,” which was apparently about hanging out with your fishing buddies.

  32. Doc Klosov says:

    Thompson Twins Tears For Fears .. these are a couple of bands that released ‘Greatest Hits’ LPs for some odd reason.

  33. Pastorius says:

    We Built This City On Rock n’ Roll.

  34. Pastorius says:

    Another one that was really was, “Walking in the Rain” by Oran Juice Jones (though most people probably wouldn’t remember this one).

  35. Addendum says:

    “Word Up” by Cameo. Fuck that’s brutal.

  36. Gregg says:

    How about Nineteen by Paul Hardcastle, let’s all get up and dance while I narrate the horrors of Vietnam, and he doesn’t’ even fucking rhyme.

  37. Rubrco76 says:

    I start running out of stuff I like by the early 80’s and I’m a huge fan of a bunch of types of music.

  38. Wish I was Deaf says:

    Come to Pittsburgh sometime. They STILL play “Renegade” by Styx at the football games to fire up the crowd. And “Come Sail Away” is a radio staple hear. Jesus Christ…..

  39. dingbat says:

    Huey Lewis, ’nuff said.

  40. Keith E Lee says:

    So many popular artists then just didn’t know how to write a good song. And the Coke-fueled record production didn’t help matters either. It was decadent.

    Culture Club could at least write a good song, which puts them head and shoulders above many of their peers.

  41. Anonymous says:

    careless whisssssssssperrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
    i had food poisoning once and was near-delirious. heard that song on the car radio as was being driven to the e.r. couldn’t get it out of my head for 24 hours. that’s all i heard. at one point, thought it was some form of divine torture.
    yet, honestly, i sing it every time it’s played somewhere, and with feeling!
    but i can’t stand it.
    i guess that’s love/hate, huh?

  42. Dell C says:

    Steve Miller is kind of a ringer, because he’s embarrassing regardless of the decade, but “Abracadabra” (“I wanna reach out and grab ya”) has a perfectly representative cheap, surrealistic early-80s music video.

  43. Nick Mulgrave says:

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Don’t come around here no more (1985)
    Lets just say that if I ever run into Tom Petty, chances are he is going to learn what its like to pick up his teeth with broken fingers for that one.

  44. spotarama says:

    ‘we built this city’ – written by Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s partner in musical crime – nuff said

    did anyone realise that Steely Dan were named after a dildo, no surprise there then.

    winner (loser?) has to be anything by that fucking kiddy fiddler, Michael Jackson, overblown, overproduced fucking crap, every bit of it. the fact that he still holds records for the amount of records sold just justifies my total disengagement from all aspects of popular forms of ‘entertainment’, anything that is that popular with that many people just blares lack of discernment, fucking morons, one and all. did i mention that he diddled little boys too?

  45. Michal says:

    Hands down – “Stand and Deliver” by Adam Ant

  46. JW says:

    No, it’s every fucking one of those jazzed up Christmas songs they butchered back then. I once beat a man until his lung collapsed for playing a jazzy version of Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells is upbeat enough, thank you.

  47. Four words: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” That one makes me want to embark on a five-state killing spree.

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