Last year, we rounded up the worst rock songs to ever hit No. 1 on Billboard‘s ever-changing list that tipped off as Top Tracks, evolved into Top Rock Tracks, at once was called Album Rock Tracks, and finally became Mainstream Rock Tracks. It was fun, polarizing, and oddly rewarding. So, we decided to reclaim that magic with a list of the worst pop songs to ever hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It wasn’t the easiest of tasks — especially given the grueling, headache-inducing listens, oy vey — but, whatever, we did it. And something tells us few arguments will be had over these choices.
Artwork by Sam Moore; titles by Steven Fiche.
25. Rick Astley – “Never Gonna Give You Up”
Two decades after “Never Gonna Give You Up” had been consumed, disposed, and forgotten by the public, Rick Astley’s first and biggest hit returned to life thanks to Rickrolling. If you spent any time on the internet in 2008, you fell victim to the clickbait-and-switch troll at least once. So, why was the art of Rickrolling such a successful form of trolling? “Never Gonna Give You Up” sounds like just another product from the assembly line of a cynical team of executives, scientists, and composers that calculated the exact percentage of repetition needed to lodge a song into a listener’s head for several hours upon even minimal exposure. Rickrolling became officially over after a cover by Barry Manilow and an IRL troll job from Astley himself on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. –Frank Mojica
24. Paul Anka and Odia Coates – “(You’re) Having My Baby”
In another world, “You’re Having My Baby” soundtracks an Anchorman dream sequence, something like this one, where Ron Burgundy professes his gratitude to Veronica Corningstone for carrying his child with a perfectly cheese-drenched, scathingly 1974-satirical ballad as they ride unicorns across the sky. “The seed inside ya, baby/ Do ya feel it growin’?” he growls, singing while playing flute. “I’m a woman in love and I love what’s goin’ through me,” she answers, nuzzling his moustache. It becomes one of the most quoted scenes in the movie. In our world, this song was actually once the U.S.’ most popular. —Steven Arroyo
23. Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Sexy”
You can’t even joke about “I’m Too Sexy” anymore. If you really want the cheap laughs that come with “that bald dude isn’t too sexy for anything, girlfriend” jokes or white tank top-ripping parodies, turn on VH1. Something about Right Said Fred should be on within the half hour. In a social media world, “I’m Too Sexy” would have been burned to the ground with holy Twitter fire, especially for its egregious Jimi Hendrix sample, and buried right next to Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. In 1992, despite it supposedly being an indictment of runway model culture, it caught the imagination of the fading yuppie remnants of the self-obsessed ’80s. –Chris Bosman
22. The Osmonds – “One Bad Apple”
The Beatles had The Monkees, Transformers had Gobots, and The Jackson 5 had The Osmonds. Their transition from Andy Williams Show staples to teen idol pop group may have been as awkward as puberty itself, but it still connected with a large audience as the white counterpart to The Jackson 5.
“One Bad Apple” isn’t so much bubblegum pop as it is a five-year-old piece of Bazooka Joe that will break your teeth long before a cavity ever gets to form. And, despite what Donny’s high-pitched squeal tells us over and over (and over) again, science proves that one bad apple does, in fact, spoil the bunch, thanks to the release and spread of ripening agent ethylene. The song was actually written with The Jackson 5 in mind, but they wisely turned it down in favor of a little number called “ABC”. –Frank Mojica
21. Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, Nayer – “Give Me Everything”
“Me not working hard?
Yeah, right, picture that with a Kodak.
Or better yet, go to Times Square
Take a picture of me with a Kodak”
Yes, someone had the audacity to rhyme “Kodak” with itself for a double-dip of distracting product placement. As if the lyrics weren’t aneurysm-inducing enough, the beat to “Give Me Everything” is just a slight variation of the same sound found in every Afrojack track. Pitbull was actually sued because of this chart-topping club pop anthem’s rhymes. Not because of undue emotional distress from being exposed to such unprecedented and unrepentant laziness, but for having it “locked up like Lindsay Lohan.” Her defamation suit was discarded because of that obscurity called the First Amendment, and Pitbull was free to revel in his club-obsessed buffoonery. Where’s Michael Vick when you need him? –Frank Mojica
20. D4L – “Laffy Taffy”
I downloaded this song in 2006. I paid money for D4L’s “Laffy Taffy”, a memory that I had buried deep in my subconscious until this piece, and now I sit here, a sullen man embarrassed by his past decisions. This song is garbage, quite possibly the least musically worthwhile thing on this list, and with good reason. Who the fuck is it aimed at? I know that as a seventh grader, roughly 75% to 95% of the lyrics were over my head, so clearly the song isn’t for kids. But what self-respecting adult/hip-hop fan is going to ride around town bumping a song that sounds like it could/should have been played in a carnival fun house? –Pat Levy
19. Sisqo – “Incomplete”
Things Sisqo has: A grand piano, jewelry, a mansion with a sprawling backyard, “a bank account bigger than the law should allow,” “pretty faces from the covers of the magazines,” “fame and fortune,” a nifty camcorder with an LCD screen (nothing to scoff at in 2000), expensive cars, a tennis court, a goddamn white tiger, and an ocean view. Things Sisqo does not have, rendering him helplessly incomplete: You, girl, and any other #1 hits besides this to show for his career. –Steven Arroyo
18. Chris Brown – “Run It!”
In 2005, the world was introduced to Chris Brown, an artist who would punch his way into our hearts, and it was his lead single, “Run It!”, that launched his debut into the pop music conversation. The guest spot from Dipset mainstay Juelz Santana is almost entirely recycled from other songs, including Will Smith’s G-rated “Switch” and The Ying Yang Twins’ “Wait (The Whisper Song)”. This song really makes me sad for the state of pop music at that time, when a kid more baby-voiced than Bieber could have a hit song about stealing girlfriends. He barely sounds old enough to have crushes or not be afraid of cooties yet. –Pat Levy
17. Usher – “OMG”
For a song with more than 90 million views on YouTube, you’d expect something a little more nuanced than a beat of dueling metronomes and Usher pining for a woman he could likely just walk up to and have. will.i.am.’s contribution doesn’t amount to much more than Auto-Tuning one of the least imaginative verses of this millennium, while Usher isn’t trying much harder with his lyrics. “Honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow/ Honey got some boobies like wow, oh wow,” has to be something that Usher’s 13-year-old nephew wrote for him, right? –Pat Levy
16. Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em – “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”
Compared to most songs centered on comprehensive boogieing routines, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” remains purely useless for one, essential reason: It doesn’t even teach you the goddamn dance steps. Lyrically, it eschews decipherable English in favor of nonsense phrases that are repeated to no end. It’s as if someone erased the rapping from the track, leaving us with four painful minutes of hype man shtick. “Soulja Boy off in this oh/ Watch me crank it, watch me roll/ Watch me crank dat, Soulja Boy/ Then Superman dat oh,” Soulja intones, expecting both our brains and dancing feet to know exactly what’s going on. That was 2007. Nearly seven years later, we still have no clue. –Dean Essner