A few weeks ago, I wrote about some really terrible songs. And, in researching that article I rediscovered some really bad boy band songs. As you may have guessed boy bands were my JAM growing up (and now, shut up) but some of the songs that these manufactured merchandising machines pumped out were anywhere from laughably insane to deeply upsetting. So, I made another playlist and in honor of ABC’s new show Boy Band premiering tonight, you might see an appearance from the winners of ABC’s first try in this regard (Making the Band).
Some rules I set for myself: For me the boy band era, as it were, began with the US release of “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” by the Backstreet Boys in 1997. While I recognize that that leaves out the New Kids on the Block era but I feel like they existed in kind of a vacuum — alone in their genre- whereas BSB started a movement! In fact I would also say that the era ended really with the release of BSB’s Never Gone album in 2005 as by that time *NSYNC was all but gone, as was TRL (which ended in 2008 but the magic was gone by then) and all the attendant fanfare that went with the height of boy band mania. So there is my basic time frame.
I also wanted to try to avoid the band’s first/always cheesy single. Your “We’ve Got it Going On”s and “Here We Go”s of it all were all spared because I think they were sort of intro songs. I also did not add “I Want it That Way” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” because, while bad, they aren’t overall bad they are just lyrically messy.
Without further ado, here are the 9 (plus some honorable mentions) worst songs of the boy band era (1997–2005)
“Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)”- *NSYNC (featuring Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes) No Strings Attached 2000
I am starting easy. Even though I love this song, and the argument could be made that this isn’t *NSYNC’s worst song (“It Makes Me Ill”, “Digital Get Down”, “The Game is Over”, etc), it is sort of…emblematic of *NSYNC’s worst songs. It’s weird, it’s loud in its overproduced blather, and it’s lyrically bizarre (“Here it comes/millennium/ and everybody’s talkin’ ‘bout Jerusalem” Were we though?). At least the weird rap break isn’t done by Timberlake (RIP Left Eye) but it still comes out of nowhere.
“Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)”- 98 Degrees Revelation 2000
Oh 98 Degrees. They looked like polished frat boys and sang some of the sappiest songs ever written. Here was their attempt to join in on the boy band era’s more poppy-cum-dance music. Which, Nick Lachey cannot dance so why even bother. And ,what was the purpose of the Spanish subtitle/weird breathy girl verse? Nothing about this song works or makes sense.
“The Call”- Backstreet Boys Black & Blue 2000
Listen baby I’m sorry
Just wanna tell you don’t worry
I have made better songs, don’t hate me yet
Say again you’re dropping out this song is really dumb
Just so you know, there will be better songs, gotta go
… I mean…
The girl’s voice is very irritating. The plot of the song makes NO sense, like your life wasn’t ruined because you made a phone call and lied to your girlfriend it’s ruined because you (presumably) cheated on her you jerk! Also, your call is really dumb and gives your girlfriend no information so why did you even bother and also you’re gross and this song is gross
“West Side Story”- LFO LFO 2000
WHO. THE. FUCK. IS VERONICA?!?!?
Look, LFO did A LOT of things wrong in their short career but they made catchy ass songs. This one references both West Side Story and its inspiration Romeo & Juliet but fails to mention the COPIUS DEATH in both stories (although the rap does reference a lot of guns, so…?) But overall this song is atrocious.
“Can I Get Your Number (A Girl Like You)”- No authority No Authority 2000
I referenced this song last time but it must be said again that this is easily one of the worst songs ever made. It’s objectifying and not in a “sexy” way, it’s stupid, and it’s somehow still really juvenile. And, it’s also weirdly dismissive of redheads which seems like strange choice.
“When the Lights Go Out”- 5ive 5ive 1998
For a group that featured a member named “Abs” you would expect this song to be really douchy. And it is! This song and all of its proto-pick up artist story, somehow reeks of Axe body spray and hair gel and betrays your nostalgic enjoyment of it by featuring the lyric “Babe, I swear you will succumb to me.”
“Liquid Dreams”- O-Town O-Town 2001
You guys, this song is about wet dreams. If you are still confused about this fact 16 years later I encourage you to watch the video and pay attention to the choreography which ACTS OUT A WET DREAM YES REALLY!
Additionally, the Frankenstein woman assembled in the lyrics of this song — which at least they mention her personality (“like Halle B.”) as opposed to just her physicality- would be terrifying in person. But, this song is also so very of its time as its references require you to know 90s/early 2000s pop culture to even know who all the women are. Like, who is Jennifer? Lopez? Garner? Aniston? Jason Leigh? Holliday? Be specific with your….masturbatory needs? No wait, don’t.
FUN FACT: O-Town Hearthrob Ashley Parker Angel is now an Instagram underwear model of some acclaim while the rest of the band still tours. Yes really.
“Music of My Heart” – *NSYNC & Gloria Estefan Music of the Heart (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) 1999 & “The Shape of my Heart”- Backstreet Boys Black & Blue 2000
Rounding out this list are 2 of the sappiest songs ever recorded that weren’t by 98 Degrees (and isn’t “The Perfect Fan” by BSB which was about their moms so back off)
“Music of My Heart” is a delightfully bland song about…finding your inner greatness? I mean ostensibly it’s about the power of a good teacher (which is what the movie is about. I think. No one saw it) but the song is so bad and boring and I don’t even know if Estefan was awake during the recording.
“The Shape of my Heart” has a similar problem with the addition of it being predicated on the single worst metaphor ever. Please don’t show me the shape of your heart. That is disgusting.
When Boybanders go solo (or date…we’ll get there) sometimes we get shitty song gold
“Give it to You”- Jordan Knight Jordan Knight 1999
Witness these really subtle lyrics:
“Baby you know I can give it to you
I can’t deny you do it right
Just let me know and I’ll give it to you
Just show me where, I’ll take you there
Baby you know that I’ll give it to you
Your body needs a man like me
Anything goes when I give it to you
You know without a doubt, I’ll turn you out
I’ll give it to you
The feeling is fine, giving you everything of mine”
B) Give what? Because I assume it’s his…dick? I think? But then what is she doing right? And, do you really need to be shown where to put it
See, much like our next subject, when Jordan whent solo, he took the sweet love songs that made him famous and went to their next logical exteme: all of the sex. But, like, with a carnival theme to give it a particular “skeevy sex offender” vibe that I don’t think he was going for.
“Some Girls (Dance with Women)”- JC Chasez Schizophrenic 2004
I really could have picked any song on this album, from “All Day I Dream About Sex” to “Blowin’ me up (With Her Love)”, to “Come to Me” which features the lyrics :
“Cause when I’m all alone
I lay awake and masturbate
I love to hear the sounds you make
Baby here I come
Baby here I come”
But, Some Girls is going to stand in for the whole album which was a musical and lyrical mess. This song, about how women in clubs dance with women to get male attention, is reductive and simplistic in its failure to acknowledge lesbians and bisexual women exist but it is also a club song that is so the opposite of all things club that I don’t get why it was released as a single. You’ll also note that you haven’t thought about JC Chasez in over 10 years so while he was arguably as talented as Timberlake in the *NSYNC days, he had no idea what he was doing.
“Shut Up” Nick Lachey SoulO 2003
I have to first say how fun it is to type “shut up Nick Lachey.” But this song that you have never heard is upsetting. It’s about hate sex. And since he was married to Jessica Simpson at the time you have to assume that it’s about their hate sex. Forgetting that it’s a stupid song for a second (and the INCREDIBLY dumb album title) we all knew too much about Lachey’s life because Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica partially chronicled the making of this album so this song is inextricably linked to THEIR SEX LIFE and we all watched THEIR HOMELIFE and oh my god this song is ruined (if that’s possible) by real life.
“Tired” Willa Ford Willa Was Here 2001
Willa Ford (neé Amanda Lee Williford) is rumored to have dated…. Everyone. Nick Carter primarily but gossip rags have linked her with everyone in the boy band world. Her pop-culture existence is purely because of the pop explosion. She (apparently) leveraged her relationship with Carter into a record deal (changing her name to not be confused with Mandy Moore, or so the rumor goes) and then released this song about…how gross and fake the entire pop music machine is and she is the only truth. What?? She even calls out Britney BY NAME in an “I’m better than her” way. And tell me, have you ever heard of her? Do you remember this song? Nope. I even initially had another song of hers on this list (“I Wanna be Bad” her ode to Samantha Fox I guess) because I thought that it was this one. She is that generic. That said, the sheer gall she displays in this song is stunningly devoid of reality.