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I Stand Corrected

Recently I reported that I hadn’t heard a worse song than Brian Wilson’s “Smart Girls.” I can admit when I’m wrong, and my unfortunate prolonged exposure to Top 40 radio over the last few weeks has given me some perspective. In fact, the absolute worst song ever recorded (or, at least, the worst song ever to be a #1 hit) is “The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani. [Downloadable file removed 3/13/08 because certain websites were direct-linking.]

I’ve heard this song no fewer than 583 times in the past week, and it’s like torture. Unfortunately, here is a brief list of the radio stations I can pick up:

  1. A Top 40 station called “The Nine”
  2. A Latin hip-hop station
  3. Another Latin hip-hop station
  4. A Spanish-language talk-radio station

Until I heard “The Sweet Escape,” I was prepared to accept that not even Top 40 is as bad as Latin hip-hop, and yet…here it is. I’m prepared to catalog exactly why this is the worst song ever recorded:

  • The “woooh-woooh, yeeeee-woooh” that is repeated several times
  • The embarrassing synthesizer that busts out a “My First Piano Scale Book” riff in the chorus
  • Refrigerator-based metaphors (acting like sour milk and acting cold, because her beau left the refrigerator door open)
  • Gwen Stefani’s voice has always irritated me, so that contributes to the overall badness factor. People who like her might argue against that point, so I’ll just say “to each his own.”
  • The hilarious overproduction. You have odd hip-hop sounds, horribly processed and digital-effected guitars, the worst synths I’ve heard since we hit the ’90s, goofy and unnecessary layered harmonies, the loudest tambourine since Phil Spector stopped producing records, and—probably my least favorite thing about the whole song—a pitched synth bass drum that isn’t even in the same key as the rest of the song.
  • The lyrical mess. You can’t look at pop-music lyrics without playing with fire, but this shit makes less sense than Trapped in the Closet. Let me try to figure out what’s happening in this song: Gwen is acting like “sour milk” because her dude is pissed off at her all the time, but he’s pissed off because apparently she’s tramping around (I infer this from the “I know I’ve been a real bad girl / I didn’t mean for you to get hurt” line in the chorus, but if she could “escape” (from being a tramp?) they’d be happy. Then there’s the overall selfishness of wanting to create her own, custom-tailored world, where I’m assuming she can ho it up and her dude would be cool with that. Am I reading these lyrics wrong, or am I embarrassing myself for even thinking that hard about them? The confused attempt at female empowerment that somehow ends up sounding both subservient and selfish rivals “Smart Girls” in sophistication.

The song itself is bad enough, but wait—there’s also a remix. I’d almost be willing to call this better than the original, if only because it drops the annoying E-Z Piano synth in the chorus, but the embarrassing rapping more than makes up for any goodwill the pseudo-stripped-down production offers.

And then there’s the video…

Holy shit. This just in: if I’m going to get this worked up about every horrible Top 40 song, I need to start bringing my iPod to work. There’s far too much horrible pop music coming out for me to hold on to sanity.

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