The Most Annoying Smash Hits Ever Recorded

In a perfect world, songs would become insanely popular because they're really awesome and crafted with thoughtfulness and creativity, but we all know that is not the case. Sure, there are plenty of bands that have found success by pushing the boundaries of their genre and refusing to pander to the lowest common denominator, but far more have found even greater success by pushing diddly-squat and pandering as if their lives depended on it.

There will always be "artists" who make a fine living by cranking out indifferently created fluff for people who just want some non-offensive sound of some sort playing in the background, but there will also always be songs like these. These songs are tunes that seem specifically calibrated to assault the eardrums of even the least-discriminating listener, yet they inexplicably raced up the charts and stayed there for unreasonable periods of time. They're the absolute most annoying smash hit songs ever recorded. But don't blame the artists — blame the entire music-buying public for encouraging these annoying songs.

Angry red-faced listeners palming face

R.E.M. has always been somewhat of a divisive band. Lead singer Michael Stipe's lyrics can tend toward the maudlin and cloying, and his voice is a bit of an acquired taste. The same can be said for the B-52s, a band you would love to have rocking at one of your keggers but who nobody ever accused of being fantastic musicians and vocalists. So when Stipe and crew recruited B-52s singer Kate Pierson for their 1991 single "Shiny Happy People," a vocal showcase was not to be expected. But what we got was a select blend of crapola — a candy-coated, blindingly sunny, gratingly repetitive trainwreck that just may make you want to punt the first shiny happy person you see into orbit.

Even Stipe himself admitted to hating the song just a few years after its release; he's mostly refused to play it live, and he lobbied successfully to keep it off R.E.M.'s greatest hits album. The problems with the song are myriad, from its stupid jangly riff to Pierson's appalling counterpoint vocal to the fact that the phrase "shiny happy people holding hands" constitutes about 80 percent of the lyrics. But somehow, the aural equivalent of slamming your fingers in a car door cracked the Billboard Top 10 and remained on the charts for 15 weeks — helped along by a heavy-rotation video that makes it so much worse by looking exactly like the song sounds.

An annoying girl in a ridiculous world

Get ready to have your mind blown: the Danish dance-pop outfit Aqua, who are responsible for the 1997 psychological torture device "Barbie Girl," are considered the one-hittiest of one-hit wonders here in the States. But they were actually together since the late '80s, had numerous hits all over Europe, and are the best-selling Danish band of all time with 33 million freaking records sold. Peaking at #7 on the charts, "Barbie Girl" was their lone U.S. hit — and if it's any indication, we should all fall to our knees and thank the music gods that this is so.

The song received a fair amount of flak during its chart run for its suggestive lyrics, and Mattel even (unsuccessfully) sued MCA Records and the band for having the gall to refer to their All-American doll as a "blonde bimbo." But whatever crimes the song may have committed against Barbie, its crimes against music are for more egregious. The bouncy, janky production is a perfectly thin backdrop for lead singer Lene Nystrom's shrill, nasal vocal, which continually drops maddeningly earworm-y nonsense lyrics like "life in plastic, it's fantastic," and "come on Barbie, let's go party." The '90s were the decade that gave us Hanson, Puff Daddy, and a million cookie cutter boy bands — but in a Rolling Stone poll, "Barbie Girl" was named the worst song of that decade.

A big pile of C.R.A.P.

Speaking of the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy, Sean "Diddy" Combs is the man largely responsible for rap's mid-'90s transformation from serving wack MC's and dissing the po-po to getting jiggy in shiny suits while drinking Cristal. Combs enjoyed a great deal of success late in that decade despite a production style that could kindly be described as "just straight-up jacking other people's beats," and the fact that he always sounds like he's rapping with a mouthful of cottage cheese. Nowhere were these two traits highlighted more effectively than on the #1 smash hit "I'll Be Missing You," a tribute to the late Notorious B.I.G. that should have been moving and epic, but instead ended up as the ultimate testament to Puff's half-assery.

Lifting his track almost entirely from "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, Puff mumbles and mutters his way through a complete list of every sentiment one could expect to find in a whole rack of "Sympathy" greeting cards. The requisite gospel choir lazily grafts slightly different lyrics onto the melody from the Police song, Faith Evans shows up to sing some stuff, and then the song just sort of slinks away in shame. Sting famously performed the tune with Puff at MTV's Video Music Awards looking for all the world like he had a gun to his head, but at least he gets all the royalties; not so Police guitarist Andy Summers, whose part anchors the song and who has called his exclusion from its profits "a major ripoff."

He's in a trainwreck, trying to go home

"Payphone" by Maroon 5 is a song literally made out of problems, so let's just start with the opening lyric: "I'm at a payphone, trying to go home / All of my change I spent on you." Now, when's the last time you saw a payphone? Can you even remember? And wait, he's stuck there because he spent all of his change on some girl? What, did he buy her something off the Taco Bell value menu? You're five seconds into the song, and you're already confused.

Unfortunately, it gets so much worse. Adam Levine spins his epic yarn of lost love and obsolete communications technology through one of the most aggressively autotuned vocals ever. He tries to go all dark over the shiny, sparkly track, dropping random F-bombs in a futile stab at edginess. The chorus sports a truly awful melody that somehow gets worse each time it repeats, and just as all of this dreck is bubbling to some kind of dumb climax, Wiz Khalifa pops in with what must be the most phoned-in verse of his career. It is a perfectly stupid song, made all the worse by the fact that everybody involved clearly thought they were making something super-edgy and cool — and it spent a whopping 31 weeks on the charts, peaking at #2. With that kind of success, we're just lucky the band didn't follow up with a song about how Levine can't get his long-lost girlfriend's VCR to work.

Fergie's humps may be damaging to your ears

Believe it or not, the Black Eyed Peas were once seriously considered as heirs to the throne of "conscious Hip-Hop," which used to be a thing that existed. But then a lady named Fergie showed up, the money started rolling in, and the band swiftly abandoned any artistic integrity they may have had. Exhibit A: "My Humps," featuring Fergie on lead vocal, an ode to the female form that spent nine months on the Billboard charts despite being crass, insulting, repetitive, insanely irritating garbage.

Over a perfectly middling track, Fergie waxes rhapsodic about humps, lumps, and junk in trunks, only pausing long enough to name-drop every luxury brand she can think of. It's the sonic equivalent of Chinese water torture, coming in annoying before progressing to near-unbearable and sauntering straight on through to excruciating. In a poll conducted nine years after its release, "My Humps" was selected as the dance track with the worst lyrics of all time. It takes an extra-special effort to achieve that level of awfulness, but just call the Peas overachievers. Years later, they'd have an even bigger hit with "I Gotta Feeling," a tune which is even more repetitive and only slightly less stupid.

Soulja Boy tells 'em something, it's not exactly clear what

If the track for 2007's "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" sounds like it could have been thrown together by a 16-year-old boy using the demo version of cheap studio software in about an hour, it's only because all of that is exactly right. DeAndre Cortez Way, who goes by the oddly imperative name of Soulja Boy Tell 'Em, had just turned 17 when his tune hit the top of the charts, a position it held for seven weeks. The song somehow touched off a dance craze without actually explaining how to do the dance, has the dubious honor of adding the phrase "Superman that ho" to the pop culture lexicon, and annoyed one of rap's greatest lyricists to no end.

On a 2008 mixtape by DJ Cisco, gangsta rap godfather Ice-T didn't mince words: "Soulja Boy, I know you're young enough to be my kid but you single-handedly killed hip-hop, man," he said. He then went on to lament how rap had "progressed" from lyrical rappers like Rakim and Big Daddy Kane to "Superman that ho" in a tirade laced with far too many profanities to print here, finishing with a bit of career advice: "Fix bikes or something." Ice can be forgiven for venting; despite its starkly amateurish production, mushmouthed vocal and indecipherable lyrics, "Crank That" was the most downloaded song of its year.

The song that drives you up the wall, like whoa

Puff and his Bad Boy Records label were still riding high entering the new millennium, the Cristal was still flowing, and the suits were still shiny. Robert Ross, professionally known as Black Rob, had made a splash with several guest appearances on Bad Boy releases in the latter half of the '90s, and in 2000 the label released his debut LP Life Story. Its lead single "Whoa!" is not an ode to Keanu Reeves, but simply a blow-by-blow description of Rob's high-rollin' lifestyle. You see, when you're Black Rob, everything is like, whoa. Everything.

The track (by legendary Diggin' in the Crates Crew producer Buckwild) is serviceable enough, but Rob's gimmick of tacking the word "whoa" onto the end of literally every bar goes from baffling to annoying to maddening in about 10 seconds. "Flow so properly you'll see I'm whoa / Ain't no stopping me, I'm deep like whoa," he raps, spitting like a man who has admirably turned a severe neurological disorder into a recording career. The song peaked at #8 during its 21-week stay on the rap charts, but one can't help but think that it would have been more interesting if it had detailed the life of some normal guy. "Woke up, brushed my teeth like whoa / Gonna sling some McDonald's beef, it's whoa / Threw on my golden arches cap like whoa / Would you like fries with that? Whoa."

A little bit of turn the radio off

"Mambo No. 5" was originally recorded in 1949 by Damaso Perez Prado, a famed Cuban bandleader who helped popularize the style in the United States. It's a cool, shuffling little instrumental number, but when you hear its title, there are definitely lyrics that spring immediately to mind. Those are courtesy of German artist Lou Bega, who somehow got it into his head to record a new version (which heavily samples the last 30 seconds of the original) and use it as a vehicle to drop pretty much every female name he could think of over the simplest, most grating melody he could muster. It didn't sound like the recipe for a #1 hit, yet here we are.

The song's brain-numbingly simplistic chorus ("A little bit of Monica in my life, a little bit of Erica by my side," and on and on) was certainly key to its success, as it wormed its way into the brains of unsuspecting late '90s pop fans and absolutely would not leave. It stuck around on the charts for all of 21 weeks, and if Bega has long since faded into obscurity, his lone hit will forever be remembered for all the wrong reasons. In an AV Club interview 14 years after its release, it was deemed the worst song of all time by Joe Trohman, the guitarist for Fall Out Boy, a band which has had its fair share of detractors over the years.

Leave Mr. Mister out of this

A #3 hit that stayed on the charts for over a year, Train's "Hey Soul Sister" is the type of song you can immediately picture being used in a commercial the first time you hear it. This is almost certainly no accident. If you can remember the words "Hey," "Hey-ey," and "Hey-ey-ey," then you can sing along to its catchiest parts, and sure enough, the tune has appeared in a ridiculous number of advertisements and TV shows since its release. This despite the fact that it features a whiny white guy pining for a "soul sister," apparently determined to win her heart through the magic of such stupefyingly awful lyrics as "I knew when we collided / You're the one I have decided / Who's one of my kind."

It doesn't help that lead singer Pat Monahan keeps continually name-dropping Mr. Mister, an '80s band which had a couple of cool hit songs that featured coherent lyrics. Monahan's croonings play like all of the very worst excerpts from an eighth-grader's book of poetry: "A game show love connection / we can't deny / I'm so obsessed / My heart is bound to beat right out / my untrimmed chest." The track may have been engineered for maximum commercial playability, but Monahan and the boys are just lucky there is a strong contingent of pop fans who don't pay any attention to lyrics.

The burning question on everyone's minds...

Back in 2000, something happened which left an indelible mark on pop music forever: Someone let the dogs out. Hearing of this impropriety, the nine-piece band (yes, that's right) Baha Men took to the American airwaves with a forceful query as to who would have done such a thing. Their ubiquitous #1 smash hit "Who Let the Dogs Out?" makes any reasonable listener want to bring the dogs inside and never, ever let them out again. It topped the charts for six months, was nominated for a Grammy, and is an ultra-repetitive, annoying travesty — so much so that the band members themselves were highly reluctant to record it, and they freely admit that the bumbling "raps" which occasionally break up the incessant chanting of the song's title make absolutely no sense.

However, important context can perhaps be gleaned from the fact that the song never satisfactorily answers the question of who, in fact, let the dogs out. In this context, it can be seen not as mindless dreck, but as a deep philosophical query. "Who Let the Dogs Out" is the sound of one hand clapping, the sound a tree makes when it falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma; either that, or it's just the single stupidest hit song of all time.