My ever patient lady-partner and I embarked on a 4 hour road-trip last week, returning to London from Leeds. We had talked all the way there and over the course of the entire weekend. By now though, conversation had abandoned us. Maybe forever; it’s too early to tell. But hey, who needs conversation when you have car games?
Twenty Questions went badly; the silent fallout lasting twice as long as the game itself. (Apparently Fred West isn’t a valid celebrity; plus I’d actually forgotten if he was dead or alive.) Then, like all the best and most highly experienced of relationship counsellors, I invented a game to rescue our faltering romance; one with its roots in the only two things that I can talk about for more than 8 minutes at a time– music and things that I hate. A game that would bring us back together; a game that would re-establish our bond as two people that occasionally like each other; a game I will now share with you.
Think of a bad song. Sing a few lines from it. The next person has to sing a song that’s a bit worse than the previous one. But you can’t just immediately go to Nickleback’s ‘Rock Star’ or Counting Crows cover of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. It’s the equivalent of bringing a mace to a boxing match. It’s Mutually Assured Destruction. It’s not the point of the game – You have to do it incrementally, so it lasts an entire car journey, filling the interminable void of conversational silence and windscreen wipers.
I start singing Staind’s ‘It’s Been a While’ with its fifteen-years-too-late-to-the-grunge-party lyrics –
And it’s been a while since I could say that I wasn’t addicted. And it’s been a while since I could say I loved myself as well.
It’s bad enough that it starts every line with ‘and’.
Now it’s up to the next… uh… contestant!?… Yes, contestant… to think what song they would want to hear less than ‘It’s Been a While’, the worst song of 2001 – It’s like Sophie’s Choice in reverse, where Meryl Streep just wants to get rid of both her children but isn’t allowed to by the Nazis.
And do you know what’s worse than Staind? – ‘Sweat (a la la la la long)’ as covered by Inner Circle.
A song is always in trouble when it has to mention the hook within the brackets of its title:
“I love that song ‘Sweat’”
“Never heard it”
“Yes you have – a la la la la long, a la la la la long, a la la la la long longly long.”
“Oh Jesus really?”
Its most evil crime is the unforgivably rape-tastic lyric –
Girl I want to make you sweat. Sweat till you can’t sweat no more. And girl if you cry out, I’m gonna push it, push it, push it, some more.
Even if that’s about dancing and not sex, it’s still irredeemably cruel.
However, I’d rather listen to ‘Sweat (a la la la la long)’ for an entire hour on repeat than 30 seconds of ‘Closing Time’ by Semisonic. A song that feels like lukewarm tears dribbling down your ear and neck.
Powter’s ‘Bad Day’ and Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’ are discounted for the same reason as anything by Nickleback would be; they’re game-enders. Nothing beats them.
I have a few Michael McDonald songs thrown at me. I bat them back, as I actually quite love him. Then Sisqo’s ‘Thong Song’ is proffered, which I oddly feel the need to defend as a work of production genius (beautifully downbeat strings, ever crescendoing key-changes) in spite of its vile misogyny. I’ve yet to win this argument with countless other people, and I’m certainly not going to win it here.
I feign an emergency stop to get off the topic.
She has me at ‘Beautiful Day’ by U2.
Any song with Beautiful Day in the title is a sure-fire irritant, but U2s effort is a soaring work of emptiness.
I retaliate with a killer – ‘Baby Come Back’ by UB40 and Pato ‘Pato Fucking Banton’ Banton. I’ll quote my favourite lyrics here –
Bye bye bye bye b-b bye bye bye
You know, from the sofa advert.
She brings out Lighthouse Family’s ‘Lifted’ and it makes me want to die.
I come back with Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’, but it’s hard to say a song is truly bad (albeit one as horribly unlistenable as this) when, even if it’s helped raise the self esteem of just one teenager, its existence is valid. Damn.
I also fail with ’74-75’ by The Connells which everyone else in the world seems to irrationally love.
She hits me with ‘It’s My Life’ by Dr Alban. Fuck! Where did that come from?
I respond with ‘Get Here’ by Oleta Adams, with its desperately-grabbed-from-the-lyric-barrel couplet
You can reach me by caravan. Across the desert like an Arab man.
Then at the very top of her range, she fills our tiny car with the staggering horror of –
She’s so lov-er-ly. She’s so lov-er-ly. She’s so lov-er-ly. She’s so lov-er-ly.
I want to swing the car into the central reservation to put a stop to it. Damn, she’s good. That’s far beyond worse than my next choice, the painfully repetitive ‘Matinee’ by Franz Ferdinand.
Then from the darkest recesses of my memory I retrieve Darren Hayes (you know, from Savage Garden) with his 2002 solo classic ‘Crush (1980 Me)’ with its remarkably unimaginative checklist of Eighties pop culture references –
Frosted lipstick. Parachute pants. Doc Martins. Dead Can Dance. Culture Club. The Go Go’s. Pretty In Pink. PacMan. Asteroids. Miami Vice. Too early for Vanilla Ice. Crimpin’. The Poodle perm and blonde highlights.
Unfortunately she’s never heard it before and suddenly a newfound rule needs to be ironed out. Do we have to disregard a song if the opponent hasn’t heard of it? This is all moot though as I realise that Hayes’ inability to find a fittingly 1980s rhyme for Miami Vice is oddly sweet.
Also how can you hate a song that has the lyric –
I wish that I could be eleven again, and ET was my friend.
There’s no time to answer that question however, because, before I know it, there she is, clapping her hands like a grizzled pan-handler and singing ‘Cotton Eye Joe’.
Things are looking bad. I’m losing. My only hope is that she’s heard of Rednex’ little known follow-up ‘Pop in Old Oak’ which has the twin awfulness of being EXACTLY THE SAME as their last song but somehow having worse lyrics. She hasn’t heard it.
Of course she hasn’t. Nobody has.
The end approaches:
We’re 3 miles away from home. I’m beaten badly. I have to come back with something special; truly the game-ender to end all game-enders. Songs come to mind, but I discount them all for various reasons. Yes of course Blue (Da Ba Dee) is dreadful; no one in the world thinks it’s actually a good song. It’s hard to hate ‘Ain’t No Doubt’ by Jimmy Nail, it’s hilariously great (I realise now that I’d forgotten ‘Crocodile Shoes’.)
I can’t actually remember any individual songs by Good Charlotte, POD or Creed. There aren’t really any specifically awful songs in the Razorlight, Hard-Fi or Kasabian back catalogues either, it’s their personalities that make them so unlistenable.
2 miles to go.
She smiles. She’s working on something horrendous, I can tell. I have to get in there fast. Glee! Surely any Glee cover version will do. But in my panic I can’t think of a single bloody one. I then remember Gotye’s horrendous ‘Somebody I Used to Know’, but it has no discernible melody so I forget how it goes, and all I’m left with is the stain of his raspy metallic register and his horrible pubey stomach.
She’s losing patience and is ready to launch into it, whatever ‘it’ is. The end is coming. I need to make a statement with this. It can’t just be a universally derided song like ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’, it has to be a pointed attack. An iconoclastic shot against the wall of popularity.
This is personal.
I’ve got it.
She releases her breath. Her voice ready to unleash something truly abhorrent.
I do the same.
And together, serendipitously, we sing in a harmonious faux male braggado, with imagined Carling can in hand and buttoned down shirt collars, the incessant chant of –
doo, doo-do-doo, doo-do-doo, doo-do-doo-do-doo-do-doo, doo, doo-do-doo, doo-do-doo, doo-do-doo-do-doo-do-doo, doo, doo-do-doo, doo-do-doo, doo-do-doo-do-doo-do-doo. Chelsea, Chelsea…
We have bonded.
We are happy again.
We have a future, my girlfriend and I.
We are rival schools. United by hate.
Thank you, The Fratellis. Thank you, Chelsea Dagger.
Lyrics reprinted with permission by some truly cretinous human beings.