(Christmas) Songs That Suck: DOMINICK THE DONKEY

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dominick the donkey
Lou Monte
Roulette Records, 1960

At my age, I thought I had heard all of the annoying novelty Christmas songs that are trotted out every year. “Christmas Don’t Be Late” (aka The Chipmunk Song). “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”. “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”. These are all songs that have been played ad nausium since I can remember. They’re songs that don’t necessarily make me want to hurt fluffy woodland creatures whenever I come across them–as a matter of fact, sometimes it just doesn’t seem like Christmas until I hear one of those songs. However, there appears to be one Christmas song that has managed to escape my notice in all the 40+ years of existence: “Dominick The Donkey”.

There I was, in one of the half-dozen Cost Cutters salons that populate the town of Fremont, Nebraska, about to get my shaggy mane trimmed, when this song came on the piped-in overhead music. I sat, transfixed, at how annoying and yet herpes-like catchy this song was. Moreso at the fact that this song seemed to be about a donkey (duh) that helps Santa get some toys to children in Italy, because Santa’s reindeer seem to have trouble climbing the Italian mountains. Correct me if I’m wrong, but…can’t his reindeer fly? This is a tremendous stretch to attempt an endearing Christmas classic, and I believe I hate this song. Maybe I have heard this song before, and my brain just immediately blanked it out of my memory in an adorable attempt to prevent madness and insanity. But thanks to my need to look neat and tidy, I now have this song haunting my Yuletide nightmares.


Songs That Suck: “KOKOMO” (The Beach Boys)

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The Beach Boys
Elektra Records
[from the Cocktail Soundtrack]

Oh, yeah. I’m definitely going to be getting some angry responses from former junior high chums on this one. Among others, I’m sure. But, believe me when I say, I do this not to just troll any fan of this song, whoever you may be. I do this because I can’t even bring myself to pretend that “Kokomo” is even close to a good song any longer. I’ve remained quiet long enough.

Full Disclosure: While I’m not a fan of the Beach Boys, I grew up listening to them via my parents and school friends who loved them. I do enjoy a good Beach Boys song; I also have grown to really appreicate the genius that is Brian Wilson, and recognize that without his production skills and creativeness on the song “Good Vibrations” and the album Pet Sounds, we wouldn’t have the Sgt. Pepper’s album. Seriously, go look it up.

With that in mind, that is the exact reason why I consider “Kokomo” to be second-rate Jimmy Buffet fodder, rather than a throwback classic, as many others seem to think. Brian Wilson had not been part of the band for a number of years, and boy does it show here. It probably didn’t help that the only other thing that they were known for in the 80s was their collaboration with the Fat Boys on the song “Wipe Out”, and a later appearance on the TGIF-staple Full House sealed their fate as a washed-up nostalgia act. Meanwhile, we still have to endure “Kokomo” popping up randomly, necessitating much work to keep this from infecting the brain to mush.

Songs That Suck: “NOTHIN’S GONNA CHANGE MY LOVE FOR YOU” (Glenn Medeiros)

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nothins gonna change my love for you
Glenn Medeiros
[from Glenn Medeiros

Okay, so this is technically a cover song. The original version of “Nothin’s Gonna Change My Love For You” was done by R&B singer/guitarist George Benson back in 1985. However, I’m not familiar with that original version, or of Mr. Benson’s work; it is the Glenn Medeiros version that I keep hearing in the most inopportune places, and that’s why I’ve included this as a Song That very much Sucks.

And before you ask, yes I am aware of the Nick Carter version. But, I neither have heard that version, nor care about that one. Or Nick Carter’s music. But, I digress.

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”: I was on the school bus, on the 45-minute ride back home. The radio on the bus was tuned to the popular Top 40 station, and this song came on. Even at the tender age of 13, when my music tastes were still more or less dictated by what’s on heavy rotation on the radio, this song was just horrible. I’d heard my fair share of Adult Contemporary pop before, but my reaction had never been this kind of vehement. It was beyond sappy. It sounded like the kind of song a teenager would sing at the Congregational Church for his grandmother.

And that was kind of close to the truth. The guy who did this cover version, Glenn Medeiros, was 16 when he recorded the song after winning a local radio talent contest in Hawaii.It was one of those small, locally released on an independent label kind of things, like the kind you do at a karaoke booth to give out to your friends and family. But, because a visiting radio exec from Phoenix, Arizona happened to hear the song on the local radio there, the single made it’s way back to the mainland and went national. Thanks, guy.

But, you know what’s worse than listening to this AC dreck? Watching the accompanying video that was made. It’s essentially Medeiros walking around on a beach, with a girl in a pink dress. The same kind of visuals used for herpes medication advertisements during daytime television.

The thing is, as dry heave-inducing as this song is, it won’t seem to go away. Just like herpes, it seems to pop up in the most unusual and inopportune times, usually when shopping at a department store, or sitting in a hospital waiting room, or having come on whatever soap opera is playing when visiting Grandma and she’s watching her stories. And each time I want to run away screaming.


Songs That Suck: “PINK” (Aerosmith)

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aerosmith - pink
Columbia Records
(from the album Nine Lives)

Bit of a Rock N’ Roll History Fun Fact: In 1977, the band Aerosmith decided against renting the same Convair CV-240 airplane that eventually crashed and killed members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Aerosmith had concerns about the safty of the plane, and also questioned the seriousness of the plane’s crew, who seemed to be more of the partying type than serious pilots. Keep in mind, this is 70s-era Aerosmith, where the singer Steve Tyler and the guitarist Joe Perry were refereed to as the Toxic Twins. When 70s Aerosmith thinks you’re partying too hard…well, you get the idea.

The point of that is, since they survived to play another day, we never would have to ask, “What could have been?” like we do with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and others who died at the prime of their musical careers. With Aerosmith, we don’t have to. We know exactly what happened: “Pink” happened.

Released about a year before the release of the Ultimate Aerosmith Ballad You Can’t Get Away From that was on the Armageddon soundtrack (you know the one), “Pink” gets the Songs That Suck listing for one reason above all the others: This is a song about Steven Tyler’s love of vaginas.

Yes, you could argue that, this is Aerosmith. What else are they going to be singing about? Well, sure…except that this is late 90s Aerosmith we’re talking about, here. Not only were their pop relevance waning again (the last resurgence happened because of Run-D.M.C.), but at their age at the time, singing songs like this made them more creepy late middle-aged dirty old man creepy, rather than bad boys of rock n’ roll cool.

Also, this is a ballad. Nope.


Albums That Suck: KNEE DEEP IN THE HOOPLA (Starship)

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starship - knee deep in the hoopla
Grunt / RCA

[note: this was originally going to be another SONGS THAT SUCK article, focusing on the Starship song “We Built This City”; as I continued writing, though, it became apparent that I couldn’t just stick to the song itself; I had to, in fact, talk about the entire album…sorry – Uncle NecRo]

The 80s was an interesting time for pop music. Not only was this the era where artists and bands like Prince, Madonna, George Michael and others exploded, but this was also the decade where a lot of older classic rock artists that your dad was into had a resurgence on Top 40 radio. Results varied; artists like Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and Alice Cooper managed to snag a resurgence of popularity, whereas ones like The Grateful Dead, Donny Osmond and Jefferson Starship…not so much.

Speaking of the Jefferson Starship: by the time they got around to releasing their big comeback album–Knee Deep In The Hoopla–they had gone through enough personnel changes that the only remaining original member was Grace Slick, and due to legal issues, the band had to shorten things to just Starship. They had gone from 60s rock n’ roll icons to middle-aged corporate rockers, and released an album full of glossy pop rock with layered synths and electronic beats, with the band decked out like they were the fashion models for the JC Penny Back-to-School Clothing Sale catalog.

I was 11 in the late summer of 1985 when Starship released the single “We Built This City”, and I absolutely loved it. Keep in mind that the majority of my music tastes was dictated to me by Top 40 radio, much like any other preteen of, well, any era, really. I had no idea what the band’s actual legacy was, who they were or that they were once considered rock n’ roll icons to my dad. And since I wasn’t old enough to know any better, I talked my dad into buying me the cassette copy of Knee Deep In The Hoopla when he was visiting my sister and me while on leave from the Navy.

As songs go, “We Built This City” is cringe-worthy, but it isn’t the worst song on the album. That distinction goes to the cut “Rock Myself To Sleep”, personally speaking. Keep in mind, I wanted this album to listen to primarily on the strength of the song “We Built This City”. I didn’t particularly care for the second single released from there, “Sara”, which was also the second single released, although I do like the accompanying video.

It’s a good thing that “We Built This City” was the first song on the album, because that meant that I didn’t have to wade my way through what was essentially a collection of mediocre adult contemporary pop rock to get to it. It was there, leading off the album, and I could just hit “stop” afterwards and be done with it. But, I felt obligated to listen to the album in its entirety at least once. And man, this album is just boring. Full of fluff and filler. Even the song that led to me buying the thing in the first place is, in retrospect, just bad. And not in the Guilty Pleasures kind of way. I can’t hear this song now and not cringe. You can imagine what the rest of the album sounds like.

I’ve recently taken up collecting vinyl records again, with an eye out to collect the albums that I listened to in my childhood through the end of my High School years. I’ve even picked up a mint copy of Make It Big by Wham!. Even though this was part of my childhood, Knee Deep In The Hoopla will never be part of my vinyl collection. Or any format, for that matter.


Songs That Suck: “RUDE” (Magic!)

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Having forsaken all of Top 40 radio for nearly 25 years now, most of my exposure of pop music comes from having to put up with it as background music at supermarkets or whatever’s piped into restaurants and the overhead at my place of employment. Due to the mostly homogeneous nature of the music, I can usually tune it all out. So, it takes a special type of suckage to pry its way past all the mental safeguards I have in place and annoy me on my outing in the real world. “Rude” by some band named Magic! is one of those songs.

First of all, that band name. It’s not just the laziest sounding name, but by adding the exclamation point at the end, it seems that someone came up with that in Junior High, and suggested it when it came time to form the band, and no one could think of anything better for whatever reason and went with it.

Second, after some research on the band itself (translation: 10 minute Google search), it looks like Magic! is a “Canadian reggae fusion” band…which roughly translates to “White guys playing lame reggae”. Well, okay, granted the head of the band is from Palestinian decent…but he was born in Canada, so he’s an honorary Caucasian. I’m old enough to remember the first time this kind of things was foisted upon our collective pop sensibilities: back in the 1980s, by this British band named UB40. They, too, were a bunch of white guys affecting a fake Jamaican accent, with two songs that you couldn’t get away from–“Red Red Wine” and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling In Love (With You)”. Genuine reggae is one of my least favorite styles of music (running neck-and-neck with ska, but still preferable over hip-hop country and dubstep); I’d rather have that over this homogenized style of fake reggae.

Third, oh sweet mother of Elvis, that song. It’s basically a whiny guy who asks the father of his girl for her hand in marriage, is told no, and then fires back with a passive-aggressive catchphrase from one of the Tanner girls from the original run of Full House. Which is followed by the proclamation that he’s “gonna marry her anyway.” Yeah, that’s gonna work out, there, you douchenozzle.

“Rude” manages to hit the trifecta of suckage. This is one Canadian import I can do without.


Songs That Suck: “The Greatest Love Of All” (Whitney Houston)

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“The Greatest Love Of All” (Whitney Houston)

Okay, I realize that this particular song was written by a cancer victim in the 1970s – for a Mohamed Ali biopic, nonetheless – who succumbed to the disease in 1986, about the time when Ms. Houston’s recording of the song was beginning to become a hit. I start off with this in case anyone who’s reading this somehow makes the incredible leap of logic that my dislike of this song somehow equates with taking pleasure at mocking someone who tragically lost the struggle with one of the worst diseases to ravage mankind. Farthest thing from, I assure you. But, if you must insist on thinking this, I must then point out that you’re an idiot, and should perchance gargle with concrete. There, now that we have that out of the way…

Released in March of 1986, from her self-titled album, “The Greatest Love Of All” is perhaps the best representation of everything I despise about the whole “happy thoughts” attitudes of the 1980s. The song is bile-inspiring saccharine that manages to make me violently ill on every level. An unholy merging of empty philosophical pap with the sappiest Adult Contemporary balladeer-ing ever manufactured, everything about “The Greatest Love Of All” – from the pretentious title to Ms. Houston’s vocals to the lyrics – makes me wish to do evil things to puppies, just to counterbalance this overdose of manufactured feels.

And if that was the secretly intended purpose of the creation of this song, then bravo. Well played.

SONGS THAT SUCK: “Hangin’ Tough” (New Kids On The Block)

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songs that suck heading“Hangin’ Tough” (New Kids On The Block)

There’s no other kind of pop music concept I despise more – or get more amusement with – than the Boy Band. And in my four decades of life here on earth, spanning significant parts of two centuries, I’ve been subjected to a goodly share of them. They’re like herpes – every time they seem to go away, in time another one will flair right up out of nowhere, unprovoked.

Case in point: New Kids On The Block. To all of you Junior High girls that may have accidentally stumbled upon this blog while doing whatever it is your species do (I wouldn’t know), New Kids On The Block was kind of like the One Direction of your Mom’s generation. Assuming your mom was in Junior High in the later part of the 1980s.

Anyway, New Kids On The Block were uber-popular in the later part of the 1980s, into the first couple of years of the 1990s, presumably when their fans collectively realized that they haven’t been “new” or “kids” for quite some time. And sure, I could pretty much pick any one of their numerous chart-topping hits they churned out to make a blog post about, but I happened to pick the title track from their breakthrough sophomore album, “Hangin’ Tough”.

Why? Because there’s nothing that’s equally sad and embarrassingly amusing as a bunch of pretty boy pop balladeers singing about how tough they are. Seriously, watch that embedded video if you haven’t done so already and try not to chuckle. I dare you.

“Hangin’ Tough” is one of those songs that I still can’t bring myself to listen to, even with the buffer of years since they were still relevant. It’s too embarrassing.

Music That Sucks: “I Just Called To Say I Love You”

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I Just Called To Say I Love You

“I Just Called To Say I Love You” (Stevie Wonder)
Motown; 1984

I don’t know what happened to a lot of artists in the ‘80s.  Many who were innovators before then found that their material in the Decade Of…whatever you want to call it, was more adult contemporary pop crap that filled up a lot of Top 40 stations back then.  Sadly, Stevie Wonder falls into that category of otherwise great artists having the (pardon the unintentional pun) soul sucked out of them in the 1980s.

The release of the schmaltzy ballad “I Just Called To Say I Love You” in 1984 pretty much reset for all time Stevie Wonder from being known and loved as a funk troubadour in the ‘70s to the crooner of syrupy Adult Contemporary love ballads set to really corny music in the ‘80s.  Even his attempt at the “edgier” hit “Part Time Lover” the following year couldn’t shake the fact that he’s now known as the man who produced the most soulless, white-bread song Motown has ever released.  And his subsequent guest appearance on The Cosby Show pretty much sealed his fate.

To this day, every time this song comes on, and if I’m unable to shut off whatever device it’s playing on, I must get out of earshot within 30 seconds before the blood starts weeping from every orifice in my head.