In Praise of Bad Songs

Just as it takes a good singer to sing really, really badly, it takes good songwriters to write songs as bad as these.

Paul Williams, no slouch he, is mostly responsible for the dreadful efforts featured in ‘Ishtar’. Pity the film did so badly, or more of us would know ‘Wardrobe of Love’.

It took a little sleuthing to find who’s responsible for the magnificence of this disaster from ‘Boogie Nights’. Take a bow, Lenny Macaluso and Stan Bush:

So, so many delightfully awful songs in Christopher Guest’s films.  Hard to choose one, but I’ll go with this, by Guest and Michael McKean:

Jimmy Webb maintains that Harry Nilsson’s songs for the movie Popeye were deliberately bad, but  I don’t think they’re that awful.

Anyone got any other faves?  Deliberately bad, that is …


7 thoughts on “In Praise of Bad Songs

  1. “Cornwine” by The Folksmen, a deleted scene (?!?) in Guest’s A Mighty Wind

    Also from the same movie: when the New Main Street Singers open the big show with The Folksmen’s signature tune “Ramblin'”, their arrangement of the song has the only example I can think of of a funny chord. I can’t find it on YouTube but it’s at the end of the chorus. It’s like a major 7th with maybe a 13th, and it’s so downright cheesy that any orchestrator would blush to write it.

    • I hope it’s the same song featured in that scene:

      Can I change out of my costume?

      Costume? Are you hot?

      Yeah. But also, I mean…I’ve been wearing it for a month.

      You know the policy. We all gotta wear the uniform until we’re ready to take it off. You’re close, I just don’t think you’re quite there yet. You did not sing that sixth, and I want to see you sing that sixth.

      You just wear what you have on.
      You sound fine.

      • I had to check – and it’s not, sadly. I think the only time we here their version of “Wanderin'” (not “Ramblin'”) is in the concert.

        Mitch and Micky’s “Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” is a very special case: a deliberately bad song which is almost good, and which in the context of the film is genuinely moving as well as grotesquely hooty.

        Remember when it was nominated for the Oscar? It was up against two po-faced synthetic folk tunes from Cold Mountain, one by Sting and the other by Elvis Costello – and was a far better, and more authentic, folk song than either of those, if you ask me.

        • I reckon ‘Kiss at the End of the Rainbow’ is flat-out good. Good song, and it shoulda won. But it was the Enya-lite effort from LOTR III that year …

  2. Every time I watch Waiting for Guffman I wonder if the number about the Blaine Stool Boom is a parody, as well as a silly song. (I also get it stuck in my head for three days.)

    Do you think they’re taking the piss out of any composer in particular? Or is it just a particular style of urgent, busy-busy, whole-tone-y writing? I don’t know enough musical theatre to be able to tell.

    The lyrics are amusingly stupid (“Hock your jewels / Use the money for stools”) but not as artfully daft as “A Penny for your Thoughts”.

    • It’s like watching Rashomon, thinking about the songwriting in that film. The music is written, ostensibly, by Bob Balaban’s character, trying to sound (and I base this purely on his utter vibe of worthlessness) like other, better, writers. So I’m guessing he was trying to sound a bit like Sondheim, to Corky’s (?) lyrics.

      To me, though, it sounds like Devo, with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.

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