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The Worst Songs By Otherwise Great Artists

Updated September 23, 2021 3.3k votes 815 voters 104.2k views15 items

List RulesVote up the disappointing songs by otherwise great artists.

Not every song can be a hit. These bad songs by good artists prove that not even the best musicians get it right every time. 

David Bowie, Prince, and Bob Dylan are three of the most successful and talented artists in music history; however, Bowie's "The Laughing Gnome," Prince's "Jughead," and Dylan's "Wiggle Wiggle" make it hard to believe those are the same acclaimed artists who brought us "Space Oddity," "Purple Rain," and "Blowin' in the Wind." Of course, someone, somewhere, may actually be able to get through more than five minutes of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, but the rest of us will choose to play the nearly flawless "Perfect Day" instead.  

Which bad songs by great music artists do you think are the most egregious? 

  • Photo: Levi Seacer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Few guitar players in music history can shred like Prince. The Minnesota hitmaker was one of the biggest music superstars in the 1980s with genre-bending hits like "Purple Rain" and "Little Red Corvette." 

    In 1991, Prince released his 13th studio album Diamonds and Pearls. The LP was the first album that Prince made with his new backing band, the New Power Generation, after disbanding the Revolution in 1986. Diamonds and Pearls produced a few minor hit songs like "Gett Off" and "Cream." The horn-inspired track, "Jughead," however, was widely considered a stumble.

    One of the main criticisms of "Jughead" is that the vocalist is rapper Tony M. Prince does sing and rap on the track, but it's not his voice that is featured. While Tony M. is a decent rapper, he did not match the expectations of Prince fans at the time. And though Prince himself is a great musician, he, too, is not the world's best rapper. 

  • Photo: Warner Bros. Records / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The jam band out of San Francisco released 13 studio albums over their prolific career. In 1978, the Grateful Dead decided to put a little disco into their music. The band released the era-inspired album Shakedown Street, and the results were mixed. Some of the tunes totally worked with the band's musicality, like the title song and "Fire on the Mountain." Others were total misses, especially the Bob Weir-led "France" with backing vocals by Donna Godchaux. 

    The fact that the Dead never performed "France" live, not even once, in over 2,300 concerts, speaks to how the musicians felt about the song. Weir admitted that "France" was the worst song the band ever recorded. He said, "It just sort of happened. But it sure as hell didn't happen right."

  • Metallica released their eighth studio album St. Anger in 2003. The LP went double platinum and its titular single earned the band a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. 

    The album's eighth track, "Invisible Kid," is considered a less-than-stellar effort from the masterminds behind the hit songs "Enter Sandman" and "Nothing Else Matters." Making matters worse is that the track is the second-longest on the album at 8 minutes and 30 seconds. 

    One critic of the song noted that lead singer James Hetfield's voice is weak on the track. They also remarked that the lyrics are silly and even border on absurd. Other Metallica fans critical of "Invisible Kid" have pointed to the tune being a little too melodramatic for the metal band and have claimed that it misses on its goal of sending a personal message. 

  • Pearl Jam's 1994 third studio album Vitalogy went platinum five times and featured the seminal hits "Better Man" and "Corduroy." One lesser-known track off the album is a silly, accordion-led song called "Bugs." Some Pearl Jam fans tried to make a clever metaphorical link between the "bugs" in the song and the band's ardent fanbase and issues handling their massive fame, perhaps to make sense of it. Instead, lead singer and band lyricist Eddie Vedder admitted that the song was actually about a battle he had with a bad case of poison oak.

    "I was itching out of my skin. The song really is about bugs," he said. 

    It's not a song that the band is especially proud of. Some Pearl Jam fans call out to Vedder to play "Bugs" at concerts. As of 2017, however, Pearl Jam had only performed "Bugs" live in concert three times.