1. Fergie, Big Girls Don’t Cry (2007, #1)
The thing about drecky ballads is that a lot of people like them. No matter how bad they are, they are going to be popular. As every rock band and pop diva ever can tell you, an increase in schmaltz leads proportionately to an increase in radio play. And ballads don’t go away, either; no matter how monstrously bad they are, adult contemporary radio picks up on them and then they’re around for years and years, ready to pounce the next time you go to the dentist or run to Walgreen’s.
Fergie’s Big Girls Don’t Cry may never die, unfortunately. It was the single most-played song of 2007 on American radio. And according to ARC, the semi-official chart that monitors airplay, it’s the third-biggest single of the decade. It hit #1 in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway, and hit the top ten pretty much everywhere else.
So, yes, it’s quite possible that overkill played a part in my choosing it as the decade’s single worst song. Admittedly, it’s not as blatantly offensive as Eminem’s Superman is, and it doesn’t make fun of poor people like Nickelback’s Rock Star”(or Fergie’s own Glamorous.) It doesn’t pretend to be smart like Jason Mraz or edgy like Katy Perry. It’s not as hypocritical as “Gold Digger” and it doesn’t rhyme “fried chicken” with “stickin’ up for you.”
But oh, is it ever whiny. And bland. I have probably heard this song literally hundreds of times by now, but unless it’s actually on I can’t even hum the verses for you. Googling the lyrics doesn’t even help, though Fergie and co-writer Toby Gad sure whipped up some doozies in that department: “Like the little school mate in the school yard, We’ll play jacks and Uno cards.” Does she really say that? How have I never noticed that before?
Oh yes, because the chorus made my ears stop working. If all of the freestyle divas of the eighties combined forces to produce the world’s whiniest ballad, they couldn’t approach the levels of annoying that Stacey summons to sing that line about the child and the blanket. Big Girls Don’t Cry makes All Cried Out sound like an anthem of empowerment.
will.i.am produced this song, the fourth single from Stacey F’s very popular album The Dutchess. Though I’ve never heard the album in its entirely, I almost want to, just because the quality of the singles is so inconsistent. First there was London Bridge, co-produced by Polow Da Don and Danja. It was tinny and made no sense, but I liked it. Next there was Fergalicious, a crappy and abrasive will.i.am-produced mess structured around JJ Fair’s Supersonic. Then there was Glamorous. That song instructed me to take my broke ass home if I didn’t have any money, so I did, because I worked in retail. (I have little patience for songs about how rich other people are.) But amazingly, after Big Girls Don’t Cry spent five hellish months in the top 10, Fergie released Clumsy. Clumsy is a good song; no, Clumsy is a really good song. Sampling both Deee-Lite and Little Richard, the song takes Stacey’s worst trait–the fact that all of her non-whiny moments are devoted to tuneless yelling–and makes it the song’s selling point.
So, there it is. The worst pop hit of the decade. And now this list is finally over, and I can go back to listening to songs I don’t loathe.