(Photo credit: Xavier Arnau, Getty.)
Did you know that Starship’s “We Built This City” is widely regarded as the single worst song of the 1980’s? I didn’t know the song had claimed such a designation until GQ posted an oral history of the song and those who were involved in the creation of it. (Click here to read the GQ article.)
Now, I’m not any defender of Starship. But I’d hardly call “We Built This City” the worst song of its decade. For one thing, we’re talking about the 1980’s, an era that was rife with musical landmines. So you really have to get down and dirty to call any song the worst of the ’80s. “We Built This City” is at least catchy and listenable, with even a minor attempt at social statement.
For me, a truly bad song, like a truly bad movie, is like a greasy, barbecued pork chop — it’s so full of all the wrong ingredients that you savor it like a guilty pleasure. And out of all the pop-music drek of the 1980’s, there’s only one song that stands out in that manner for me: Benny Mardones’ “Into the Night.”
For one thing, this song has an amazingly checkered history. Mardones first recorded and released it in 1980. The song peaked at # 11 for two weeks on Billboard‘s “Top 100.” After that, it should have glided into obscurity. But nine years later, an Arizona DJ added the song to his playlist and gave it a second life. (That was the year when I first heard the song, introduced by a local DJ who dubbed its vocalist “Benny Mar-dumb-ass.”)
The lyrics alone are enough to induct this tune into Bad Song Heaven. Mr. Mardones’ first words in the song are, “‘She’s just 16 years old/Leave her alone’, they said.” If you’re not 16 years old yourself, and somebody has to advise you not to mess with a 16-year-old, red flags should be going up everywhere.
But the singer rationalizes that he and the jailbait are simply “separated by fools/Who don’t know what love is yet.” Yes, because how could anyone other than the singer know what true love means, right?
After the chorus (into which we’ll deep-dive momentarily), Mardones goes on to sing, “It’s like having a dream/Where nobody hides a heart.” I don’t know about you, but after witnessing the heart-surgery scene in the offbeat movie musical All That Jazz, I’m quite content for everyone to hide their hearts for all eternity.
Mardones goes on to tell his true love, “I would wait ’til the end/Of time for you/And do it again. It’s true!” Do what again? Violate state laws to try to have his way with this naive woman?
Mardones continues to utter more true-love banalities before delivering a melodramatic middle-eight where he screams in agony over…again, what? His blue nether regions?
Finally, he finishes the song by agonizingly repeating its chorus: “If I could fly/I’d pick you up/And take you into the night/And show you my love.” He keeps repeating the chorus ever more wrenchingly, until you finally get the impression that he’s getting quite the hernia just from picking this girl up.
Remember Steve Martin at the end of “The Man with Two Brains”?
So there’s my choice for the worst song of the 1980’s. Do you disagree? Do you have an alternate choice? Feel free to comment. Meanwhile, here’s Benny Mardones’ original 1980 video for the song.