Wussy songs — the lazy approach

Rather than go through AOL’s 111 Wussiest Songs of All Time myself, I’m just going to respond to Down With Snark’s excellent take on it.

SONGS I LIKE

109. Sixpence None the Richer, Kiss Me. There’s a difference between “wussy” and “pretty.” This is the latter.

96. 10CC, I’m Not in Love. A classic ’70s tune. There’s a great Cardigans song called For What It’s Worth that could be considered an answer from a female perspective — she sings about how she’s in love with the dude in her bed, then denies it to calm him down, then comes back with “Guess what? I actually am.” It’s a really clever song.

62. Jim Croce, Time in a Bottle. If the lyrics here were cliche, this would be wussy. They aren’t. This one’s beautiful.

60. Kajagoogoo, Too Shy. Wussy? No song with a bass line that funky could be wussy.

48. Billy Joel, Just the Way You Are. I’ll have to disagree with DWS here. I love the chord progression, which I played a little back in my piano-playing days. And it’s self-effacing, too — he doesn’t want clever conversation because “I never want to work that hard.”

30. Katrina and the Waves, Walking on Sunshine. Wussy? It’s a cute pop song. Anyone who thinks that’s “wussy” might be feeling a little insecure in his masculinity.

25. Five for Fighting, Superman (It’s Not Easy). The histrionics aren’t as grating in this one as they are in some other FFF efforts, and it’s a unique take on heroism.

10. Coldplay, Fix You. Yes, I know people don’t need to be “fixed,” and yes, the falsetto is a bit much. I’m sorry. If your hair doesn’t stand on end when they build to the break at the end, then you and I just don’t appreciate music the same way.

8. Culture Club, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me. I’m going to argue here that gay men are tougher than straight men. To dress the way Boy George did and to sing something like this — well, at the very least, that’s brave. This one happens to have a better beat that most songs of its lyrical ilk.

6. Dan Fogelberg, Longer. I played this on guitar at a school assembly as accompaniment for a “chorus” of three girls, one of whom I had a massive crush on. So maybe I appreciate this song more than most people. But maybe we’d all be better off with a few more acoustic guitar ballads.

SONGS I DON’T

100. Cutting Crew, I Just Died (in Your Arms) Tonight. I’ve intentionally misplaced the parentheses to underscore the muddled sentiment of this piffle.

83. Chicago, You’re the Inspiration. These mid-’80s Chicago ballads killed me. Great horn section, good guitarist, good rep for jazz-rock, and they’re standing around fingering bland chords on cheap keyboards.

76. Mr. Big, To Be With You. The perfunctory we-wrote-this-so-eighth-graders-can-get-laid ballad.

72. Boyz II Men, I’ll Make Love to You. The nadir of the Farley-Sandler year on SNL was when the guys in the cast sang this to the women with no apparent joke. Maybe I’m remembering this incorrectly. I hope so.

64. Stevie Wonder, I Just Called to Say I Love You. Geez, those cheesy keyboard sounds. Remember when they were the wave of the future? I’ll point out here that Overjoyed is one of the best freaking ballads ever written, and I love the fact that MMM Jr. is already a fan.

55. Bryan Adams, Everything I Do, I Do It for You. Oh, Bryan, you shouldn’t have. Seriously.

35. Patrick Swayze, She’s Like the Wind. Who let him do this?

33. Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On. Puke.

27. Extreme, More Than Words. I like DWS’ distillation of the lyrics. One of the highlights of this band’s train-wreck appearance on Bands Reunited (they declined) was Gary Cherone’s attempt to explain this song as something other than a crass demand for sex.

13. Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. Can someone explain Streisand’s appeal? I don’t know anyone who likes her singing. I don’t know anyone who likes her politics — she’s the classic case of someone whose backing most people seem to avoid. Was she good in films? I’m genuinely curious.

2. Dan Hill, Sometimes When We Touch. No comment.

AMBIVALENT

104. Bruuuuuuuce, Dancing in the Dark. Not a great song, not a bad song. How is it wussy? If it’s the keyboards, then Glory Days is wussier, as is most of the music released in the ’80s.

84. Dave Matthews Band, Crash. I’m glad DWS brought this up. I actually thought this song was offensive. (“Hike up your skirt a little more and show your world to me”? Ewwww. I’d expect that in the Pamela-and-Tommy sex tape.) Mrs. MMM did not. We mentioned our dispute to another couple we know, and they correctly guessed that the woman of the household loved the song and the man did not. I wonder if Chris Rock put it best. If Denzel Washington (or, in this case, Dave Matthews) is saying it, it’s sweet. If Random Ugly Guy is saying it, get out the mace.

23. John Mayer, Your Body is a Wonderland. Some nice guitar work, but I’m not sure about “bubblegum tongues” or the non-specific “I use my hands.”

4. James Blunt, You’re Beautiful. I seem to recall that Blunt has been dating a succession of impossibly beautiful women, so the whole sad-sack routine doesn’t really work. Neither does his falsetto. Great hook, though.

1. R.E.M., Shiny Happy People. It is a little wussy, but what’s sadder to me is that what many people think “R.E.M.,” they think of this rather than all the great songs from their first six or seven albums.

I’ll agree that “wussy” is badly defined here. For me, a “wussy” song is some lyrical treacle spewed by a singer dragging each syllable out to about 15 notes over an electric piano being played by a heavily sedated accompanist.

One person I’ll pick on — Bonnie Raitt, for I Can’t Make You Love Me. Not only do I not like the lyrics, but I have never been able to make any instruments being played behind her voice. It’s as if someone is planting the chord changes on some subliminal level. And when you have a woman who plays a mean slide guitar like Bonnie, that’s unforgivable.

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