The arrival of the "sexual revolution" in the late Sixties led to a lot of people redefining their views on relationships, marriage, and the act itself. Unfortunately, it also led to a lot of overshare, as pop radio became awash in sensitive, sunny soft-rock
ballads that, while refreshingly honest about a natural act, often got a little... TMI. Turns out seduction's as tricky to master in music as it is in real life, and while Al Green
, Marvin Gaye
, and Barry White
knew how to set that mood, these ten Top 40 hits feel more like a conversation you wish you hadn't overheard.
The king of the TMI soft-rock songs, a true artifact of its overly touchy-feely era, so perversely iconic it gets referenced in pop culture all the time. Will Ferrell and Co. replicate it in scarifyingly perfect harmony in Anchorman
, Michael Bluth accidentally karaokes it with his cousin in Arrested Development,
and the frat comedy PCU
uses it to torture trapped college administrators like rats in a cage. And yet the pain lingers... married couples singing joyously about nooners are simply never appropriate. Especially when you're talking about rubbing sticks and stones together, whatever that means, or fishes that can't be caught that don't bite, whatever that
means, or the big hook of "Skyrockets in flight!" the meaning of which is all too clear. Do phallic symbols need
sound effects? Vroom!
This bigger hit version of a minor hit by America
starts out fairly innocuous in its vapidity, telling once again the tale of two rodents, Susie and Sam, who go jitterbugging, eat some bacon and cheese, then decide to get married. (Only in the '70s.) But then they seal the deal, and here comes the icky: they wriggle, he tickles, he rubs her toes, and she giggles, all while The Captain's trusty Moog makes noises like Tinkerbell having a gastrointestinal attack in a bubble machine. Hilariously, they offended Queen Elizabeth II with it while playing at the White House. Horrifyingly, they went on to make a career of TMI ballads with songs like "Do That to Me One More Time" and "You Never Done it Like That."
On paper, this quiet, intimate fireside ballad only seems somewhat icky, a duet where both parties go on and on about how they make each other, uh, quiver, and then she drops her robe, and he creeps into her room, and okay, it's pretty icky. But this Canadian group doesn't seem to notice that the male lead has a voice like a lumberjack Kenny Rogers and his lover sounds like a whispery little girl. The combined effect is incredibly disturbing. As usual, truth is stranger than fiction: Male lead Cliff Edwards' wife had already left the band to raise his children when this was recorded, so he made this duet with... her sister. Four million happy customers snapped up the 45 anyway.
Dr. Hook started out as a funtime joke band who were more traditionally icky, having made one of the dirtiest pop albums of its time with the wittily titled Sloppy Seconds
. But having finally made it to the cover of the Rolling Stone
woith the help of a few Shel Silverstein ditties, and having apparently convinced Sylvia's Mother that they were to be trusted, the Doctor led his band on a series of lite-rock wimpfests so featherweight they threatened to float away as you heard them. The worst offender was this 1976 hit, in which singer Ray Sawyer declares that he's already ready to perform again, even though his lady is passed out on the floor from all the sweet lovin'. You sing along to this one in the soccer van, you find yourself giving The Talk to your eight-year-old.
Long before he became known for slicing like a hammer and getting on a whole new integrity kick, Paul Anka
was merely a former teen idol selling the softest soft-rock to housewives, dreck so one-dimensional it was sometimes used to sell Kodak film. This smash, on the other hand, went into way too much detail about what he'd been up to behind closed doors. Ladies: When you were pregnant, did you want your husband telling you that he "love(s) what's going through ya"? Or asking about the "seed inside you," and if you feel it growing? Paul also delivers the weirdest compliment ever given a woman in the history of pop: "Didn't have to keep it / Wouldn't put you through it / You could have swept it from your life." Uh, thanks?
Rod the Mod has been known to be pretty sexist on and offstage, often by his own admission, so he was probably not your go-to guy for a song about seduction. Even so, this lowers the bar, even if it's musically more palatable than most of the songs here... his conquest is a "virgin child," obviously nervous, literally trying to get out through the back door or even the window. Rod is having none of that. "Don't deny your man's desire," he instructs, before giving her a "good long drink," ordcering her to disrobe, and then: "Spread your wings and let me come inside." Then there's his then-girlfriend, model Britt Ekland, cooing and sighing all over the place in French, somehow dealing with the cognitive dissonance of being told to "let your inhibitions run wild." How's that
Most of the songs on this list are here because of sexual overshare, but this song lands on so many "Worst Song of All Time" lists because it's too emotionally
overwrought, the kind of thing you'd hear from a lover who overshot the "sensitivity" thing and instead splashed down in an ocean of self-absorption. No one ever wants to hear an opening line like "You ask me if I love you, and I choke on my reply." Not good. Hill, who wrote these words to ruin a perfectly good melody by Brill Building
legend Barry Mann, bends over backwards in an attempt to make failure to commit seem somehow noble and romantic. He fools no one. Then again, you probably don't want to get with anyone who claims he's "Just another writer / Still trapped within my truth." Ow.
The great and sadly unappreciated Minnie Riperton's main claim to fame, "Lovin' You" is more of a traditional love song than the other entries on this list. "Lovin' you, is easy 'cause you're beautiful," she sings. Awwww. Then you start to notice the birds. There are chirping birds positively surrounding Minnie, no doubt cartoon ones lighting on her as she la-la-las and doo-doo-n-doos all around this make believe fairytale garden, declaring "no one else can make me feel the colors that you bring." Weird, but still kinda cute. But then she drops the bomb: "Every time that we - OOOH! - I'm more in love with you!" Punctuated by a truly frightening operatic falsetto so jarring South Park
once used it as a punchline.
Okay. Guy drives around in his awesome van, being super mellow and having what one assumes is a nice day, when suddenly he spies a little barefoot cutie hitchhiking. A really young cutie. He picks her up, lets her crash out in the back, then she wakes up and takes his hand, and, well. In the afterglow, he promptly puts her back out
on the road, never to see her again. A Penthouse Forum
letter set to a sunny tune, "Chevy Van" is all kinds of creepy, but apparently the ladies love it when who advise them to "get some sleep and dream of rock and roll." Yeah, and when you wake up, make that doctor's appointment.
Another typically slick Seventies attempt at seduction, this midtempo ballad inexplicably moves the setting to the great Middle East desert, home of romance, for some sort of Rudolph Valentino fantasy in song. Yet it doesn't quite work, because the metaphor soon spins wildly out of control. There are probably no other love songs in existence that urge you to "send your camel to bed," much less point out that "the cactus is our friend." It's also just a little weird when Maria tells her lover that she can take the place of all 50 girls (!) in his dad's harem. Then, a secret horror is revealed: "You won't need no camel, no no, when I take you for a ride." Some questions are best not asked.