‘Margaritaville,’ Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffet - margaritavilleLeast Favorite Song

If choosing my favorite song weren’t hard enough, now I have to choose my least favorite. Do you know what a gargantuan task that is?

For every good song on my iPod, there are at least 50 bad ones wallowing in the muck of popular music. And we’re talking massively bad. Just think about it: All the novelty songs. Tween pinup stars. Most hip-hop songs. Nickelback. Where does one start?

So what should I choose? Some songs would top everyone’s lists (“Macarena,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” “Who Let the Dogs Out?”); I mean, everybody hates those songs. Syrupy ballads such as “Hello” and “My Heart Will Go On” are also a dime a dozen and are too easy to poke fun at. What I’m looking for are those hidden duds, the ones in which the minute you hear the opening notes, you dive from across the room in slow motion yelling “Nooooooo” in an attempt to change the station before your ears start bleeding. We’re talking songs that make you think, “My God! I thought that song had been exorcised from my mind, and now it’s back! Damn you!”

Of course, I can’t come up with just one. Frankly, it’s going to be hard to limit myself to 10. But here goes:

10. “Ice Ice Baby,” Vanilla Ice. I break my own rule right off the bat with a quasi-novelty song. But I have to believe there’s a special circle of hell for anyone who ruins Queen’s “Under Pressure” for an entire generation.

9. “Smooth,” Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Hmm. How does one pick one song to typify all that I hate about the grunge-lite yawpers who sound as if they took too much testosterone? Easy – find one of the worst examples (Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas), combine it with an annoying guitar solo from a washed-up 70s star, and…yeah. We have a winner.

8. “Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm,” Crash Test Dummies. Luckily, you don’t hear this much on the radio anymore. But that voice…That awful, bass voice, sounding like one of the Wicked Witch’s foot soldiers…And the chorus – I mean, you couldn’t think of anything to say besides “Mmm”?

7. “She’s Like the Wind,” Patrick Swayze. God rest his soul, Patrick Swayze couldn’t act, but his singing was even worse. And it’s so easy to make fun of the lyrics – “Feel her breath in my face”? Does anyone think that’s sexy, especially when you’re comparing her to the wind?

6. “Come On Get Higher”/”You’re Beautiful.” Oh God. Don’t get me started on these two, which are so equally bad I couldn’t leave one out. A little part of me dies every time I hear Matt Nathanson’s tuneless chorus in which he rhymes “loosen my lips” and “swing of your hips.” James Blunt’s “Beautiful”  has already been panned as one of the worst songs ever. How many times does Blunt say the word “beautiful”? If I could make it through the song right now, I’d tell you. But I’d rather subject myself to counting the number of times Rebecca Black says “Friday.”

5. “I Shot the Sheriff,” Bob Marley/Eric Clapton, etc. But I did not shoot the dep – u – tee.

4. “My Humps,” Black Eyed Peas. Well this is a given, considering this entire blog is based on my hatred for this song. This really is the worst song ever, but there are others that I hate more. Like…

3. “Cotton Eye Joe,” Rednex. I have to hope that the Swedes did this with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks, wondering if something so stupid could become a hit in the land of Bush. Combine two opposing genres – bluegrass and electronica – and you come up with a hot mess. But apparently, we aren’t as stupid as they thought – it only reached No. 20 on the Hot 100.

2. “God Bless the USA,” Lee Greenwood. This song is so manipulative, designed solely to evoke some swell of pride and patriotism as only country music can do, apparently. Why is that a bad thing? Because patriotism goes much deeper than that. He manages to touch everything that right-wingers love – God, soldiers, freedom, the flag – with the subtlety of an assault weapon.

1. “Margaritaville,” Jimmy Buffett. I will be disowned by several friends who consider this their anthem. Maybe it’s because I hate the whole tropical culture (I don’t like reggae either). But Buffett’s lackadaisical attitude, coupled with the annoying steel drums, predictable chord changes and simply awful lyrics (“Nibblin’ on sponge cake”? “Blew out my flip flop?”) renders a nauseous concoction that helps me turn the station. Oh, it’s also overplayed.

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Peter Lee


  1. Har-de-har-harrrumph! Great list!

    “My Humps” grew on me as something so bad it’s funny, which I have always suspected was intentional…or would like to believe.

    I loved “Margaritaville” back in the day – think it must be a requirement of boomers. (Oops, showing my age – the girl is vanishing…) But I’ve grown sick of hearing it so much and don’t blame you for making it #1. However, lay off of “I Shot the Sheriff.”

    My least favorite is “You’re Beautiful” – when I first heard it, I had to suppress my lunch from revisiting. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard it all the way through! For me, it’s the sappy delivery combined with the song itself. This is coming from someone who appreciates a good sappy song, like “Mandy.” 🙂

  2. “I Shot the Sheriff” goes way back to my childhood – I never understood why Eric Clapton was confessing to killing someone, and if he didn’t shoot the deputy, my God, who did??

  3. I Shot The Sheriff is an astute pick. A dreadful song, at least in Clapton’s hands. And that man has created a good number of other worthy contenders for your list.

    Your final choice is excellent as well.

  4. OK, Mr. Hmphs, you drew me out of the back row with this one, just like you knew you would. I understand why Margaritaville makes your list of least favorite songs but I can’t see how it ranks higher than anything by Crash Test Dummies.

    As you know, I started off young adulthood loving this song, loving to strum it on a cheap guitar. Then slowly I came to grasp the simpleness of it, the irony, the lameness, the camp, the kitsch. But I still remember that teenager, and I still have the Sigma guitar.

    In fact, I’ll posit those winsome lyrics and simple chord progression and rhythm are the musical answer to a PB&J, which is just what the soul or the tummy needs sometimes. I’m guessing you’ve never soaked your gut in cheap beer then held your arms up in the manner of a shark’s fin, waving along with a few thousand other fuzzy-brained parrotheads. It’s an experience.

    Now how can you blacklist this benign ditty while grocery store soundtrack programmers laugh all they way to the bank inserting such horrors as “Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive and “Crazy On You” by Heart. Unconscionable how they can stay in business, much less make money? I thought so too until I figured it out. These songs pierce your brain, causing such pain that you lose your ability to compare cheese or cereal prices, grabbing whatever is nearest, most colorful, and most expensive per unit!

    Then there’s the mystery of horrible songs being played endlessly on the radio (do they still have radio?) My only hypothesis is that these are the payola industrial complex peeking out from the shadows with impunity, thumbing its nose at regulators. Of course, if this is true, then “Linger” by the Cranberries is a bloody severed horse head in the bed of the payola police.

    Meanwhile, peaceful old Mr. Buffett is out there pleasing his fans year after year. Bringing some uncharacteristic dignity to Wrigley Field and other storied venues. Singing from the heart. Proving that anyone can play D, A and G on a six string and write poetry about sponge cake.

    Come on, Mr. Hmphs, admit you like a little “ketchup as a vegetable” culture once in a while. Try putting the song on a boombox in the garage, dig out one of those old square aluminum and nylon lawn chairs, set yourself up in the driveway with a cold beer, and there you go. You’re off to that mystical island where chickens roam the streets and dead fish smells waft and skin cancer reigns. What could be better?

  5. Okay, first off: “Crazy on You” is a horror? Have you heard Nancy Wilson’s classical guitar intro to that song? Don’t lump that in with BTO – you could have easily chosen “Never” or “Nothing At All” from the Heart collection and been dead on.

    Your picture of Buffett as a simple man with a simple song is rosy at best. Google “Margaritaville” and you see that he’s started a restaurant chain based on the song and also uses it to sell sandals, chips and salsa, frozen food, chicken wings and of course, margarita mixes. He’s getting his own payola.

    But your basic premise is right – it is the musical equivalent of a PB&J, although I would liken it more to a Twinkie, which is like a sponge cake – No nutritional value whatsoever. But at least Twinkies are sweet. Buffett has amateurish chords, little or no melody, and ridiculously benign lyrics sung with a nasal, slurred drawl.

    And yes, you are right in that I’ve never drunk cheap beer and pretended I was a shark with a thousand other drunks. What exactly am I missing here?

  6. Do I detect the exaggerated protestations of a closet fan?

    Minor point: while we’ve been funnin’ about this, something was nagging at me… I haven’t actually heard this song in years, but I believe the studio version is without steel drums. This writeup (more than you wanted to know about Jimmy) confirms my memory that it’s actually a recorder and marimba doing that killer instrumental lead: http://mixonline.com/recording/interviews/audio_jimmy_buffetts_margaritaville/

  7. Funny – ’cause “Cheeseburger in Paradise” always topped my worstlist. A song about ground beef by a guy I cannot stand who is loved by masses I can stand less.

  8. Okay I totally agree with most of this list. I don’t mind the Matt Nathanson song only because I’ve only heard it a few times and it pretty much struck me as harmless, but not annoying. I Shot the Sheriff doesn’t bother me, especially in the Bob Marley version, as I do like reggae along with many other ethnic musics. However, I agree it’s neither Marley nor Clapton’s best. It is kind of a childhood memory for me though. I remember my sister and I listening to it and and singing along in the car.

    The one thing I do take issue with is your tainting of two wonderful musical genres (that would be bluegrass and electronica) with an abomination like Cotton Eyed Joe. Really Peter? Are you lumping wonderful artists like Allison Krauss and myriad electronic artists in with that curiosity?
    And annoying? Oversimplification and sweeping generalization much? You’ve been listening to too much power pop I’m afraid. Get out of your melodic box sometimes.

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