18 most awkward Synthpop songs (once loved, now ashamed)
Did you ever heard of #MusicShaming? No? After the article ’18 most awkward Synthpop songs (once loved, now ashamed)’ you will know exactly what is meant. In this article I get stripped to the bone! I present to you the 18 Synth Pop and genre similar songs that I once loved and am ashamed of today(?).
Especially when you’re young and not yet musically established, you have a misstep every now and then. So please don’t take this list too seriously. I find it more exciting to hear which songs you find really embarrassing and whether you liked them when they were released. Or do you perhaps have other songs that remind you unpleasantly of your musical naivety? Then just tell us below in the comments.
Side fact: These are the lyric lines in my head, while I am writing this article and it feels like doing a soul strip.
Tell me to relax, I just stare
Maybe I don’t know if I should change
A feeling that we share
It’s a shame
Before we begin, one more important thing! This list is not meant to bash or degrade the bands. After all, I used to love the songs, but tastes change over time. And I admit, there was a time when I would never ever have admitted that I once liked these songs. Today I’m mature enough to rise above it.
Lets dive into the list of shame with no order of awkwardness
1. Modern Talking – Cheri Cheri Lady
I’m taking no prisoners and starting with the really embarrassing ‘Cheri Cheri Lady’ music video by ‘Modern Talking’. It was also very hard for me to choose the most embarrassing song, because smash hits like “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul” or ‘Brother Louie‘ are also rather painful to listen to.
It feels like all of Modern Talking’s singles were number one hits. In fact, the first 5 singles were No. 1 in Germany. In only 3 years (1985-1987), Dieter Bohlen and Thomas Anders produced 6 albums of which 3 were also No.1 placements. What band can keep up with that? So in my defence, in the German radio landscape you couldn’t deny yourself the music of ‘Modern Talking’. Details about the chart positions and the successes can be found in the Wikipedia article about the Modern Talking discography.
2. Mel & Kim – Showing Out (Get Fresh At the Weekend)
The next track is from 1986, ‘Showing Out (Get Fresh At the Weekend)’ by ‘Mel & Kim’ is just a typical 80s Stock Aitken Waterman production where musical sustainability was sacrificed for the Pop factor. That’s why the song can be fixed pretty much exactly in a time period when listening to it. The song also had several number 1 placements worldwide. Tragically, Melanie Appleby (Mel) of the sibling duo died of cancer in 1990 at the age of only 23.
3. Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It’s True
I even owned various Singles, Maxis and Remix Vinyls of the next title in the list ’18 most awkward Synthpop songs (once loved, now ashamed)’, as well as the debut ‘All Or Nothing‘ (1988). “Girl You Know It’s True” by ‘Milli Vanilli’ (one of the most awesome band names ever) was a simple but brilliant Synth Pop song at the time. The first single “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” was also a big hit on the radio.
Even though it’s hard for me to stand the music today, I’d like to take up a lance for the two front men. Yes, it was just a show and they didn’t sing themselves, but that didn’t bother me back then either. As figureheads, they gave the band a face and performed superbly. And I’m sure that ‘Milli Vanilli’ would never have become so successful without Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus. And it’s a shame that Rob didn’t cope so well with the media pressure back then and died of drugs and alcohol as a result.
4. Righeira – Vamos A La Playa
OMG! You can’t even imagine that I’m writing this article and seeing all the music videos again for the first time in what feels like a hundred years. Some of the music videos are even more embarrassing than the songs themselves. But anyway.
‘Vamos A La Playa’ by ‘Righeira’ from 1983 is lyrically, let’s say, quite simplistic and straightforward (do some research). In general, the post-apocalyptic message is good. For my taste it is wrapped in the wrong gift paper. So it’s ideal for a summer Pop song on a bumper car at the funfair as well as on the beach with alcohol. At least in my world!
5. MC Miker G & DJ Sven – Holiday Rap
First of all, I’m not ashamed of the original version of ‘Holiday‘ by ‘Madonna’ from the self-titled debut album ‘Madonna’ (1983). In fact, I still find the song really good today. A classic, not timeless, but a classic! But then came a terrible earworm version in typical 80s remix style by ‘MC Miker G & DJ Sven’. The ‘Holiday Rap’ (1986) because remix alone wasn’t enough and Rap was big at the time, naturally the song was rapped, just like every second American TV commercial.
During my deeper research, I discovered that the two “rappers” had repeatedly remixed and abused the song in 1991, 1998 and 2002. That’s truly “Milk the cash cow” on the next level. Goddammit, I liked that song in 1986! Please don’t stone me for that, I was only an innocent 11 years old.
6. Yazz And The Plastic Population – The Only Way Is Up
‘Yazz’ almost made it into the article ‘A flashback to New Beat‘ with her song ‘The Only Way Is Up’ (1988). However, the song is too mainstream Pop for that and has a touch of Acid House in it. But she is immortalised in this article with ‘Coldcut’ and the track “Doctorin’ the House (Feat. Yazz & The Plastic Population)”.
There’s actually not that much to report about the song. I had the red vinyl single which was wrapped in a really cool poster cover edition (Check the version on Discogs). And also the artwork is just too iconic for the 80s. I was really embarrassed by the song for a long time, but I don’t think it’s that bad anymore. It’s aged better than I remembered.
7. Adamski – Killer
1990 the beginning of the House and Techno movement begins its march towards the most extreme genre of the 90s. Before people fidgeted to 200 BPM in bunkers or industrial halls, the beginnings were calmer and sometimes still had real lyrics. The song ‘Killer’ by ‘Adamski‘ is one of these.
The singer ‘Seal’ is no longer unknown today, but was not mentioned on this release. A little later, however, ‘Seal’ took off with his hit ‘Crazy‘, which I also really liked at the time. I think I repressed or denied these songs because I didn’t have much of a connection with the whole Techno scene and I think hard, instrumental Techno is just mindless and boring. Some musical roots weren’t bad though.
The following track is still a bit embarrassing to me today, as it already tends very much in the direction of mainstream Pop. In 1988, ‘Paula Abdul’ released the top ten hit (on an international level) ‘Straight Up’. The instruments sound more 80s than 80s! So do the lyrics, which couldn’t be more clichéd and superficial. But in 1988 I was 14 years old, pubescent and probably liked Paula Abdul so much that I bought the Single. Well, we all have our skeletons in the closet.
9. Neneh Cherry – Manchild
Now it’s getting really embarrassing for me. Please don’t judge me for including a few Hip Hop titles on this list. It’s a music genre that doesn’t suit me at all, to put it politely. The whole scene is just too cool and too fake for me. But I listened to the song ‘Manchild’ (1989) by Neneh Cherry up and down. The message of the lyrics is still good even today. In retrospect, Neneh Cherry explored the boundaries of Hip Hop. Musically as well as visually. Great respect at this point for that.
Whereas the first hit ‘Buffalo Stance‘ (1988) was designed fit in the cool Hip Hop scene, like ‘De La Soul – Me, Myself And I‘ (1989) or “Salt’n’Pepper – Push It” (1987) or “Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby” (1990) (a terrible song), ‘Manchild’ is more feminine, more emotional and plays visually with gender roles. Something that was a no-go in the Hip Hop scene of the 80s. I don’t know how it looks today. Unfortunately, what I hear from on the sidelines, I don’t think much has changed.
10. Bros – When Will I Be Famous?
The next song from 1987 is actually not that embarrassing. Okay, admittedly, you can hardly get more Pop than that! But the song has aged very well despite typical 80s synths. ‘When Will I Be Famous? (1987) performed by ‘Bros’ was the Single I bought.
Basically, my best friend Chris (still to this day) turned me on to ‘Bros’ in the first place. I was never a diehard fan like him, but I liked the first Singles of the British band. Listening to it again, I realised that the song has a great and very creative bridge. Sounds somehow awesome after all these years. If you don’t know the song, you should give it a listen. In that case, thank you Chris, thank you ‘Bros’.
11. Holly Johnson – Americanos
‘Americanos’ comes from Holly Johnson’s solo career. The ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘ singer worked on his solo album ‘Blast‘ (1989) almost seamlessly after their break-up in 1987. ‘Americanos’ was the first single from the album and charted highly straight away. It reached No.1 in Austria and No.2 in the German charts, and the album Blast went gold in Germany and platinum in the UK.
As far as I can remember I bought the album, as well as the Singles ‘Americanos’ and ‘Love Train‘ on vinyl. How embarrassing is this song for me today? I like Holly Johnson’s vocals and appreciate him as an artist. Even today, ‘Americanos’ doesn’t work for me at all. The saxophone and the funky guitars still annoy me almost to no end. A really bad combination and maybe my phonetic Kryptonite?
12. Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Here’s the next track in the list of songs that still embarrass me today and that I also find hard to bear. When ‘Sledgehammer’ (1986) by ‘Peter Gabriel’ was released, the music video probably impressed me more than the song itself. Musically it’s just a simple Pop/Rock song with <irony> my favourite instruments </irony>: various wind instruments and funky guitars (again).
But it was hard to resist the song in the year it was released. Because of the elaborately produced stop-motion music video, it was played everywhere and became a hit. Continuous sound reinforcement by television and radio still worked very well as a hit factor at that time. Nowadays it’s not much different. The song made it into the US Billboard 100 at number one and at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1987, the music video won nine prizes and is still unbeaten today.
13. Salt-N-Pepa – Push It
What was I thinking back then? A very silly song and lyrically more than embarrassing. Watching the music video ‘Push It’ (1987) by ‘Salt-N-Pepa’ is so incredibly cringe. I just blame it on the fact that I had a ‘cool’ phase when I was about 13. Over and out on this song!
14. Fleetwood Mac – Little Lies
1987 also marked the release of the song ‘Little Lies’ by the British Folk / Pop / Rock band ‘Fleetwood Mac’. I saw the music video for the first time in the German music show ‘Formel Eins’. And everything that sounded a bit electronic I found exciting and great at first. So was this tune.
However, it remained with this one song by ‘Fleetwood Mac’. The song even had astonishingly high chart positions, which I didn’t realise until today. DE: 3, UK: 5 and US: 4. So some of you might know the song. Are you also embarrassed by this song? Write me your opinion below in the comments.
15. U2 – Lemon
Honestly, I don’t like U2! This “we’re saving the world” mentality seems so artificial and that in combination with boring guitar Pop and raised moral finger. I know I’m going to cause offence with my opinion, but I never felt comfortable with the band.
In the early 90s U2 released something like a Synth Pop album. We are talking about the album ‘Zooropa‘. For me, this is the only acceptable U2 album ever that I can listen to without suffering physical pain. The song ‘Lemon’ (1993) is also from this album, which I found really embarrassing at some point in the late 90s. Today, however, I find the song okay again. Not good, but okay. The lyrics are still the best thing on this song.
16. Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up
‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ (1988) by ‘Rick Astley’ is without a doubt a first class Synth Pop song of the 80s. I loved this song and find it really good again today.
Nevertheless, I quickly lost track of ‘Rick Astley’ because he changed music genres very much afterwards. It became more and more acoustic in the direction of Soul and Ballad. Doesn’t work for me at all. And that’s probably why I was ashamed of the song for so long. He produced mostly music that I personally didn’t like. But Rick: I’ll never give up on you! Please make a really good Synth Pop album again.
17. Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal
Yes, none other than the “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson, adds to my list of embarrassing songs. Until about 10 years ago, I would never have admitted in public that I liked Michael Jackson’s songs. Before people start throwing stones at me, I am no longer ashamed. For some years now, I’ve been noticing that Michael Jackson’s songs are really good and that he deserves great respect as an artist.
So is the song ‘Smooth Criminal’, one of the best-selling albums ever ‘Bad‘ (1987), which also has DNA traces of classic Synth Pop. To my shame, I must confess that I don’t own a single Michael Jackson album. Let’s see, maybe I’ll catch up again.
18. Sabrina – Boys
Italo Disco was a big thing in the 80s. The chart hit ‘Boys’ by ‘Sabrina’ was released in 1987. It’s obvious that the music video was meant to appeal to pubescent teenagers and power-drunk twens. Unfortunately, I was also addicted to it when I was 12/13 years old.
The song itself is a simple electronic Pop hit for mainstream radio, hot disco nights and conceived as a beach summer hit for no-brainers. But she managed high chart placements with it. In Germany, it landed at number 2 and went gold. In the UK it reached No. 3 and a No. 1 position in Switzerland. Nevertheless, in this case I am of the opinion: Sex sells! BTW: The half nipple flasher in the video was considered almost pornographic in the 80s.
Facts and judgements
Whats the cheapiest looking music video in this list?
In fact, almost all the music videos from this list are not that bad for the 80s. In the end, however, I had to decide between ‘MC Miker G & DJ Sven – Holiday Rap’ and ‘Righeira – Vamos A La Playa’. I decided on the worst music video in the “18 most awkward Synthpop songs (once loved, now ashamed)” list: ‘Righeira – Vamos A La Playa‘.
The main reason for the decision are these terrible video cross-fades in the intro and outro, as well as this annoying oval mask in the music video itself.
Who is still in the music business?
Seal (Vocals on Adamski – Killer)
Status 2021 with at least one release in the last 5 years.
Which song has aged best?
In most of the songs you can clearly hear the age in the synths and sounds used. I would nominate the top 3 that still sound quite up-to-date today as follows:
The question of the awkward lyrics is probably the hardest to answer here. But I really struggled through each song again and read the lyrics. The trophy for the worst lyrics in this list goes to: “Salt-N-Pepa – Push It“. The winning and most sexist lyrics are:
This dance ain’t for everybody
Only the sexy people
So all you fly mothers
Get on out there and dance
Which embarrassing song is most appealing to me today (again)?
The way I approached this question was to ask myself: “Which 3 songs from this list I would play at a current 80s party?”. And I have decided on the following 3 songs:
A silent minute for the artists in the list who are no longer with us.
Melanie Appleby (* July 11th, 1966; † January 18th, 1990) from Mel & Kim
Robert Pilatus (* June 8th, 1964; † April 3rd, 1998) from Milli Vanilli
Peter Green (* October 29th, 1946; † July 25th, 2020) from Fleetwood Mac
Michael Jackson (* August 29th, 1958; † June 25th, 2009)
Have you enjoyed the list of ’18 most awkward Synthpop songs (once loved, now ashamed)’?
Well, do you feel with me? Are there any songs in the list that you have also denied for a while? If you think an awkward song should definitely be mentioned, please post it in the comments below. After review they will be approved and the list of ’18 most awkward Synthpop songs (once loved, now ashamed)’ can be extended.