18 most awkward Synthpop songs (once loved, now ashamed)

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

Lyrics from 'Such A Shame' by 'Talk Talk'

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

Modern Talking - Cheri Cheri LadyI'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.

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2. Mel & Kim – Showing Out (Get Fresh At the Weekend)

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.

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3. Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It's True

Milli Vanilli - Girl You Know It's TrueI 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.

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4. Righeira – Vamos A La Playa

Righeira - Vamos A La PlayaOMG! 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!

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5. MC Miker G & DJ Sven – Holiday Rap

MC Miker G & DJ Sven - Holiday RapFirst 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.

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6. Yazz And The Plastic Population – The Only Way Is Up

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.

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7. Adamski – Killer

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.

BTW: Later (1991), none oth­er than 'George Michael' pro­duced a super cool mashup cov­er ver­sion. The song 'Killer/Papa Was A Rolling Stone' includes parts of Adamski's 'Killer', as well as 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' ori­gin­al by 'The Temptations'. Absolutely worth listen­ing to.


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8. Paula Abdul – Straight Up

Paula Abdul - Straight UpThe 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.

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9. Neneh Cherry – Manchild

Neneh Cherry - ManchildNow 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.

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10. Bros – When Will I Be Famous?

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'.

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11. Holly Johnson – Americanos

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?

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12. Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer

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.

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13. Salt-N-Pepa – Push It

Salt-N-Pepa - Push ItWhat 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!


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14. Fleetwood Mac – Little Lies

Fleetwood Mac - Little Lies1987 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.

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15. U2 – Lemon

U2 - LemonHonestly, 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.

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16. Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

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.

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17. Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal

Michael Jackson - Smooth CriminalYes, 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.

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18. Sabrina – Boys

Sabrina - BoysItalo 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.

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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)
  • Neneh Cherry
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • U2
  • Rick Astley

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:

  1. Adamski – Killer
  2. Neneh Cherry – Manchild
  3. Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal

Which band/artist sells the most records?

  1. Michael Jackson: around 350 mil­lion records
  2. U2: around 150 mil­lion records
  3. Fleetwood Mac: around 120 mil­lion records
  4. Modern Talking: also around 120 mil­lion records (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Talking)

Source: Wikipedia art­icle "List of best-selling music artists"

Which is the most awkward lyrics line?

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:

  1. Bros – When Will I Be Famous?
  2. Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up
  3. Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal

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)

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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.

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  1. I must admit that I still like these songs and listen to them on a reg­u­lar basis.
    I am a big 80s music fan and will prob­ably stay one since I grew up with this music.
    I can ima­gine that there are people who are ashamed of these songs, but I don't have that prob­lem at all.
    On top of that, you can still hear these songs every day on the radio.
    Thanks for the nice list.

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