10 Terrible Comeback Singles
Written by Lukas Kaiser & Erik Amonson
Sometimes, when a musician is away from his or her craft for a while and returns, everything falls back into place. Sometimes, though, the song they release makes you want to go back in time and kill their parents, as we’ve seen with Britney Spears‘ attempt at a comeback, “Gimme More.” These songs are further examples of the latter.
- Pumps and a Bump by MC Hammer – What happens when no one wants to hear your brand of Christian-infused fun-rap? Well, you put on a Speedo, nothing else, and then start rapping ambiguously about something called “pumps and a bump,” which we should assume means chicks with big asses and high heels…but it COULD mean girls with Reeboks and a peeenis.
- Kokomo by The Beach Boys – Brian Wilson and the gang are one of the most influential pop bands of all time. In the 1960s, the Beach Boys and the Beatles played a game of figurative leapfrog by essentially being each other’s favorite bands and heavily influencing each other’s work in one of the most productive instances of musical incest since Jerry Lee Lewis impregnated his cousin. However, by 1988, Brian Wilson, the creative genius behind all of the band’s classic work, had all but dissolved his operating ties with his fellow Boys, who wrote, produced and recorded this list of vacation locations without him. It went on to become their best selling single ever, and certainly brought the Beach Boys back to the fore of the national consciousness. Unfortunately, it’s garbage. If the Beatles had “stayed together” without John, Paul or George, the result may have been something like this.
- A Rose Is Still a Rose by Aretha Franklin – Aretha is a legend, arguably the strongest and recognizable voice in R&B history. “Respect,” “Think,” “A Natural Woman,” and many, many more. The woman has won 17 Grammies (which is not to say that a Grammy is worth a shit, but hey: 17 Grammies). So, what in the hell is this song? A reinvention as a hip-hop artist with backing vocals by Lauryn Hill and lyrics as ridiculous as, “A rose is still a rose. / Baby girl, you’re still a flower.” Shakespeare is rolling over in his grave. Otis Redding is rolling over in his grave. Hell, even the future corpse of Aretha Franklin will roll over in her grave every time this song spins up.
- Ass Like That by Eminem – While not the first single off of the white rapper’s 2004 album “Encore,” the simply jaw dropping second single was so bad it automatically qualifies for this list. Here are the facts–the white phenom had taken a two year break after the marathon of recording that began with his 1999 debut “The Slim Shady LP.” In the time Eminem took off, he dropped a marriage, picked up a drug habit and MOST IMPORTANTLY a feud-turned friendship with comedian Robert Smigel’s Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. Why is this most important? Because for
those uninformed, “Ass Like That” isn’t your typical fun loving Eminem single. No, what makes the club track stand out from the pack is that Emimen raps the song in the voice of his new friend, Triumph. Oh, and BTW…the chorus’ lyrics are some of Eminem’s best: “The way you shake it /I can’t believe it / I ain’t never seen a ass like “THAT” / The way you move it / You make my pee-pee go / Da Doing doing doing.” Puppetry and pee-pees…the makings for a truly terrible single.
- Believe by Cher – Cher kind of always sucked, but she was able to build a fairly mediocre yet recognizable singing career on the success of “I Got You, Babe.” And that song remains something of a cultural touchstone, so despite the fact that I find it personally insufferable, you’d have to consider it to be a success, and between the balance of her work with Sunny and her 70s solo career, Cher actually had quite a few hits. Additionally, “If I Could Turn Back Time” set a new standard for ridiculous outfits in music videos. And it’s Cher’s late 90s return to the music scene with this techno-dance offering that finally earned her a spot on the list. This would also qualify for lists of the worst break-up songs ever, the worst songs by a woman over 40 and, of course, the worst songs recorded by a member of the cast of Moonstruck.
- Without You by Van Halen – Listening to Van Halen with Gary Cherone as the lead singer is like undergoing a leg amputation after you’ve already had one of your arms removed; at a certain point, you just gotta throw in the towel, you know? But no, Van Halen soldiered on and put out “Without You.” Now “Without You” isn’t the worst song on this list…but the ratio of Van Halen’s best song to “Without You” is the greatest. It’s generic, pure and simple.
- American Life by Madonna – Madonna has tried EVERYTHING in her career, from 80’s dance music to…well 90’s dance music. So she does dance music, we get it. But she’s successfully reinvented herself throughout her career, no arguing with that. That was, until she dropped a fucking RAP SONG as her comeback single in 2003. Madonna, the time for being a hot white chick rapping has passed. We would’ve been cool with you busting a rhyme when you were in your 20s. But with lyrics like: “I’m drinking a Soy latte /I get a double shot-tay / It goes right through my body,” Madonna actually makes me, a lifelong fan of rap music, want to invent a time machine and then go back and somehow prevent rap music from ever being invented, which would most likely involve a sniper rifle and a trip to the South Bronx.
- We Built This City by Starship – By the time this sugary pile of shit showed up flaming on America’s doorstep, every original member of Jefferson Airplane had left the band — and they took their “Jefferson” with them. However, Grace Slick was still around, and we’ve decided that since she sang, “Somebody to Love,” and “White Rabbit,” this technically qualifies as a comeback record. And it’s worthless music. For what does this song provide a good backdrop? It sure isn’t dancing. It’s not conducive to having fun, and it’s definitely not good for rocking and/or rolling. The perfect backdrop to teasing your hair, maybe? Flairtending*? The lyrics should be, “We built this city on rock and roll / and now we’re razing it because we fucking hate you.“
- Beverly Hills by Weezer – Weezer’s 2005 hit single “Beverly Hills” might be the best song on this list. That’s because it already was a great song–Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’ Roll.” Sure, there’s been musical theft before, but never done so obviously for a comeback single before. Also, the lyrics are impossibly lame. I’d rather put another dime in the jukebox, baby, than live like a celebrity any day…pussies.
- Home by Bone Thugs N Harmony – Bone Thugs N Harmony (or BTNH, if you will) are an interesting “band.” To some, they are incomprehensible, annoying and stupid. To some, they are Midwestern poets. Either way, they were a really popular rap group with their hits “Crossraods” and “First of the Month,” but then they were not so popular for a while. All that changed when they dropped their 2000 single “Home!” Nah, nothing changed. But even though no one gave a shit about their comeback song, it still remains amazing. For its soft rap stylings? No. For its World Music production? Nah. It’s pure hilarity because of its Phil Collins sample. BTNH sampled so much of good old Phil that it’s less a sample and more that these dudes are rapping over a Phil Collins song. And that’s just great. Honorable Mention
- Roll ‘Em Up by Vanilla Ice – This is a bad song. No debate necessary for that conclusion. And it’s a comeback song, so it should automatically merit inclusion onto the above list, right? Well, no, because while every other artist on this list actually deserved success for some reason or another, Vanilla Ice always thoroughly sucked. In that respect, it’s hard to consider this a comeback attempt, as it’s really more of an attempt to continue visibly sucking at previous levels. It’s a ploy to remain famous, though, but if you never really show up in the first place, you can’t come back. Still, for those who were earnestly rockin’ a sequined WORD TO YOUR MOTHA jacket, this song was indubitably a shitty comeback.
Written by Lukas Kaiser & Erik Amonson