We’ve all experienced the over-exposure of a big hit song. Often, there’s nothing wrong with the song itself; it’s easy for listeners to get tired of hearing a song that rules the charts for weeks, like “Despacito,” which ruthlessly ruled the pop charts for months in 2017. But simply being a big hit does not make a song overplayed. To achieve Most Overplayed status, a song must embed itself in popular culture through a movie, a dance, or event a video that helps make the song annoying enough to eventually produce sheer agony in a large number of people.
Enjoy – or don’t enjoy – our list of the 9 Most Overplayed Songs of All Time.
Can we please declare a moratorium on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”? Cohen certainly wanted to. He told the Guardian in 2009 “It’s a good song. But too many people sing it.” The song has been covered by over 200 artists and counting. What makes the covers of “Hallelujah” so annoying is that they often imbue the song with a religiosity that is not really there in the lyrics or Cohen’s original rendition. It is not a song about God. Jeff Buckley, who probably produced the best version of the song, accurately called it an ode to the orgasm.
That doesn’t trouble producers and singers, who keep singing the song as if it’s about the virgin birth of Jesus. It’s been misused on the Emmy’s for an In Memoriam segment, inexplicably featured in the opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and was even used twice in that animated movie about a fat ogre, Shrek. Now that Cohen has departed, it’s time we let his song lay dormant for a while. Please.
#8 “Call Me Maybe”
Carly Rae Jepsen produced her first hit and it not only became a number 1, it also charts high on the list of songs that just won’t go away when you want it to. The song seems inspired by the bubblegum pop fare that Justin Bieber is responsible for – you know how the YouTube generation is – but it never should have gotten much further than the iPhones of the teen set. Unfortunately, Jepsen’s song made it much further than that, due to the constant preening of other celebrities.The video featured lip sync by Bieber, Selena Gomez, Big Time Rush and Ashley Tisdale, making it even buzzier. Ellen Degeneres had fun with the song, introducing it to millions of moms. The song was released in March of 2012, which meant that the Summer Olympics in London gave it another big push. (Just start googling famous athletes and see how many of them were snapping and vidding themselves singing the song. Ugh.). It was a prescription for exhaustion. Jepsen got the last laugh however – earlier this year, it passed the 1 billion views mark on YouTube; the video is still averaging 250,000 views a day!
#7 “American Pie”
We’ve all heard “American Pie” even more than 40 years after its original release (“the day the music died”). The sad song tells the tale of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. It’s fine, I guess, but it clocks in at 8 full minutes, which is exhausting to the listener and would never be allowed on pop radio today. The deaths of the three musicians is certainly song-worthy, but for Don McLean to call them the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” is laying it on a bit thick, is it not? This song got played to death and still pops up regularly in tiresome fashion.
#6 “Let It Go”
There is something about “Let It Go” that makes it impossible to just. let. go. The song was released in 2013 as part of the animated smash hit Frozen, but it remained popular throughout 2014 and beyond. A special shout-out goes to parents on this one, who have spent many a day banging their heads against the wall as their kids have the song on repeat. I bet parents live in fear when they ride the Frozen Ever After ride at EPCOT. Wouldn’t you fear getting stuck in the “Let it Go” story segment? I would.
It’s hard to even know where to begin with a song like Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” which was universally hated as soon as it was released. The hatred of the terrible song alone should have been enough to sink it like a stone, but the hate turned it into a global phenomenon instead. Critics and listeners passionately derided the horrible lyrics such as:
Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?
Black was just a 13-year old amateur whose parents paid $4,000 to Ark Music to produce a video for the song, which was also produced by Ark. The Blacks retained ownership of the video, which led to a legal mess. Meanwhile, Black sang so off-key that even Auto-Tune couldn’t make it sound passable as a high school show choir number. Of course the song later became a staple of show choir, particularly after it was picked up the queen of all annoying shows: Glee.
The true lesson of “Friday” is how powerful social media is in this era – YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook helped make “Friday” something people could not stop hate watching. Unfortunately this also led to extreme bullying of Black, who was not remotely prepared for sudden stardom, let alone internet infamy.
#4 “Love Shack”
The B-52s are great and this song seems great the first couple of times you hear it. It became the Athens, Georgia band’s biggest hit and has one of the hallmarks of an overplayed song: it became popular at karaoke bars. Once a song becomes karaoke-worthy, watch out! If drunk people enjoy boozled belting out a song, it will never truly go away. “Love Shack” is extra-cringeworthy, thanks to the mid-song wail of Tin roof!…Rusted, which seems designed to break eardrums. You’ve probably experienced this moment courtesy of Carol from accounting at the company’s annual holiday party.
#3 “Gangam Style”
South Korean pop star Psy demonstrates yet another factor that makes a song an overplayed mess: a popular dance move. His song Gangnam Style features Psy doing some kind of dance which can best be described as bucking like a horse and then striking a pose. The fanciful move quickly roped in other musicians, actors, athletes and even politicians, as people like President Barack Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon all attempted the move in order to be more hip. Like “Call Me Maybe”, “Gangnam Style” also benefited from joyous athletes celebrating the 2012 Summer Olympics. The video is still the most-watched video on YouTube.
#2 “Louie Louie”
The Kingsmen’s version of Louie Louie reveals yet another facet of an overplayed song: its popularity at parties, weddings and other celebrations. The song is achingly bad, the lyrics are hard to understand, and the recording is sloppy. It’s also catchy as hell, and so it remains in the subconscious every time you hear it. In the 1995 film Mr. Holland’s Opus, Richard Dreyfus’ character explains the song’s appeal: “They can’t sing and they have absolutely no harmonics. They’re playing the same chords over and over again. And I love it.”
Although other bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys covered the tune, they just didn’t have the sloppiness of The Kingsmen. In this case, only the very bad 1963 recording is played, played and played again, prompting everyone and their grandma to get out there and dance.
#1 “My Heart Will Go On”
Near….Far….Wherever you are…. I believe that you can’t escape, this song.
James Cameron’s Titanic was responsible for unleashing Celine Dion’s tear-jerking ballad on the world. Even 20 years later, the song provokes some people to swell with song, while causing others to throw up (including Kate Winslet, who said the song made her want to retch). Cameron almost didn’t include “My Heart Will Go On” in the film. His reasoning was actually pretty sound – who would want to hear a modern pop tune at the end of a historical drama?
The answer was basically “everyone.” Everyone heard it, everyone wanted to sing it, and it never seemed to go away, winning both an Oscar and a Grammy. The song will forever live in the Museum of the Annoying, along with another Titanic moment, people proclaiming “I’m the King of the World!”