I both love electronic club music and admit it might be one of the laziest musical formats around. I've thought that since long before EDM's rapid, vapid ascent in America. Prior to the indefensible cultural disaster that is EDM, there was plenty of trash across the electronic/dance spectrum. From house to trance to hillbilly electronica to drum ’n’ bass to electro-swing, these are the songs that give dance music — and perhaps culture and humanity at large — a bad rap.
10. Darude, “Sandstorm”
I made a general effort to include songs you might have actually heard on this list, and you'll likely recognize this cheesedick monster anthem. This is probably the song on this list I hate the least. I can at least laugh at it ironically, which I can't say for anything else below. So it's got that going for it. It's also only been viewed 66 million times on YouTube. Fun fact: Darude has never actually experienced a sandstorm in real life.
9. Global Deejays, “San Francisco”
This “interpolation” of Scott McKenzie's “San Francisco” not only sucks but also makes me hate “San Francisco.” I'm pretty sure the Global Deejays have a) never been to San Francisco and b) never met actual songwriters. The Austrian goobers behind the Global Deejays brand are the DJ equivalent of Hans and Franz: young, dumb and unentertaining. There's no reason for this song to exist.
8. Yolanda Be Cool, “We No Speak Americano”
No list of bad dance music would be complete without at least one nod to electro-swing. This particular track came out a good year or so before “Bangarang,” so I think this is still essentially pre-EDM. And, oh man, is this song terrible. It's a childish update of Renato Carosone's classic “Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano” that manages to sully the original and add nothing worthwhile to an old idea. It's the dance-floor equivalent of drinking moonshine out of a fedora.
7. Paul Oakenfold, “Southern Sun”
Literally no one likes this song, including (likely) old Oakey himself. I mean, how could you? I have a few controversial opinions. This isn't one of them: Paul Oakenfold is one of the worst of that original superstar DJ class. “Southern Sun” is the aural equivalent of a soiled V-neck.
6. Delerium feat. Sarah McLachlan, “Silence (Tiësto's In Search of Sunrise Remix)”
This track was suggested to me by a very credible DJ who would literally die if I outed him for listening to stuff like this in his teens. So, out of respect to this DJ's life and career, he will remain nameless. This song, unfortunately, will not. It's an aggresively turgid trance number that either takes itself way too seriously or not seriously at all. The late ’90s were a nightmare in so many respects, and this song triggers the worst memories of the era.
5. Goldie, “Mother”
Goldie, the most visible figure in drum ’n’ bass, truly misfired with “Mother,” a song that is over an hour long, dripping with pretension, and difficult to track down (as if anyone would want to — the mercifully brief but no less pretentious four-minute single edit is above). A very good L.A. DJ had this to say about “Mother”: “This awful, indulgent, hourlong odyssey of pomp and excess. A few jokes went around at the time that went like, 'Did you hear Goldie's doing a line of trainers with Adidas? They only come in size 50, and they're dedicated to his mum.'”
4. The Crystal Method, “Keep Hope Alive”
I'm pretty sure I got this from some magazine compilation CD (hey, remember CDs? and magazines?). Now, I'm somewhat of a big beat apologist — at least for a few key artists in that scene — but this desert-breaks stuff Crystal Method became the poster boys for in the late ’90s was (and still is) pretty tough to swallow. I'd like to say “Keep Hope Alive” and all the mostly bad novelty records Fatboy Slim put out at this time haven't aged well, but me as an idiot teenager in the ’90s wasn't sure any of this was any good even then.
3. Rednex, “Cotton Eye Joe”
While I absolutely abhor this song, unlike most of these crimes against humanity, I have some sort of begrudging respect for “Cotton Eye Joe.” It takes commitment to be this grating and aggressively moronic. You can probably still hear it anywhere there are stupid Americans, from a Señor Frog's in Cabo to a garbage bar on the Gulf Coast. There's probably a whole subgenre of hillbilly body music this anthem inspired, but I can't be bothered to Google something that shouldn't exist.
2. Cher, “Believe”
I'm all for middle-aged people making and playing dance music, but this — recorded by Cher when she was 52 — is one of the most cynical songs I've ever heard. For one, it took six dudes to write this pap. But more importantly, “Believe” is probably patient zero of the Auto-Tune epidemic, which to this day is one of the most boring elements of pop radio, going on 20 years now. The music world is a more homogeneous, predictable and boring place because of Auto-Tune. So, if only for that reason (there are plenty of others, of course), take this song to a farm upstate and put it out of its misery.
1. Zombie Nation, “Kernkraft 400”
You definitely know this one, even if you don't recognize the artist or the track name. It's the “oh-woah-woah” song that has probably drilled its way into your skull at some point in its nefarious existence. I usually defend instrumental music. But not this time. Listening to this song is like smelling a gas leak. When you hear it, get out of the building immediately. You're at the wrong party.