The other night, a few of us were in a bar in Costa Mesa, having a decent time. It was a little bit of a dive bar, and a bit over-warm, but there was a secluded corner and the drinks were cheap. (Plus it was the fourth place we had tried; of the other three, one was smelly, one was way too crowded and had loud live music, and one was not a bar at all but a café, with no alcohol.) Someone had ordered pitchers for the house and we were two-thirds of the way through ours, when “My Humps” by the Black-Eyed Peas came on. Within thirty seconds, we had gathered our things and abandoned the remainder our pitcher and were on our way out to a donut shop. “My Humps” drove us out of a bar.
With bad pop culture, the safest thing is just to piss and moan when it comes on and otherwise keep it out of your head by consuming good pop culture. But this song is a cultural phenomenon, one that I think warrants extended, painful consideration. First of all, it’s amazing to consider how utter the consensus is on this song, at least among people I know. You hear a lot of opinions from my friends and acquaintances, and not all of them are pretty. I’ve heard people defend “My Heart Will Go On,” “I’ll Be Missing You,” “This Kiss,” and any number of bad disco songs and showtunes. I myself have defended the likes of Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, Meat Loaf, and Andrew W.K. But I have never met anyone who had anything good to say about “My Humps.” So since we’re all thinking it, I’m going to come out and say it:
I believe that “My Humps” is the worst pop song of all time.
I really mean it: the very worst. Worse than anything by Herman’s Hermits or Alanis Morrisette or Foreigner or Boyz II Men. (Note that all of the aforementioned bands have at least one good song; I’m just making a point.) Any of us can bring to mind any number of songs we hate for any number of reasons, but you really can’t match “My Humps” for sheer awfulness, not even wtih a previous Black-Eyed Peas song. Even something truly horrible like “Who Let the Dogs Out?” doesn’t do as many things wrong as “My Humps”; to whit:
–Repellingly dumb lyrics: Whenever I hear the song, I get that special kind of headache, also found when watching bad kid’s movies, that says “I am getting dumber just experiencing this.” “Lovely lady lumps” gets the blue ribbon for this, managing to be creatively stupid and gross, a whole new world of stupid and gross that no one ever thought of before, but it doesn’t end there: “all that ass inside them jeans”? At least “junk” and “trunk” rhyme, for God’s sake.
–Dumb instrumentation: Not much to be said here, except that the drum machine and synth are so lazy that it could be almost anything…but no. You know it’s “My Humps.” And that’s worse.
–Offensive to Berkeley sensibilities: See “lovely lady lumps” above. Also, was the world crying out for another song about how women can and should use sex to get men to buy them expensive name-brand merchandise?
–Ubiquity: To date I have heard this song at a roller-skating rink, a dive bar, and a vaguely classy bar/club with a dance floor and a DJ. Not only is it played everywhere, in the bar that night it came on on the jukebox, which must mean that someone paid money to subject us all to it.
–Catchiness: Catchiness is the great double-edged sword of pop music: the same qualities that keep good songs running through your head also make bad ones inescapable. I won’t soon forget the torture of lying awake of stomach problems in a hostel in France, unable to get Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” out of my head (a song which I later came to love, by the way), but it’s nothing to the torture of writing this entry, where just the act of thinking about the song makes me hear “Dolce and Ga-bann-a” and “She’s got me spennn..ding..” like a mosquito bite in my brain. I only hope I’ve given you a fraction of that suffering.