When an artist gets a hit on the pop charts, the track often becomes ubiquitous for years. These hit songs enjoy heavy rotation on the radio, at wedding celebrations, parties, and clubs, and are unashamedly sung at karaoke bars. But why do some tunes become bigger than others? Is it the lyrics, the beat, or the hypnotic combination of both? Whatever the case may be (and there actually have been scientific studies about what makes a song a hit), hot tracks can enjoy a lifespan far longer than anyone would have initially expected (never forget “Macarena”). The artists behind these major hits, however, are sometimes not the biggest fans.
In fact, many singer/songwriters have confessed to hating their own hit songs, for reasons that range from the highfalutin to utterly relatable. Apparently, the lesson here is: just because something earns you a boatload of cash, that doesn’t mean you want to revisit it over and over again for the rest of your life. Let’s drop the needle and explore why these musicians can’t stand their own songs.
Madonna needs millions to sing her 80's hits
Madonna’s hit song “Like a Virgin” was released off of her second album in 1984. The song would be the singer’s first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold a year later. According to an AllMusic review by music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine, “Like a Virgin” and Madge’s second single, “Material Girl,” would be “the two songs that made her an icon, and the two songs that remain definitive moments.”
Her 80’s hits would bring Madonna outrageous success, but in a 2008 interview with New York’s Z100-FM radio (via People), the songstress admitted that “Like a Virgin” is one of her least favorite songs, along with another classic hit. “I’m not sure I can sing ‘Holiday’ or ‘Like a Virgin’ ever again. I just can’t — unless somebody paid me like $30 million or something.”
When Madonna participated in Us Weekly’s 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me in 2015, she took aim at the classic that, according Erlewine, made her a star. When asked which of her songs she “never want[s] to hear again,” she admitted that it was “Material Girl.”
TLC's Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes hated the message behind Creep
Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas made up the hugely successful 90’s R&B group TLC. They released hit after hit, including, “Waterfalls,” “Creep,” “Unpretty,” and “No Scrubs,” reaching No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, tragedy struck in 2002 when Lopes lost control of her SVU while vacationing in Honduras and died from severe head trauma. In the 2007 documentary, “The Last Days of Left Eye,” the rapper confessed that while the song “Creep” brought the women instant fame, she did not agree with its lyrics, and “almost wore black tape over [her] mouth” for its music video.
The lyrics of “Creep” portray the three women as cheaters getting revenge against their significant others, who has have also been unfaithful. Lopes shared in the film that while appreciative of the song’s success, the song’s meaning was “totally against” everything she believed in. “I wasn’t down with the cheating on your man, you know, for me, it’s be faithful,” she said, adding, “If a girl is going to catch her man cheating … instead of telling her to cheat back, why don’t we tell her to just leave?”
According to People, in a remix to the song and a “reminder of the group’s commitment to addressing social issues” in their music, Lopes added a rap verse which warned women about the consequences of unsafe sex, with the lyric, “prenatal HIV is often sleeping in a creeping cradle.”
Frank Sinatra did not care for these smash hit songs
From wedding celebrations to elevators, Frank Sinatra’s music can be heard just about anywhere. While most fans of Old Blue Eyes love “Strangers in the Night,” and “My Way,” these popular songs were not a favorite among the hitmaker. In fact, Page Six reported that Sinatra’s widow, Barbara Sinatra, once allegedly claimed that the singer referred to “Strangers in the Night” as “a piece of s***” and “the worst f****** song I’ve ever heard.” Whether that’s true or not is debatable, however Frank’s son, Frank Sinatra Jr., has been open about his father’s distaste for some of his own music.
Speaking with PBS, Frank Jr. revealed, “During the last seven years that he was giving concerts, I was his conductor, and I would show him what song was coming up next in the show, and he’d look at the music — He’d say, ‘Oh, that.’ This went on for years, and one night I said, ‘Is there something wrong between you and ‘Strangers in the Night?'” And he said, ‘I don’t like that song.’ And I said, (laughing) ‘Nine million records and you don’t like that song. I should have such dislikes.'”
Sinatra would also express the same resentment for “My Way,” with The Wall Street Journal sharing that he was heard mouthing at Caesars Palace in 1978, “I hate this song — you sing it for eight years, you would hate it too!”
Katy Perry would change the 'stereotypes' in this hit track
Katy Perry’s 2008 hit “I Kissed a Girl” peaked at the No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released, but 10 years later, Perry told Glamour that she would rework the lyrics of the song about experimentation if it came out in this day and age. At the time of its release, Perry shared with the Toronto Star, “It’s a song about curiosity … It’s just really sweet and innocent, and if Scarlett Johansson wanted to kiss me, I’m not sure I would say no.”
While the song was and still is extremely catchy, its lyrics faced a fair share of criticism, too. “Perry’s lyrics reflect the trivialization of queer female sexuality and the cultural norms which state that female sexuality exists for the pleasure of men,” Feministing wrote while breaking down the song.
Reflecting on the lyrics to her hit, she seemed to agree, telling Glamour in 2018, ” We’ve really changed, conversationally, in the past 10 years. We’ve come a long way. Bisexuality wasn’t as talked about back then, or any type of fluidity. If I had to write that song again, I probably would make an edit on it. Lyrically, it has a couple of stereotypes in it. Your mind changes so much in 10 years, and you grow so much. What’s true for you can evolve.”
Robert Plant eventually hated singing Stairway to Heaven
Led Zeppelin’s 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven,” which appeared on their album “Led Zeppelin IV,” has been dubbed as one of the greatest rock songs ever made; was voted No. 3 in 2000 by VH1 on its 100 Greatest Rock Songs; and Rolling Stone gave it the No. 31 spot on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time chart. The rock band’s guitarist, Jimmy Page, told Rolling Stone that the song “crystallized the essence of the band.” He added, “It had everything there and showed us at our best. It was a milestone. Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time. We did it with ‘Stairway.'”
At the time of the track’s release, frontman Robert Plant had nothing but admiration for his hit record, but the iconic singer told the Los Angeles Times in 1988 that he no longer wanted to perform it while on tour. “I’d break out in hives if I had to sing that song in every show. I wrote those lyrics and found that song to be of some importance and consequence in 1971, but 17 years later, I don’t know. It’s just not for me.”
According to Rolling Stone, with much reluctance, Plant ended up performing the song during an Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary reunion show with his band in 1988, but wouldn’t sing the song again until Led Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion show.
James Blunt didn't find anything beautiful about his hit song's overexposure
James Blunt’s 2004 hit song “You’re Beautiful” was somehow simultaneously regarded as both incredibly romantic and irritating, with Rolling Stone including it at their No. 7 spot of the “Most Annoying Songs,” beating out “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls and “The Thong Song” by Sisqo. While the song sold over three million copies and found its way to the peak position on Billboard’s Hot 100, Blunt admitted to Hello!, that just like Rolling Stone, he was no longer a fan of his own song.
“There was one song that was force-fed down people’s throats — “You’re Beautiful” — and it became annoying. And then people start to associate the artist with the same word,” Blunt confessed, adding, “I think, at the end of the day, I was marketed by a record company to appeal to women during ‘Desperate Housewives’ commercials and you lose 50 percent of the population in doing so.”
Years after the song was released, Blunt lamented to HuffPost how badly fans of his hit song had misinterpreted its meaning. He said, “Everyone goes, ‘Ah, he’s so romantic. I want ‘You’re Beautiful’ as my wedding song.’ These people are f***** up.'” He added, “It’s about a guy who’s high as a f****** kite on drugs in the subway stalking someone else’s girlfriend when that guy is right in front of him, and he should be locked up or put in prison for being some kind of perv.”
So, does Ariana Grande hate this hit song or not?
Ariana Grande has produced countless hit records, but the songstress cringes at the thought of her 2011 debut pop song, “Put Your Hearts Up.” Known for her sultry voice and R&B hits, Grande feels the song just doesn’t reflect who she is now. Speaking with the “Zach Sang Show,” Grande revealed she may have been a bit too eager to record a pop record while she was still working on Nickelodeon’s “Sam and Cat.” She said, “I feel like ‘Put Your Hearts Up’ would have been Cat’s single. … I was stuck in this weird world where it was like, ‘I’m Cat, but I’m … me.'”
In a previous interview with Rolling Stone, Grande wasn’t as diplomatic. “[‘Put Your Hearts Up’] was geared towards kids and felt inauthentic and fake,” she blasted, adding, “That was the worst moment of my life. For the video, they gave me a bad spray tan and put me in a princess dress, and had me frolic around the street. The whole thing was straight out of hell. I still have nightmares about it, and I made them hide it on my Vevo page.”
However, in 2020 while talking to Zach Sang again for her sixth studio album, “Positions,” Grande retracted her statements about hating her first song, believing that, at the time, it was the music her fans wanted because of her Nickelodeon persona.
Lorde thinks her breakout song is 'horrible' and 'disastrous'
Ella Yelich-O’Connor, better known as Lorde, released her debut album “Pure Heroine” which featured the song “Royals” in 2013. The track was subsequently played on just about every radio station and it was one of those songs that you couldn’t get out of your head. A massive success, “Royals” spending nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned the artist two Grammys, for “song of the year” and “best pop solo performance.” However, in a confession to the Daily Record (via Express) Lorde said she now hates the song — well, her version of it, at least.
“I listen to people covering the song and putting their own spin on it, and I listen to it in every single form except the original one I put out and I realize that actually, it sounds horrible,” Lorde shared, adding, “It sounds like a ringtone from a 2006 Nokia. None of the melodies are cool or good. It’s disastrous. Awful … but for some reason, in the context of the way I released it, it just worked out.”
Lorde felt the same way when talking about “Royals” to The Music in 2014, sharing, “I understand why it worked and why it was kind of a hit, I can see those qualities in it, but at the same time there’s part of me that’s like … these melodies are just not as good as something I could have written now.”
Mandy Moore can't stand her teen pop days
Most people who grew up in the ’90s will remember when Mandy Moore was the definition of a bubblegum pop star before she became an acclaimed actor on NBC’s drama “This Is Us.” Moore was among pop star contemporaries Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson, and released her hit “Candy” off her debut album “So Real” in 1999. The singer-turned-actor released a total of seven studio albums, but no song was as successful as “Candy,” which debuted on the No. 41 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Looking back at her pop albums, Moore told Glamour magazine (via Chicago Tribune), “If I had the money, I would give a refund to everyone who bought my first two albums. Whenever people ask, ‘Which of your albums should I listen to?’ I say, ‘Nothing but ‘Coverage’ [an album of cover songs]. Burn the rest!'” Moore continued trashing her back catalog on “The Late Late Show” in 2016, telling James Corden she also despised having to dance in the music video for “Candy,” calling it “abysmal,” and adding, “I think the powers that be, very early on, realized … ‘You know what, you should just have background dancers.'”
Liam Gallagher used to hate performing Oasis' smash song
Former Oasis co-frontman Liam Gallagher has a love/hate relationship with the song that made the British rock band a worldwide success. The 1995 hit song “Wonderwall,” off of the band’s album “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?,” found itself at No. 8 on the Billboard Top 100, and since its release, has racked up “one billion streams on Spotify,” according to Headliner. Despite the song’s ubiquity, Gallagher hates it. While promoting his solo album, “Dig Out Your Soul,” he told WENN (via RadioX). “At least there’s no “Wonderwall” on there. I can’t f***ing stand that f***ing song! Every time I have to sing it I want to gag.” He continued, “Problem is, it was a big, big tune for us. You go to America and they’re like, ‘Are you Mr. Wonderwall?’ You want to chin someone.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Gallagher expressed a somewhat cynical change of heart about performing the song, since he realizes how much people love it. “I love playing [‘Wonderwall’] now. The minute you don’t, everyone clicks off. People pay f***ing good money, and you should give ’em what you got. The song is bigger than us.'”
Interestingly enough, Gallagher’s co-frontman and notoriously estranged brother, Noel Gallagher, offered his own cynical agreement with Liam’s hatred of the track, telling SPIN, “Well, I hate him singing it, too. Liam doesn’t sound like he did ten years ago.” Yikes.
Miley Cyrus evolved to hate this hit
There is no doubt that Miley Cyrus’ 2009 song “Party in the U.S.A.” is one of her biggest hits. It peaked at No.2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and remained on the chart for a whopping 28 weeks. The bop even made RIAA Diamond certification, meaning it went ten times platinum. It’s a certification that has only been given out to a handful of artists in the history of the RIAA.
Despite the accolades she received for dance tune, Cyrus expressed her extreme distaste for “Party in the U.S.A” in a 2019 Twitter video, in which she declares, “I hate it, but for some reason the people love it.” However, when speaking to V magazine years before, Cyrus did share that she wasn’t regretful of the song, it just wasn’t who she was as an artist. “I can never say that I don’t love ‘Party in the U.S.A.’ and that I’m not appreciative of it. It would be like my dad [Billy Ray Cyrus] saying that he hated ‘Achy Breaky.’ It’s what gives you everything that you have. I would never take it back,” Cyrus said, while also adding that the song’s sound is no longer her style.
“That’s not who I am, that’s not where I want to sing, that’s not what I want to sing, and that’s not what I want my voice to sound like, because you can’t hear me through there,” she said.
Lady Gaga couldn't stand the making of this epic collab
Lady Gaga’s 2010 song “Telephone” which featured Beyonce, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and when its colorful, nine-minute long music video dropped, it took less than a week to rack up 15 million views, per ABC News. At the time, Lady Gaga told E! (via ABC News) about the meaning behind the music video, which featured the songstress in prison, and later teaming up with Beyonce to poison the food of diner patrons. “What I really wanted to do with this video is take a decidedly pop song, which on the surface has a quite shallow meaning, and turn it into something deeper.”
However, in 2011 chat with Pop Justice, Lady Gaga threw ultimate the shade at the track. “I hate ‘Telephone,’ the singer revealed, adding, “Is that terrible to say? It’s the song I have the most difficult time listening to.” She clarified her answer by stating that “getting the production finished was very stressful,” adding, “So when I say it’s my worst song it has nothing to do with the song, just my emotional connection to it.
That same year, Gaga told Time Out (via The New York Times) that she couldn’t even face watching her music video anymore, stating, “All I see in that video is my brain throbbing with ideas and I wish I had edited myself a little bit more.”
Selena Gomez wasn't a huge fan of her breakout song
Selena Gomez showed her fans a totally different and more personal side when she released her 2020 album “Rare,” which featured the ballad, “Lose You to Love Me,” a song that many believed was about the end of her high-profile relationship with Justin Bieber. According to the WSJ Magazine, it “became the first song ever to go No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, and Rolling Stone charts simultaneously.”
However, Gomez wasn’t always given full rein over her music. In fact, she stated that her pop hit “Come & Get It” was “not her personality,” also telling WSJ Magazine, “There was a lot of putting my music together for me, and I didn’t have much control … The lyrics are, ‘When you’re ready, come and get it.’ I would never say that!” Gomez also told Entertainment Weekly while breaking down the songs from her “Revival” album that “Come & Get It” sounded more like a “Rihanna reject” and that the hit was “not my song.” She did add an important caveat, however, saying, “I was so young. I was wanting a hit: ‘I don’t know if I need a hit, but maybe I do so people can respect me?’ I’m grateful what [‘Come & Get It’] did for me, so it’d be stupid not to acknowledge it.”
The smash track that became an embarrassment for Kurt Cobain
The massive success of Nirvana’s song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” made the alternative rock band and the late Kurt Cobain a household name. The 1991 hit exploded on the radio and MTV’s “120 Minutes” host Dave Kendall recalled that the song “was gutsy and heavy and authentic, and that’s what changed the landscape. Nirvana opened people’s eyes.” However the song’s immense popularity became draining for Cobain, so much so that he admitted to Rolling Stone in 1994 that he was even “embarrassed” to play it.
“Everyone has focused on that song so much. The reason it gets a big reaction is people have seen it on MTV a million times. It’s been pounded into their brains. But I think there are so many other songs that I’ve written that are as good, if not better, than that song, like ‘Drain You.’ That’s definitely as good as ‘Teen Spirit.’ I love the lyrics, and I never get tired of playing it. Maybe if it was as big as ‘Teen Spirit,’ I wouldn’t like it as much,” Cobain shared, adding, “I literally want to throw my guitar down and walk away. I can’t pretend to have a good time playing it.”
Cobain also shared to Rolling Stone that he was “beyond” being “embarrassed” by the track, adding that once it went “mainstream, it was over.”
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