Don’t Stop Believin’, Baby Got Back, Poison and more old songs that have been driven into the ground.
I was at karaoke recently. Someone got up to sing and picked Bon Jovi’s You Give Love a Bad Name. I decided to take a bathroom break. Not because that song doesn’t jam as hard as it did when it was released like three decades ago. It still holds up today. Almost too well. Which is why people took it, turned it into a modern staple… and burned it into the ground.
You Give Love a Bad Name gets honorable mention as the inspiration for this list. The rest of these are songs from previous decades that found new life after the year 2000 — often because of TV or movies, but sometimes through just general nostalgia cycles — and managed to become overplayed decades after they were hits.
This list is by no means conclusive — I left another good 11 on the cutting room floor — but these are my picks for the biggest. Through no fault of their own, here are the 11 classic songs got played out by a brand new generation…
1 | Journey, Don’t Stop Believin’ (1981)
The Sopranos whacked it, Glee finished the job by doing jazz hands on its grave.
2 | Sir Mix-a-Lot, Baby Got Back (1992)
This one was killed by white people. The reason: It’s the most impressive rap song that 95 percent of white people know by heart. 95 percent also know Ice Ice Baby and Just a Friend but neither is as impressive — Biz Markie raps too slow and lamely; and knowing Vanilla Ice by heart is like being proud of your basketball skills because everyone compares you to Jack Sikma.
3 | Neil Diamond, Sweet Caroline (1969)
I refuse to give the horrible Red Sox fans the satisfaction of blaming its oversaturation and played-outedness on their Fenway “tradition.” Because that “tradition” didn’t start until the 2000s. Come on. Professional hockey in Phoenix is a longer-standing tradition than Sweet Caroline at Red Sox games.
No, what killed Sweet Caroline was when bars figured out if they played it, all the drunk people would sing the “bum bum bum” part and the “so good, SO GOOD, so good” part. That must be good for business, because the Sweet Caroline-in-a-bar trend spread like a zombie infection.
4 | Blue Oyster Cult, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (1976)
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper was changed forever in April of 2000, when Christopher Walken hosted Saturday Night Live and Will Ferrell started dancing around in a belly shirt playing a cowbell. From that point on, Blue Oyster Cult was played at sporting events, bars, parties and box socials around the entire world on a loop — and every time, people would shout “More cowbell!” And even if someone doesn’t… when you listen now, it’s impossible not to fixate on the cowbell.
5 | Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah (1984) / Jeff Buckley, Hallelujah (1994)
It’s a very melodramatic song. One of the most melodramatic ever, in fact. Which is why every movie and TV show commissioned it to jerk tears in the past decade. The first I can remember is Shrek ten years ago, and damn near everyone’s hopped on the bandwagon since. The result, of course, is that it’s lost its soul in the fragmentation. We Horcruxed Hallelujah.
6 | Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sweet Home Alabama (1974)
Hurts to say this, but facts be facts. First, Sweet Home Alabama started getting blasted all over the country as it was gradually bastardized into a general feel-good Americana song. Then it was the title of a Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy. And, of course, Kid Rock handily took care of hammering the final nail into its oversaturation coffin.
7 | Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On (1973)
Went from arguably the sexiest sex song of all sex-time to a cliche. The first time it showed up in a comedy as two characters made pre-boning eye contact it was funny. Then it happened eight billion more times. Now when a sex scene is about to start and you hear “Bow bow bow bow / I’ve been really tryyyyyyyyin’ baby” it’s played out.
8 | The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again (1971)
It has become impossible to take off your sunglasses while making a lame, overdramatic pun without punctuating it with the initial shrieking “Yeaaaaaaah!” of this song.
9 | Stevie Wonder, Isn’t She Lovely (1976)
This one was overplayed completely by American Idol. This song gets both lovingly done and savagely pillaged each and every season by various contestants. While Celine, Mariah and Whitney are held up as sacred cows in the Idol universe, Stevie is looked at as completely attainable. And no one can really channel the proper emotion for a song about the birth of a child like a 19-year-old virgin who just left his role as Pippin in theater camp to audition for a reality show.
10 | Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart (1983)
Two things made Total Eclipse become ubiquitous in the past decade. One: YouTube, which allowed us all to see its comically over-the-top video. (What ARE the dancing ninjas and swim team doing in that house?) And two: Of course, thanks to Old School, everyone wants to sing along and say, “I see the fuckin’ look in your eyes.”
11 | Bell Biv DeVoe, Poison (1990)
Made a very real transition from “’90s hip-hop classic” to “a song that grandma dances to at a wedding while everyone cheers and laughs.” Poison is now like the hip-hop Hava Nagila.