RADIOHEAD, "CREEP" (1992)
Thom Yorke had a nickname for the breakthrough smash he wrote while a student at Exeter University in 1987: “Crap.” Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood admitted he considered the song “wimpy” even as they were recording it, and played a trio of loud distorted guitar hits as a joke to sabotage the song. “That’s the sound of Jonny trying to f— the song up,” band member Ed O’Brien once explained. “He really didn’t like it the first time we played it, so he tried spoiling it.” Rather than ruining it, it added a menacing edge to the otherwise gentle verse, and the sweet and sour blend helped vault it to the top of the charts.
“Creep” became a mainstay of the band’s set for much of the mid-‘90s, but by the time they toured their 1997 album OK Computer, they had grown to loathe performing it. When the crowd in Montréal shouted requests for it, Yorke responded by saying, “F— off, we’re tired of it!” They went seven years without performing the song live, before dusting it off in 2016 for their tour promoting their album A Moon Shaped Pool. Yorke’s attitude towards the song has softened—somewhat.
“It can be cool sometimes, but other times I want to stop halfway through and be like, ‘Nah, this isn’t happening,'” he told Rolling Stone in 2017.
LED ZEPPELIN, "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN" (1971)
“I’d break out in hives if I had to sing that song in every show,” Robert Plant told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. “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.”
The Led Zeppelin shouter’s view of “Stairway to Heaven”—which he dismissively dubbed “that bloody wedding song”— had not improved by 2002, when he pledged a donation to a Portland radio station who announced a ban on the track. Zeppelin were famously reluctant to reform following the death of their drummer, John Bonham, in 1980, and Plant’s hatred of the song is cited as a major division between him and the band’s guitarist and composer, Jimmy Page.
When they did manage to come together for a one-off reunion in 2007, Plant refused to close the show with “Stairway to Heaven”—sticking it in the middle of the set—and demanded that Page “restrain himself from turning the song into an even more epic solo-filled noodle.”
MADONNA, "LIKE A VIRGIN" (1984)
The Queen of Pop has racked up an astonishing 49 Top 40 hits over the course of her unparalleled career, but some of her early chart entries grate on her. “I’m not sure I can sing ‘Holiday’ or ‘Like a Virgin’ ever again,” she admitted during a 2008 interview with New York’s Z100 Radio. “I just can’t, unless somebody paid me, like, $30 million or something.”
Not only won’t she sing them—she doesn’t even want to hear them. In an interview the following year, Madonna opened up about the awkward experience of hearing her own music in the wild. “For some reason people think that when you go to a restaurant or you are going shopping that you want to hear one of your own songs. It’s usually ‘Like a Virgin’ and that is the one I don’t want to hear.”
Despite her protestations, Madonna performed both during 2016’s Rebel Heart tour.
OASIS, "WONDERWALL" (1995)
The famously outspoken Liam Gallagher did not hold his tongue when asked his feelings on “Wonderwall,” his band’s 1995 transatlantic smash.
“I can’t f—ing stand that f—ing song!” he told MTV in 2008. “Every time I have to sing it I want to gag. You go to America, and they’re like: ‘Are you Mr. Wonderwall?’ You want to chin [hit] someone.”
Elsewhere in the interview, he revealed what he liked best about the band’s (ultimately final) album, Dig Out Your Soul: “At least there’s no ‘Wonderwall’ on there.” Though Liam is famously at odds with his brother, Noel, they do share similarly tepid feelings when it comes to “Wonderwall.”
When asked about it on a UK radio program in May, the elder Gallagher brother admitted, “I don’t particularly like that song — I think ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ is a far superior song.”
MILEY CYRUS, "PARTY IN THE U.S.A." (2009)
Though it’s a pop masterwork for the ages, Cyrus admitted that her role in choosing the Jessie J-penned track was minimal.
“Honestly, I picked that song because I needed something to go with my clothing line,” she said in an interview with the website MileyWorld not long after the song was released. “I didn’t write it [and] I didn’t expect it to be popular, originally. It was just something that I wanted to do and I needed some songs and it turned out for the best.”
She later admitted that pop music wasn’t something she blasted in her free time. “I listen to zero pop music, which is really weird for someone who makes pop music. My 13-year-old self would have beaten up my 17-year-old self because she would be like, ‘You’re a sellout!'”
By 2011, she was so over the song that, during a private party in Chicago, she asked DJ Kiss to play any of her own songs except “Party in the U.S.A.”! But she clarified the apparent hate in a 2013 V interview. “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 [country crossover star Billy Ray Cyrus] saying that he hated ‘Achy Breaky [Heart]’… I would never take it back. But 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.”
BEASTIE BOYS, "(YOU GOTTA) FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT (TO PARTY)" (1986)
The wiseass New York City rap trio intended the cut off their groundbreaking debut, License to Ill, to be a sarcastic comment on dumb, frat boy hedonism, but the subtly was lost on many listeners, who took the parody at face value as a party anthem.
This misinterpretation left a bad taste in the band’s mouth, and they sought to distance themselves from their hit. “The only thing that upsets me is that we might have reinforced certain values of some people in our audience when our own values were actually totally different,” Michael “Mike D” Diamond commented later. “There were tons of guys singing along to ‘Fight for Your Right’ who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them.”
The band was less articulate—and more blunt—in the liner notes to their 1999 greatest hits album, The Sounds of Science, in which they said their breakthrough hit “sucks.”
LADY GAGA (FT. BEYONCÉ), "TELEPHONE" (2009)
Most artists would be pretty pumped just to sing the phonebook with Queen Bey, but Lady Gaga isn’t a fan of her 2009 collaboration with the Destiny’s Child icon.
“I hate ‘Telephone.’ Is that terrible to say? It’s the song I have the most difficult time listening to,” she told Pop Justice in 2011, but she later clarified that it had nothing to do with the actual quality of the song. “Ultimately the mix and the process of getting the production finished was very stressful for me. So when I say it’s my worst song it has nothing to do with the song, just my emotional connection to it.”
Later in the interview, she admitted that the song she’d “skip” would probably be “Money Honey.”
Though the epic video starring the pair of pop divas made a huge splash when it was first released in 2010, Mother Monster says it failed to live up to her creative expectations. “I can’t even watch the ‘Telephone’ video, I hate it so much,” she told Time Out London in 2011. “Beyoncé and I are great together, but there are so many f—ing ideas in that video and all I see in that video is my brain throbbing with ideas. I wish I had edited myself a little bit more.”
NEIL YOUNG, "HEART OF GOLD" (1972)
Initially famed for his tenure in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the iconoclastic Canadian troubadour achieved solo superstardom on the AM Top 40 radio front with this loping country-tinged track from his 1972 masterpiece, Harvest.
Meeting industry expectations was never Young’s idea of an ideal career, and by the middle of the ‘70s he’d ceased performing the song live. Instead of capitalizing on its popularity, he spent the remainder of the decade (and some would say career) confounding fans by releasing challenging tracks that spanned genres.
When assembling his greatest hits collection, Decade, he labeled “Heart of Gold” a “bore” and explained his complicated relationship with it. “This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I met more interesting people there.”
R.E.M., "SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE" (1991)
The alt-rock heroes were never the sunniest of bands, and when their record company asked them for a happy, up-tempo pop track to include on 1991’s Out of Time, they responded with this saccharine number with the belief that it would be immediately rejected.
Unfortunately for them, the plan backfired and the song became a successful single.
“I hate that song,” Stipe said in a 1995 episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. Granted, it was a comedy show, but Stipe held a similar opinion in a more serious 2003 interview. “I wouldn’t say I’m embarrassed by the song but it has limited appeal for me…I never bad-mouth. I try never to say anything bad about the songs that I don’t particularly like. Because there might be someone out there who hears that to whom that song means everything, to whom that song represents something in their life which is essential and I don’t want to take that from them.”
Still, the band as a group decided to leave “Shiny Happy People” off their 2003 greatest hits album, In Time. “It’s a fruity pop song written for children. It just is what it is,” Stipe told the BBC’s Andrew Marr in 2016. “If there was one song that was sent into outer space to represent R.E.M. for the rest of time, I would not want it to be Shiny Happy People.”
MANDY MOORE, "CANDY" (1999)
With the recent success of her role on This Is Us, it’s easy to forget that Moore first burst onto the world stage in 1999 with the teen bubblegum confection, “Candy.”
The hit single off her platinum-selling album So Real was followed up by the gold-selling I Wanna Be with You the next year. As her acting career began to take off, she took a harsher look back at her early musical efforts.
“Ugh, those were awful–just awful!” she told Glamour in 2006. “If I had the money, I would give a refund to everyone who bought my first two albums.”
WARRANT, "CHERRY PIE" (1990)
Jani Lane may have ended up marrying Bobbie Brown, the stunning model in the “Cherry Pie” music video, but that didn’t make him like the song any better.
Apparently he wrote it in response to a record executive’s request for a rock anthem to include on the band’s upcoming album. Lane busted “Cherry Pie” out in just 15 minutes, scrawling the lyrics on a pizza box (which is now part of the Hard Rock memorabilia archive).
The label knew a hit when they heard it, and adjusted the record accordingly. “The whole marketing and everything for that record changed,” said guitarist Joey Allen. “It was definitely driven by the label and not the band.”
Lane quickly resented being known as “the Cherry Pie guy” far and wide. “I hate that song. I had no intention of writing that song. I could shoot myself in the f—ing head for writing that song,” the late rocker recalled during a 2006 episode of VH1’s HEAVY: The Story Of Metal.
He later insisted that the producers “just caught me on a bad day” and he actually had no (or at least significantly less) ill will towards the song.
FRANK SINATRA, "STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT" (1966)
Ol’ Blue Eyes was more than two decades into his career when he recorded this lush ballad, giving him his first No. 1 song in 11 years. Even so, he considered it “a piece of s—” and “the worst f—ing song I’ve ever heard”—and he sometimes said as much mid-concert when obliged to perform it.
“If you like that song, you must be crazy about pineapple yogurt,” he hissed at a crowd one night. When they still roared their approval, he shook his head in disbelief.
Often he would butcher the lyrics for his own amusement (“Wond’ring in the night, just where my pants is…” was a favorite alteration). Occasionally he could be seen mouthing “I hate that song” as he took in the rapturous applause it brought. Once, at a Las Vegas casino, he told a hapless bandleader that he’d “stick that violin bow up where the sun don’t shine” if he dared play the song once more in his presence.
Over the years, Sinatra took a perverse pleasure in telling crowds just how much it pained him to sing “Strangers in the Night.”
—“Yeah, here’s a song that I cannot stand. I just cannot stand this song, but what the hell.” (Israel, 1975)
—“The worst f—ing song I’ve ever heard.” (Dominican Republic, 1982)
—“Here’s a song, the first time I heard Don Costa played it for me some years ago. I hated it! I hated this goddamn song the first I’ve heard it. And I still hate it! So sue me, shoot bullets through me. Shoot.” (New York City, 1990)
—“This is a song that I absolutely detested the first time I heard it. And strangely enough I keep saying to myself, ‘Why are you still singing this song?’” (Foxwoods Casino, 1993)
“Yes, he said it many times, he was not a fan of the song,” Charles Pignone, SVP of Frank Sinatra Enterprises, said in an interview with Song Facts. “But this is that innate ability of Frank of knowing what the audience wanted. He would do that again in concert, it would come in and out of his repertoire and a lot of times he would joke with the lyrics. He would say, ‘I hate this song, I detest this song,’ but he would do it because the people wanted to hear it.”