Musicians Who Hated Their Own Hit Songs
Fans may love these songs, but the artists who made them certainly don't.
While every musician has to be pleased with the amount of money that can be made from having a hit song, sometimes they aren’t exactly thrilled with the song itself. Whether it’s because they’ve simply played — and heard — the song too many times or because it was the product of record-company meddling rather than genuine artistry, sometimes an act’s most popular song is one they’d rather distance themselves from.
There have been plenty of famous musicians who’ve trashed their own hit songs in interviews over the years. We’ve rounded up some of the best examples in what you might call a “greatest misses” collection, according to the artists themselves, at least.
Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
Song He Hates: “Stairway to Heaven”
Perhaps the most-played song in the history of classic-rock radio, Led Zeppelin’s epic, “Stairway to Heaven,” isn’t exactly a favorite of Robert Plant. The singer has been quoted dismissing the number as “that wedding song,” and he’s been reluctant to perform it live since the 1980s.
The pressure to do “Stairway to Heaven” is undoubtedly one of many reasons Plant has turned down lucrative offers for a Led Zeppelin reunion over the years. Once, when Plant donated $1,000 to a public radio station in Portland after he heard a DJ say that if he got enough donations, he’d never play “Stairway” on air again.
Song She Hates: “Sometimes”
This one hurts for all us ’90s kids. In 2004, pop princess Britney Spears threw some shade on one of her signature ballads, “Sometimes.” While performing as part of her infamous Onyx Hotel Tour, the singer was caught on a hot microphone bashing that 1999 hit. Toward the end of the performance, she was heard saying, “I have to go? I haven’t even sung ‘Sometimes’ yet … I never liked that song anyway!”
Ouch, there goes your warm nostalgia.
Song She Hates: “Like A Virgin”
Here’s one that will sting for any ’80s kids: The Queen of Pop has taken a baseball bat to some of her early music over the years, including her massive signature hit, 1984’s “Like A Virgin.”
In 2008, the singer said, “I’m not sure I can sing ‘Holiday’ or ‘Like a Virgin’ ever again.” She added that she’d only do it if “somebody paid me like $30 million or something.” Despite that claim, she has continued to perform it during her tours since then. And it’s not just that immortal song Madonna has ripped. She’s even dismissed her 1983, self-titled debut album as nothing but aerobics music.
Song He Hates: “Heart of Gold”
It might not be fair to say Neil Young hates his 1972 track, “Heart of Gold,” but he at least hates what it did to his career after it became such a massive hit.
The song remains the only No. 1 hit of Young’s legendary career, and he once wrote that it “put me in the middle of the road.” Young continued, “Traveling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch.”
It’s probably safe to say he doesn’t hate the untold riches he’s made from that tune alone, though.
Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders)
Song She Hates: “Brass in Pocket”
Similar to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” if you ask most people to name any song by The Pretenders, they’ll probably give you “Brass in Pocket.” But the band’s frontwoman — and co-writer of the song — didn’t think the tune was so “special.”
“I never thought it was that great,” Hynde has been quoted as saying about the hit single. She added that she was “mortified” when she heard it blasting out of people’s radios in 1980. The song was a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and peaked at No. 14 in America.
Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)
Song He Hates: “Shiny Happy People”
In 1991, the critically acclaimed rockers in R.E.M. released “Shiny Happy People,” which would be the band’s final top-10 hit in the U.S. But singer and co-writer Michael Stipe doesn’t have much respect for the tune.
In a 2016 interview with the BBC, Stipe called “Shiny Happy People” a “fruity pop song written for children.” The musician went on to say, “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.'”
Songs He Hates: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World”
Singer and songwriter Bob Geldof is known for being blunt, and he has lived up to that reputation when describing two of the most well-known songs he contributed to. Geldof co-wrote and sang on 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and then sang as part of the A-list group that performed 1985’s “We Are the World.”
Both songs were done for charitable causes, but Geldof has ripped each, calling them “two of the worst songs in history.” Of his famous holiday number, Geldof once complained that he hears it playing at the supermarket “every f—ing Christmas.”
John Lennon (The Beatles)
Songs He Hated: “Let It Be” & “Hello Goodbye”
John Lennon was one of the most outspoken musicians ever, so it should come as no surprise that there were several Beatles hits that he couldn’t stand. One of those was 1967’s “Hello Goodbye,” which Lennon said he had no involvement with, and that it “wasn’t a great piece,” and was Paul McCartney’s “attempt to write a single.”
Lennon also slammed what is arguably his bandmates’ most beloved Beatles composition, “Let It Be,” saying, “I don’t know what he’s thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be./ Nothing to do with the Beatles; it could’ve been Wings,” referring to McCartney’s post-Beatles band.
Song She Hated: “Candy” (and a bunch of others)
In 1999, way before she was the star of NBC’s “This Is Us,” Mandy Moore was a teen pop star and, looking back, she has some regrets about her old music. Moore has slammed her breakthrough hit, “Candy,” many times over the years, telling Howard Stern in 2018 that she has no clue what the lyrics mean.
In 2006, she even went so far as to say she regretted her entire first two albums.
“Those were awful,” Moore said of the records. “If I had the money, I would give a refund to everyone who bought my first two albums.”
Jani Lane (Warrant)
Song He Hated: “Cherry Pie”
When you think of the late ’80s hair-metal group Warrant, there’s virtually no way the song “Cherry Pie” doesn’t come to mind. The 1990 track was a massive hit for the group and for its singer and songwriter, Jani Lane.
The man behind the sleazy track later ripped it in the media, saying, “I hate that song.” Lane was disappointed that it would be the track that he’d be remembered for. “I’m the ‘Cherry Pie’ guy. I could shoot myself in the f—ing head for writing that song.”
In a cruel bit of fate that he saw coming, when Lane died in 2011, many of the obituaries mentioned “Cherry Pie” as his top achievement.
Song He Hated: “Strangers in the Night”
I don’t know about you, but Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” is one of my go-to karaoke songs. But if Sinatra himself was waiting to perform on a drunken night at the bar, it’s probably the last song he would’ve chosen. The legendary singer’s disdain for this 1966 smash hit has been well documented, with him allegedly calling it “a piece of s–t.” He performed it live many times, much to the delight of fans, but could often be seen mouthing obscenities to his band after it was over.
Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
Song He Hated: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Another case of a band’s biggest hit being the target of ire from its writer was Nirvana’s 1991 smash “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The song launched grunge music into the mainstream and made Nirvana overnight heroes of MTV and radio. But singer and co-writer Kurt Cobain didn’t love the track.
In 1994, he told Rolling Stone that he felt people only liked it so much because it was “pounded into their brains.” He added, “There are so many other songs that I’ve written that are as good, if not better, than that song.” The late musician said he’d gotten to the point where he hated performing it.
Song She Hates: “Put Your Hearts Up”
Pop powerhouse Ariana Grande seems to be in full control of her music and image these days, but that wasn’t the case when she was first getting started. Grande’s first single, 2011’s Put Your Hearts Up,” is a sore subject for the singer, who has since said she hates the track.
“It was geared toward kids and felt so inauthentic and fake,” Grande told Rolling Stone in 2014. She described shooting the song’s music video as “the worst moment of my life.”
Song She Hates: “Royals”
In 2013, a New Zealand teen named Lorde burst onto the mainstream music scene after the huge success of the song “Royals.” Lorde, who co-write the track, has since gone on record ripping it — at least, her own performance of it.
“It’s disastrous,” Lorde said of the song in 2014. “It sounds horrible … none of the melodies are cool or good.” She went on to say that she prefers listening to covers of “Royals” by other artists, rather than her own, original take on it.
Pete Townshend (The Who)
Song He Hates: “Pinball Wizard”
The Who’s 1969 track “Pinball Wizard” will likely always be remembered as one of the most powerhouse rock songs ever recorded, but not if you ask Pete Townshend, who wrote it. In 1996, Townshend blasted the hit track, calling it, “awful” and “the most clumsy piece of writing I’ve ever done.”
Despite Townshend’s disdain for “Pinball Wizard,” the song has gone down as arguably his band’s signature tune, as they even used it to open their Super Bowl halftime show performance in 2010.
Ann Wilson (Heart)
Song She Hates: “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You”
Heart is mostly known for tough rockers like “Barracuda” and “Crazy On You,” but the soft 1990 track “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” is, arguably, the band’s biggest hit.
Regardless of its status as a pop success, singer Ann Wilson has expressed her hatred of the track, refusing to perform it live any longer. She’s called the song “disgusting,” “gross” and “pretty dark and negative.” Nancy Wilson, Heart’s guitarist and Ann’s sister, wrote in 1995 that the song “stood for everything we wanted to get away from.”
Brian May (Queen)
Song He Hates: “Don’t Stop Me Now”
“Hate” may be a strong word in this case, but Queen guitarist Brian May certainly wasn’t a fan of his band’s 1979 hit, “Don’t Stop Me Now,” at the time they recorded it. May has said that the track, which was written by Freddie Mercury, worried him because its lyrics seemed to celebrate Mercury’s hedonistic lifestyle, which May described as “dangerous.” He said he thought the track was “a lot of fun,” but it became even harder to enjoy after Mercury’s death, caused by AIDS, in 1991.
Song He Hates: “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Here’s an example of an artist not being thrilled by a cover version of one of their songs that turned into a big hit. Bruce Springsteen’s own song, 1973’s “Blinded by the Light,” was famously covered by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1976.
The band’s version became a No. 1 hit — the only song ever written by Springsteen to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart — but the songwriter wasn’t a fan. The Boss took particular umbrage at the fact that in Manfred Mann’s version, the word “deuce” clearly sounds like “douche.”
“One version is about a car, the other is about a feminine hygiene product,” Springsteen said of the cover. “Guess which the kids liked to shout more?”
Song He Hates: “Beauty and a Beat”
He’s one of the most successful pop artists in recent history, but Justin Bieber isn’t a fan of all his own hits. In 2016, the singer revealed that he didn’t like the 2012 song “Beauty and a Beat,” which saw him collaborating with rapper Nicki Minaj. Bieber had no problem working with Minaj, he just apparently wasn’t feeling the track.
“I never really liked ‘Beauty and a Beat,'” the singer said. “It was music that was popular at that time but I was never really a huge fan of that song.”
Thom Yorke (Radiohead)
Song He Hates: “Creep”
In 1992, Radiohead launched into the mainstream with their debut single, “Creep.” While co-writer and singer Thom Yorke obviously has a lot to be thankful for due to the track’s success, he also came to resent it because it left him feeling trapped. Yorke has referred to the song by the alternate title, “Crap,” for years and has said its success nearly led to Radiohead’s breakup.
“It was frustrating, being judged on just that song when we felt we needed to move on,” Yorke once said. “It gagged us, really.” The band has almost entirely stopped playing the song live.
Ronnie James Dio (Dio)
Song He Hated: “Rainbow in the Dark”
When casual fans think of Dio — the ’80s metal band fronted by late Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio — chances are, “Rainbow in the Dark” is the first song that comes to mind. The 1983 track was a decent hit for the band and continues to be played on classic-rock radio today. But Dio himself was against the song ever being included on the band’s debut album, “Holy Diver.”
Dio allegedly disliked “Rainbow in the Dark” because he thought it sounded too “poppy.” Thankfully, his bandmates talked him out of cutting it.
Liam Gallagher (Oasis)
Song He Hates: “Wonderwall”
Another one of the most outspoken rockers in history, Oasis singer Liam Gallagher has had no issue ripping his band’s most beloved single, 1995’s “Wonderwall.” When promoting the band’s 2008 album, “Dig Out Your Soul,” Gallagher revealed that he wants to “gag” every time he has to sing the hit song, which was written by his brother, Noel Gallagher.
Of the new album, Liam Gallagher said, “At least there’s no ‘Wonderwall’ on there. I can’t f—ing stand that f—ing song!”
Song She Hates: “Party in the U.S.A.”
It seems like it’s hard for artists to love their most popular hits! Miley Cyrus can certainly relate. The former Disney Channel star’s highest-charting single of her music career so far has been 2009’s “Party in the U.S.A.” — and she’d probably be OK never hearing it again.
In 2011, when the singer was at a club in Chicago for a party, she requested the DJ play some of her own songs. Her only specific request? Anything but “Party in the U.S.A.”
Song They Hated: “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”
The Beastie Boys’ 1986 track, “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” is one of those that everyone loves — except for the artists themselves, that is. The New York hip-hop group wrote the song as a satire, parodying what would today be called “bro culture” and the guys who take part in it.
Unfortunately, the satire got lost in translation and people took it as a song honoring the people they were making fun of. The guys quit performing the song live and even went so far as to call it “s–t” in the liner notes for a greatest-hits album.
Song She Hates: “Come & Get It”
Here’s another instance of a young artist being disappointed to look back on a track from their early days in the music business. For Selena Gomez, that song is 2013’s “Come & Get It,” which was her first top-10 hit. Gomez has had some harsh things to say about the song in 2016, going so far as to say it “sounds like a Rihanna reject.” Ouch!
“I was so young, I was wanting a hit,” Gomez said of the track. Despite slamming the song’s sound, she did say she is “grateful” for what “Come & Get It” did for her career.
Song She Hates: “Give Your Heart a Break”
Another young pop star who is tired of some of her early work is Demi Lovato. The outspoken singer has contemplated retiring some of her old songs from live performances but has resisted doing so because she knows there are fans that love them. One such song is 2012’s “Give Your Heart a Break.” Of the tune, Lovato said in 2016 that she was “tired of singing” it.
“I don’t care about radio hits,” she said of songs like it and “Confident,” which she also said she was already sick of performing.
Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)
Song He Hates: “The Perfect Drug”
Here’s another case where “hate” may be a strong word, but there is certainly a healthy disdain for the 1997 Nine Inch Nails song “The Perfect Drug” from frontman Trent Reznor. The performer, who also wrote the song, has said that he wouldn’t even place it in the “top 100 songs” he’s written.
“I’m not cringing about it but it’s not my favorite piece,” Reznor told BBC Radio in 2005. Reznor blames his dislike for the song on the time crunch that came for writing and recording a song for a movie, which is what “The Perfect Drug” was done for.
Song He Hates: “Gold Digger”
Rapper Kanye West has had a lot of great songs over the years, but “Gold Digger” could arguably be called his signature hit. The 2005 track soared to No. 1 and won him a Grammy Award — but that doesn’t mean it’s one of his favorites. In a 2013 interview with BBC Radio, West said he knew the song would be successful but that he didn’t care much for it.
“I never really liked that song, but I knew I would get paid for doing ‘Gold Digger,'” he said.
Song He Hates: “You’re Beautiful”
Singer James Blunt had a massive hit with the 2005 track, “You’re Beautiful,” which sounds like a saccharine love song but the man himself says is not. Blunt has since called the song “annoying” and that it was “force-fed down people’s throats” by radio stations. He also blames the song for making people think he’s sentimental and self-serious, although the song itself is actually about a man who is high on drugs and stalking a girl who has a boyfriend.
“‘Oh, James Blunt. Isn’t he just a soft romantic?'” the singer-songwriter rhetorically asked in an interview, talking about people’s perceptions because of “You’re Beautiful.” “F— that. No, I’m not!”
Song She Hates: “Both Sides Now” by Judy Collins
Similar to Bruce Springsteen’s anecdote, legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell once had serious issues with a recording of one of her songs that became a massive hit. In 1968, singer Judy Collins recorded “Both Sides Now,” a song Mitchell wrote and wouldn’t record herself until 1969.
Collins had a big hit with the song, but Mitchell allegedly hated her version of the track, which is much more upbeat than the writer’s own.