Picture this. It’s a good day. You’re feeling nostalgic. So, you put on one of your old playlists. You made it a while back, so you want to see what songs you were into years ago. It starts out great. That nostalgia itch is scratched. But then, the next song begins to play, and you cringe. A song that seemed fine long ago now feels tainted and gross. Do you have the song in mind? What is it?
There’s nothing worse than hearing a song that you didn’t think much of at the time suddenly taking on a darker form. Today, I’m going to explore a few songs that seemed fine at the time, but now they’ve aged badly. This could be for controversial reasons or simply because it stuck to a trend that is now cringy to look back on. Let’s dive in.
1)“Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” – Aaliyah
I mean….do I really have to explain? Okay, okay, I will for people not in the know. At the time of recording “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” for her debut album of the same name, Aaliyah was just 14 and she was allegedly dating R. Kelly at the time, who was 12 years her senior. The line is meant to dismiss the age difference between the two.
Now, for those who aren’t familiar with Robert (R) Kelly’s story, it’s a whole can of worms we don’t need to get into all here. But to summarize, R. Kelly was convicted of three counts of producing child pornography and three counts of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity. One of those counts comes from his confession of having “underage sexual contact” with the late R&B singer Aaliyah. Kelly's confession comes nearly three decades after the pair were alleged to have been married in an illegal ceremony when Kelly was 27 and Aaliyah was 15. So…yeah. The title alone should tell you why this song hasn’t aged well. Yikes.
Beyond that, the album was largely produced and mixed by Robert Kelly. He also provided background vocals and wrote every single song. Knowing that makes it feel even more gross. To make matters even worse, the cover for this album has R. Kelly creeping in the background, years before the truth would come out about him being a sexual predator. With a title like this, I don’t know how it did well back in 1994, but in 2022, it has aged badly since the truth about R. Kelly has come out. I can’t even listen to the song without my stomach churning and my heart hurting for the hurt Aaliyah went through at the hands of R. Kelly.
2) “Jezebel” – Memphis May Fire
It’s crazy how much society’s mind can change just in a matter of a decade. Or it’s more like, people waking up to the casual misogyny we let slide for so long. “Jezebel” is a song written by the singer Matty Mullins, a guy who was always open about his Christian faith. Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying his faith makes this song bad. But it does add context to why he wrote something layered in overt misogyny. The song is all about the type of girl who’s “worn out and worn down/ from all the one-night- stands/ Never any interest in a real man or a love that will last.” Basically, it’s a song slut shaming women who aren’t looking for love but are just looking for hookups. The song also calls out groupies that only want to get with someone because they’re in the band. Well to that he says, “Take your pick from the willing but you’ll never get me.” It’s a song that back when it came out in 2012 didn’t raise many eyebrows. In fact, it was applauded in a lot of spaces for not being afraid to call out the “sluts.” I used to listen to this song and think, good for you, dude. But as I got older and the lyrics really sunk in, I couldn’t believe I ever thought the lyrics were fine. Looking at them now in detail, they’re even more problematic. I mean how can you hear “Oh what a waste! What a waste of a beautiful face/ Was it the way she was raised/ Or just the terrible choices she's chosen to make” without cringing? I get the point you’re trying to make Mullins, really. But you don’t have to slut shame women to make it. Not then, and definitely not today.
3) “It Was Always You” – Maroon 5
In 2014, Adam Levine wrote a song about his wife. You might be thinking, how sweet! It’s too bad he would unravel all that sweetness almost a decade later in 2022 when he allegedly cheated on his wife when she was pregnant with their third child together. Multiple people came forward about how Levine was sending flirty messages to them, some being very explicit, while he was married to the model Behati Prinsloo. One woman alleged she’d had a yearlong relationship with Levine.
Levine replied to the allegations saying, “I did not have an affair, nevertheless, I crossed the line during a regrettable period of my life. In certain instances, it became inappropriate. My wife and my family is all I care about in this world. To be this naive and stupid enough to risk the only thing that truly matters to me was the greatest mistake I could ever make. I will never make it again.”
The song is all about finding “The One” and how he realizes “it was always you.” You can’t help but cringe looking back on the song knowing what he’s done in the present. It’s especially bad to hear, “No, I never told a lie/ To you so why would I/Start tonight.” It’s unclear how true any of his manufactured statement is, and as of writing this, the couple are still together. But it does dampen a sweet love song, nonetheless.
4) “All in the Family” – Korn Ft. Fred Durst
First off, let’s acknowledge that this collaboration is itself a product of a time that hasn’t aged well. The 90s was full of a lot of music that was trying to be offensive for shock value. To go against society. Those shock value-type songs don’t go over too well these days.
Released in 1998 by nu-metal band Korn featuring Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit, “All in the Family” is not one of their better songs. I’d say it’s probably one of their worst sonically and lyrically. So much of it just didn’t age well and is very cringe. The song is basically Fred Durst and Korn singer Jonathan Davis going back and forth dissing each other. The pair thought it would be funny if they put out a track where they just shoot insults back and forth at each other, like a good old schoolyard brawl.
While they might have thought it was funny, it’s just really cringe looking at it now, and not just because of the concept. The lyrics are full of homophobic slurs and insults that just don’t hold up by today’s standards. One can argue that the use of the "f" slur was more common back then and not meant in a homophobic way, but using it as an insult brings a negative connotation whether people “meant” it or not. I’m not going to put any of those lyrics with slurs here, but looking at the “disses” overall, they’re not just…not great. Like this one. “Throwing rhymes at me like/Oh sh*t alright, Vanilla Ice/ You better run, run while you can/ Can never fuck me up, Bisc Limpkit.” Another odd one is when a diss used is calling Davis “Korn on the cob.” So ridiculously silly.
In 2015, Davis referred to the song as "the dumbest f*cking track Korn ever did", attributing the song to the excessive drugs and alcohol consumed during the album's production. No matter the reason, the song does not age well in a time when as a society, we no longer tolerate throwing around the f slur or offensive-for-the-sake-of-shock music.
5) “Ur So Gay” – Katy Perry
It’s kind of crazy that this is one of the songs that got record producers interested back in the 2000s. I guess they thought an opening line like, “I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf While jerking off listening to Mozart” would gain attention. And it did at the time. “Ur So Gay” is a song Katy Perry wrote after she was upset about being rejected by someone that she had an interest in. With her bruised ego, she wrote a song that basically says, “Well, if you’re not into me, you must be gay!” Then the song divulges into lyrics attempting to emasculate the guy who rejected her with lyrics like, “You don't eat meat/ And drive electrical cars/ You're so indie rock it's almost an art/ You need SPF 45 just to stay alive/ You're so gay and you don't even like boys.” Yikes. Complaining about a guy who rejected you by insulting his appearance and hobbies as “gay” is not a good look. This song has definitely not aged well.
Perry has said that the song was written about a metrosexual boy she was dating back then and said, “In this world of 2008, girls are thrown into a lion’s den of ‘who’s on this team and who’s on that team?’…I always end up with these guys who are very sensitive and good-looking and clean-cut and smell good. But this one in particular, I thought ‘In another life, you are a gay man.’” Even back then this explanation rubbed people the wrong way, particularly in the gay community. She responded to the backlash by saying, “It’s not a negative connotation. It’s not 'you’re so gay,' like 'Your so lame,' but the fact of the matter is that this boy should’ve been gay. I totally understand how it could be misconstrued or whatever. The video we did a while ago on a budget of little to nothing, paints that same picture. Everyone played with that Ken Doll, and they were changing his outfits" (Source).
The late 2000s and Myspace era was a different time, and many people were experimenting with their looks and sexuality, but that doesn’t change that this song has aged like milk.
6) “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke Ft. Pharrell Williams and T.I.
Let’s be honest. This song wasn’t good at its release either. While there were a lot of people who heard the song and thought of it as just a fun pop hit in 2013, a lot of others saw it for what it was. A song about date rape. It promotes rape culture by disregarding verbal consent and talking about “domesticating” women and a lot of other explicit lyrics. While overtly sexual lyrics weren’t anything new, the chorus is literally, “I hate these blurred lines. I know you want it.” Maybe it’s not saying it exactly, and Thicke has claimed it meant the blurred line between a good and bad girl wanting to get naughty, but it’s hard to believe it when you watch the music video which is full of scantily clad women only there to entertain the men singing in the video. Also, in October 2021, one of the music video’s dancers Emily Ratajkowski alleged that she was groped by Thicke on set while filming the music video, further adding to the negative connotations surrounding this song.
While Thicke “couldn’t understand” the controversy at first, both he and Pharrell Williams have come to understand where people are coming from. Thicke has said, “I realized that there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman, and it doesn't matter that that's not my behavior. Or the way I think about things. It just matters how it affects women. And I was like, 'Got it. I get it. Cool.'"
I’ll never forget when the popular TV show Glee decided to cover and feature “Blurred Lines” heavily in an episode, a show about high schoolers. And their teacher sang and danced alongside them. This detail isn’t totally related, but I needed to include it to show just how badly this song aged.
If you want to subject yourself to the Glee scene, you can see it below.
7) “This Is Why I’m Hot” – MiMS
This one just makes me laugh. I thought I’d end on a more lighthearted note. “This is Why I’m Hot” is a song where MiMS spends the entire song talking himself up about how great he is. My personal favorite line is “I’m hot ‘cause I’m fly/you ain’t ‘cause you not.” But the reason why this song didn’t age well is because of this lyric, “I ain’t gotta rap. I could sell a mill saying nothing on the track.” MiMS came onto the scene, made it big with this song…and then proceeded to never make another top hit. It’s just kind of funny to hear this guy hyping himself up so much and yet he didn’t make it big. There isn’t any music from him on Spotify past the 2000s. Many people might know this song, but how many know the artist’s name? I feel bad for the guy.
Interestingly in 2017, MiMS has said that the line was partly commentary on the state of hip-hop, where someone could literally have no lyrical content whatsoever and become an overnight celebrity or make millions of dollars doing it (Source). Interesting idea, but either way the line is a little ironic and didn’t age well since he hasn’t gotten huge as this song makes him out to be.
This is just a fraction of songs that exist that haven’t aged well. Some are for problematic reasons like the ones I listed above, and others are just times artists were wrong. There are all sorts of reasons, so expect to see a part two at some point! Maybe even a part 3. What song do you feel hasn’t aged well? Did you used to love (or still love) any of these songs? Let me know in the comments!
Written by Kristen Petronio
Thanks to the following source for helping me put together this article.