It happens time and time again: a musician releases a song that they’re proud of, it becomes a massive hit, and the artist eventually turns on the song itself. The reasons behind these 180s vary — maybe it’s because the lyrics are viewed as problematic, they grow tired of hearing or playing the song for the umpteenth time, or they no longer feel like it’s representative of them as an artist. Or, in Lady Gaga’s case, a person they collaborated with has since faced a very public controversy that taints the memory of the track. Join Wonderwall.com as we take a look at some of the hit songs that musicians later regretted… starting with Gaga and R. Kelly’s collab…
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Lady Gaga faced some major blowback for her 2013 collaboration with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want.” The track was a single off her acclaimed album “Artpop” and became a Top 20 hit in the U.S., with the pair performing it on “Saturday Night Live” and at the American Music Awards. However, in the years since, the R&B singer has faced an overwhelming number of sexual assault accusations and in 2019, he was indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. In response, Gaga released a lengthy statement saying she would never work with him again and that she would be removing the track from all streaming services. A version with Christina Aguilera has since replaced it on all platforms.
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“Misery Business” off the album “Riot!” is still the biggest hit for Paramore — it became one of the biggest rock songs of 2007. However, fans of the band shouldn’t expect to hear singer Hayley Williams belting the song ever again. Years after its release, she received backlash from some fans who took issue with the lyrics “Once a whore, you’re nothing more / I’m sorry that’ll never change,” labeling them “anti-feminist.” Hayley responded in 2015 with a social media post stating that she no longer relates to the words she wrote while she was a teenager: “‘Misery Business’ is not a set of lyrics that I relate to as a 26-year-old woman. I haven’t related to it in a very long time. Those words were written when I was 17… Admittedly, from a very narrow-minded perspective.” The band has since made the bold move of retiring it from their live shows. “If I can somehow exemplify what it means to grow up, get information, and become any shade of ‘woke’, then that’s a-okay with me,” the singer told Track 7.
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Katy Perry had her breakthrough in 2008 with the No. 1 hit single “I Kissed A Girl,” but it wasn’t long before the track came under fire from the LGBTQ+ community. The cheeky banger received flack for for reinforcing stereotypes about bisexuality and queer people as a whole. In 2018, she told Glamour that she wished she could change some of the song’s lyrics to reflect her increased awareness about not using the dated clichés. “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,” she said.
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For the title track from her 2014 album “Ultraviolence,” Lana Del Rey included a reference to The Crystals’ 1962 song “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss).” The song charted on the Billboard Hot 100, but many felt the lyric glorified domestic violence and abusive relationships. Since releasing that track, the singer has had a change of heart. Lana no longer includes that line when performing the song live, telling Pitchfork in 2017, “I don’t like it. I don’t. I don’t sing it. I sing ‘Ultraviolence,’ but I don’t sing that line anymore. Having someone be aggressive in a relationship was the only relationship I knew.”
Mandy Moore came into our lives with her 1999 debut single “Candy.” The bubblegum hit, and the saccharine songs that followed it, quickly turned the then-teenager into a household name. However, in the years since, the singer has put out music that is far less pop-inspired. While the singer-actress’s first few albums are still what she’s best known for musically, she told Glamour in 2006 that sometimes wishes she hadn’t made them at all. “Ugh, those were awful — just awful!” Mandy said. “If I had the money, I would give a refund to everyone who bought my first two albums.” More recently, she’s had a minor change of heart — she’s including the teen classic in her concert setlists — but don’t expect any similar-sounding tracks in the future.
Madonna has almost too many hits to count in a career that spans five decades, so there’s bound to be at least a few that she isn’t still in love with. In 1984, she teased her second album with the controversy-sparking “Like A Virgin,” and it soon became her biggest song to date at the time. Both the track and imagery of her writhing on stage in an edgy wedding dress became etched in the mind of the public, and despite the numerous No. 1 songs that followed, for many, it’s still one of the most iconic moments in her legacy. As a result, Madonna has spent many years trying to erase the memory, telling Z100 in 2008 that you’d have to pay her a hefty sum to get her to perform it again. “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,” she said. “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.”
In 1991, Nirvana not only introduced the grunge genre to the mainstream with their hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” — the song also became one of the defining songs of the entire decade. It’s one of the most inescapable tracks of that era, but before frontman Kurt Cobain passed away in 1994, he revealed that he had grown tired of playing it. “I’m not interested in that kind of stuff. I don’t know if that’s so lazy that I don’t care anymore, or what. I still like playing ‘Teen Spirit,’ but it’s almost an embarrassment to play it,” he told Rolling Stone in 1994. “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.” He added that the song’s overexposure is what turned him off of it. “I literally want to throw my guitar down and walk away. I can’t pretend to have a good time playing it,” he added.
Throughout their run, The Beatles regularly let band leaders Paul McCartney and John Lennon write and sing a selection of songs on their own. When Paul brought “Let It Be” to the rest of the group in 1969, John wasn’t as keen on the track as the rest would hope. “It has nothing to do with The Beatles,” he said about the song not representing the band during a 1980 interview. “It could’ve been Wings. I don’t know what [Paul’s] thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be,'” the late musician added, referencing Paul’s post-Beatles band. The anthem would go on to become a No. 1 hit around the world, and it ended up being the final single before Paul announced he was leaving The Beatles. In a 1969 interview with The Village Voice, John also confessed that working on the song and its associated album of the same name was “hell” for The Beatles.
Arguably, the song of the summer in 2005 was Kanye West’s club anthem “Gold Digger,” a collaboration with Jamie Foxx. The song won him a Grammy Award, became the fastest selling digital download ever at the time and is still arguably his signature song. It proved Kanye as a chart force, but was a far cry from the more innovative and experimental takes on hip-hop music many of his fans love him for. In 2013, he told BBC Radio that he’s not a fan of the song and only recorded it with the intention of it becoming a hit to finance the endeavors he’s truly passionate about. “I never really liked that song, but I knew I would get paid for doing ‘Gold Digger,'” he said.
One of Taylor Swift’s earlier hits contains a lyric that upset many — so much so that even she has had a change of heart about it. Her 2008 single “Picture To Burn” contains the following lines that were deemed homophobic: “I realize you love yourself more than you could ever love me / So go and tell all your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy / That’s fine, I’ll tell mine you’re gay, by the way.” The problematic portion didn’t keep the track from becoming a multi-platinum success story, but Taylor has since said she would have handled it differently if she could take it back. “Now, the way that I would say that and the way that I would feel that kind of pain is a lot different,” she told MTV in 2011. As a result, she did change the lyric in subsequent releases of the song to the less inflammatory “you won’t mind if I say.”
“Sometimes” became the success that proved Britney Spears wasn’t just a one-hit wonder following her iconic debut single, “…Baby One More Time.” You would be hard-pressed to remember the summer of 1999 without thinking of the pop star clad in all white as she hit some major choreography with her friends on a Los Angeles pier. The song topped the charts around the world and became a mainstay in the early years of her career. However, the star hasn’t performed it in almost 20 years and in 2004, she explained why. “I have to go? I haven’t even sung ‘Sometimes’ yet,” she said at the end of her televised “Britney Spears Live From Miami” concert special. “Oh God! I never liked that song anyway!”
Another ’90s classic that was seemingly disowned by the artist responsible for it was “Wonderwall” by Oasis. The 1995 hit has become one of the most famous rock songs ever, but it turns out lead singer Liam Gallagher isn’t much of a fan of his band’s signature song. In a 2008 interview to promote their album “Dig Out Your Soul,” he explained his overwhelming distaste for it, saying, “I can’t f****** stand that f****** song! Every time I have to sing it I want to gag.” The rocker also begrudged the fact that everyone associates him with the song, no matter where he goes in the world. “You go to America and they’re like: ‘Are you Mr. Wonderwall?'” he said. “You want to chin someone.”
Radiohead has spent the last three decades building up one of the most acclaimed discographies in music, but their debut single, “Creep,” is still their highest charting song to date. For many, it’s also the track they’re best known for, despite the numerous albums that have been released in the years since. While the general public has never moved on from it, the band itself has been eager to leave the 1992 hit in the past. “It was frustrating, being judged on just that song when we felt we needed to move on,” singer Thom Yorke previously told Rolling Stone. “We were forced on tour to support it, and it gagged us, really. We were on the verge of breaking up.” The publication said the song became a weight on the band members and they stopped performing it for years, even calling it “Crap” instead of “Creep.”
In 2009, Miley Cyrus was still best known for her work on the hit Disney Channel series “Hannah Montana,” but the singer nabbed her first real hit without the blonde wig with “Party In The U.S.A.” While the song catapulted the then-teenager to pop superstardom, she has since said that it no longer reflects who she is as a musician or as a person. “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 [Heart]’… I would never take it back,” she told V Magazine. “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.”
JAY-Z has been one of the leading names in rap music since releasing his debut album in 1996. Years before he married longtime love Beyonce, he spent a number of his songs celebrating a life of bachelordom. One such instance came in the 2000 classic “Big Pimpin,” which unfortunately, features a number of lyrics objectifying women. “You know I thug ’em, f*** ’em, love ’em, leave ’em / ‘Cause I don’t f****** need ’em / Take ’em out the hood, keep ’em lookin’ good / But I don’t f****** feed ’em,” reads part of the track. Jay later made it evident that the song doesn’t include his best work as a songwriter. “Some [lyrics] become really profound when you see them in writing. Not ‘Big Pimpin’,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2010. “That’s the exception. It was like, I can’t believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing? Reading it is really harsh.”
Arguably, the biggest song of 2013 was “Blurred Lines,” an inescapable collaboration from Robin Thicke and Pharrell. For many, the music video featuring tons of scantily clad models and the MTV Video Music Awards performance that included Miley Cyrus’s infamous twerking are just as — if not more — memorable than the song itself. That may be for the best, as the track faced criticism for lyrics that some said perpetuate rape culture. In 2019, Pharrell acknowledged the push back and revealed it made him look at the song differently. “[At first] it’s like, ‘What’s rapey about that?’ And then 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,” he told GQ. “I realized that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country. I hadn’t realized that. Didn’t realize that some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind.”
Justin Bieber has grown up right before our very eyes, and as a result, his music has also undergone a major evolution. The Canadian pop star isn’t necessarily smitten with all of his old material. In 2016, he opened up about his less-than-enthusiastic feelings toward his 2012 hit “Beauty and a Beat” with Nicki Minaj. His distaste has nothing to do with the rapper — he just never liked it. In an interview with “The Bert Show,” he said, “I never really liked ‘Beauty and a Beat.’ It was music that was popular at that time, but I was never really a huge fan of that song.” And he was right, as the single became a huge success with audiences. That said, now that its chart reign has is passed, don’t expect to see him performing it on stage again.
The 2013 hit “Royals” became a massive debut single for New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde, who went from overnight sensation to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won a song of the year Grammy Award. She wrote the hit when she was only 16 and has had a change of tune in hindsight. “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,” she told the Daily Record newspaper. “It sounds like a ringtone from a 2006 Nokia. None of the melodies are cool or good. It’s disastrous. Awful.” The star says it ultimately comes down to the fact that she doesn’t feel it’s reflective of how her skills have developed in the years since. “These melodies are just not as good as something I could have written now, or I definitely wouldn’t have written this lyric this way if I [had] written it now,” she noted. “It definitely feels like a bit of a relic now.”
R.E.M. were one of the leading rock bands of the 1980s and 1990s, with “Shiny Happy People” becoming one of their signature songs in 1991 and helping the band win a Grammy Award for their seventh studio album, “Out of Time.” But frontman Michael Stipe has been outspoken in the years since about his frustration with how synonymous the song is with the band. “I wouldn’t say I’m embarrassed by the song but it is what it is, has limited appeal for me,” he said in 2003, as reported by Contact Music. In 2016, the singer explained that it was a creative departure for the group, crafting a piece of music that was undeniably pop. “It was written to be as pop as it could possibly be, absurdly, ridiculously pop,” Michael said. “I don’t want it to be the song R.E.M. are remembered by in 100 years’ time, but it should be recognized as one of our minor hits… though not our finest moment,” he told The Sun.
One of the most famous rock songs of all time doesn’t have the support of the band responsible for it. Led Zeppelin’s 1971 classic “Stairway To Heaven” is still one of the most recognizable tracks 50 years after its release. And while it remains a favorite of rock enthusiasts across numerous generations, frontman Robert Plant has said that he hopes he can move past it at some point. “I’d break out in hives if I had to sing that song in every show,” Robert 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. It’s just not for me.”
TLC were one of the defining groups of the 1990s, releasing hit after hit with their winning combination of R&B, hip hop and pop music. Their 1994 classic “Creep,” helped usher the ladies in a sleeker, more adult direction, and their pajama-clad video is still a defining piece of iconography from the era. But one member wasn’t even thrilled about releasing it at the time. The late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes spoke out about her distaste for the song’s message, which is about a woman cheating on her significant other in retaliation for being cheated on, and her confusion at it being released as a single. “A girl is gonna catch her man cheating, instead of telling her to cheat back, why don’t we tell her to just leave?” she said. Lisa was so against the track, which wasn’t written by the group, that she allegedly threatened to wear black tape over her mouth when the music video was filmed.
James Blunt’s romantic “You’re Beautiful” became a classic love song upon its release in 2005, leaving hearts swooning in the years since. The multiplatinum single went onto to receive three Grammy Award nominations, including song of the year. However, it also turned the British singer-songwriter into a bit of a one-hit wonder, at least in the States, and he later spoke out about how even he became frustrated with how inescapable the song was. “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,” he told HELLO! magazine in 2014.
One Direction were arguably the biggest boy band of the 2010s, going from British reality show contestants to a multimillion-dollar brand at record speed. Their debut single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” became a worldwide sensation in 2011 and catapulted the group into a platinum-selling force. But over time, members became discontent with the manufactured pop that made them famous. Liam Payne later said he just isn’t a fan of their breakout song. “At the time, they were great songs, but I think for me, I couldn’t listen to ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ he said in 2014. The next year, Zayn Malik left the group to pursue a solo career. During his first major post-1D interview, he told Fader that he was never too keen on their music. “I wasn’t 100% behind the music. It wasn’t me. It was music that was already given to us, and we were told this is what is going to sell to these people,” he said. “That’s not music that I would listen to. Would you listen to One Direction, sat at a party with your girl? I wouldn’t.”
One of Selena Gomez’s early hits was 2013’s “Come & Get It,” which reached the Top 10 on charts around the world and helped establish her as more than just a Disney Channel star. But the singer-actress has since said that the song no longer reflects where she is in her life, as a person or as an artist. During a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said it “sounds like a Rihanna reject” and admitted she put it out with the intent of scoring a hit. “It’s very difficult for me to perform live. It’s not my song,” Selena added. “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 it did for me, so it’d be stupid not to acknowledge it.”
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