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The Top 10: Narcissistic, Self-congratulatory, Humblebraggy, Sick-making Ballads

From Frank Sinatra via the glutinous horror of Tony Orlando and Dawn to Whitney Houston

John Rentoul
Saturday 10 December 2016 11:13
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 Whitney Houston in Milan, 2010. Photo by Luca Viscardi, Creative Commons
Whitney Houston in Milan, 2010. Photo by Luca Viscardi, Creative Commons

For reasons known to himself, Damian Counsell conducted a poll on Twitter recently asking people to choose the “most narcissistic, self-congratulatory, humblebraggy, sick-making ballad of modern times”, offering a choice of the first four of this list. Number four won by a landslide, but I thought this selection too limited and offered to expand it to 10.

1. “Greatest Love Of All”, George Benson 1977, Whitney Houston 1985.

2. “Wind Beneath My Wings”, Bette Midler 1988, not to be confused with “Flying Without Wings”, Westlife 1999.

3. “My Way”, Frank Sinatra 1969.

4. “Imagine”, John Lennon 1971.

5. “Billy Don’t Be A Hero”, Paper Lace 1974. Nominated for “your list of sick making b*ll**s” by Dan Dennis.

6. “What’s Up”, 4 Non Blondes 1992. “Most awful narcissistic everything”, according to Richard T Kelly.

7. “Seasons in the Sun”, Terry Jacks 1974. Dan Dennis again. Also recorded by Westlife. There is a theme here.

8. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree”, Tony Orlando and Dawn 1973. Another from Dan Dennis.

9. “I’ve Never Been to Me”, Charlene 1977. Thanks to Graham Fildes.

10. “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” Peter Sarstedt 1969. Graham Fildes also nominated Sarstedt’s follow-up single, “Frozen Orange Juice”, with which I was happily not familiar.

Graham Fildes nominated several other promising contenders, but “Mistletoe and Wine” by Cliff Richard has already featured in the Top 10 Worst Christmas Songs from last year, and I didn’t think “Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha” really qualified. Nor did “Tip Top Tottenham Hotspur” by The Totnamites, 1961, or “Blue is the Colour” by the Chelsea FC Squad, 1972.

Guy Cudmore wrote to say that “country music is a fount of maudlin self-pity”, which it is, and it is horrible, but that is not quite the same as the pleased-with-itself quality for which we are searching here. So, no to “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones, or “What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)” by Jerry Lee Lewis and Rod Stewart, or “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” by Tammy Wynette.

Next week: People who lost two elections in one year (inspired by Zac Goldsmith)

Coming soon: Adjectives that come after the noun (in English), such as church militant

Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top Tens, From Politics to Pop, is available as an e-book for £3.79. Your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, in the comments please, or to me on Twitter, or by email to top10@independent.co.uk

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