We’re in a Silly Song Summer

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos: BMG, Chrissi Poland, Flyana Boss, Getty, Kyle Gordon, Warner Bros. Pictures

In an era of rending horrors, nothing smooths those pesky wrinkles out of your brain like a nonsense bop. One of the biggest hits of World War II was the soundtrack to a Donald Duck cartoon. In the 1980s, novelty hip-hop songs like Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” served as a counterpoint to Ronald Reagan’s horrendous policy decisions. And, as “Planet of the Bass” has demonstrated, a whole subgenre of laughable EDM emerged after the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early ’90s. Yes, unstable times are a fertile breeding ground for joke tracks. To paraphrase Logan Roy, we are not serious people.

Because we live in psycho times ourselves, we have been inundated with a new set of songs to help wipe our minds clean: Kylie Minogue’s insidious “Padam Padam,” the Barbie soundtrack’s bombastic “I’m Just Ken,” DJ Crazy Times’ ludicrous “Planet of the Bass.” At a time when nobody can agree on anything, we can all take a memetic song and twist it to our POV. (That’s why most viral tracks also have a Christian parody version.) To celebrate, we’re ranking the silliest songs of the summer by how well they keep the Horrors at bay. Consider these selections terror management.

This wonderful remix of an awful person is at the bottom of the list because, alas, the Attenzione Pickpocket lady was milkshake-ducked. In retrospect, are we really surprised a woman who made it her mission to publicly shame random women for being pickpockets was fascist? This song is still okay to listen to, though, because Pickpocket Lady didn’t like when people didn’t take her crusade seriously.

Silliest Part: When the bass drops
A Good Distraction From: Personal health issues, but not the global rise of authoritarian populism

Jack Black is the king of joke songs (with Kyle Gass as, like, a kickass duke). But “Peaches” is hampered by its wholesome, child-oriented nature. Also, the part that sticks in your brain isn’t quite long enough to really scrub other thoughts out. One word (“peaches”) on repeat is good. But compare how much stickier something like “Ms. New Booty” is in one’s brain. “Booty booty booty,” yes, but also “rockin’ everywhere” and “I’ve found you, Ms. New Booty.” Your brain can flip between lines like slides on a carousel.

Silliest Part: “Peaches, peaches, peaches, peaches, peaches”
A Good Distraction From: Realizing your kid is listening to the same humorous songsmith of your own youth

This song originated as a response to sex-negative internet weirdo Sister Candy. “If you buy her one margarita, she will spread her legs!” she shouted at a Louisiana State University crowd. Comedian Angel Laketa Moore freestyled the song on her podcast Here’s the Thing, and the rest is history. Bachelorette parties will never be the same.

Silliest Part: Definitely the pegging part
A Good Distraction From: The puriteens

Oppie has a boppie. FilmTok went wild for this song, which has 21 tempo changes and was recorded in one continuous take. This is for all the Camila Cabellos who dressed up for Oppenheimer instead of Barbie. 

Silliest Part: The seventh tempo change. Then there’s a lull. Then it gets funny again, like the Simpsons rake joke.
A Good Distraction From: Looming nuclear annihilation

A serious song that became the soundtrack of the summer through a bit, “You Wish” blurs the line between novelty and the un-novel. Are you a disappointment? No, you’re just about to sin again. Blast at the highest volume as you run through a crowd.

Silliest Part: “I be Michael Phelps, all the brand deals that I’m swimmin’ in / You can call me Dr. Evil ’cause I got many men”
A Good Distraction From: How little cardio you’ve actually done this summer

Poor Ryan Gosling, charting with this song and nothing off Dead Man’s Bones. But “I’m Just Ken” was a balm. Especially among debates about what Barbie had to say about gender, commercialization, existential dread, and the IP-ification of all art.

Silliest Part: The li’l kissies Ken gets from Ken and Ken in the dream ballet
A Good Distraction From: The consolidation of all media into, like, four companies.

Even the Jonas Brothers have fallen for this earworm. “Planet of the Bass” is the product of comedian Kyle Gordon and his harem of interchangeable Ms. Biljana Electronicas. Which woman is your favorite, guy? Let us know in the comments!

Silliest Part: “Oh, I’ve got an idea. World peace!”
A Good Distraction From: Geopolitical instability in central Europe

For one glorious Pride month, the whole world beat in sync with the heart of Kylie Minogue and this fizzy, infectious pop song. “Padam” became the watchword, meaning yassified, cunty, stupid, and Zeitgeisty all at the same time. Even the most random people paid tribute. As Minogue herself said, “Big up, Hobbycraft Wimbledon!” This was the song we needed for Pride 2023.

Silliest Part: The one “Padam?” that sounds like a question before the chorus hits
A Good Distraction From: The erosion of human rights in America

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