We Built This City
|"We Built This City"|
|Single by Starship|
|from the album Knee Deep in the Hoopla|
|B-side||"Private Room" (Instrumental)|
|Released||August 1, 1985|
|Genre||Pop rock, new wave|
|Writer(s)||Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, Peter Wolf|
|Producer(s)||Peter Wolf, Jeremy Smith|
|Starship singles chronology|
"We Built This City" is a song written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf, and originally recorded by US rock group Starship and released as their debut single 1 August 1985.
What exists of a narrative in the song consists of an argument between the singers (Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick) and an unidentified "you", presumably a music industry executive, who is marginalizing the band and ripping off money from them by "playing corporation games" ("who counts the money underneath the bar?"). In response to this injustice, the singers remind the villain of their importance and fame: "Listen to the radio! Don't you remember? We built this city on rock and roll!" A spoken-word interlude explicitly mentions the Golden Gate Bridge and refers to "the city by the bay", a common moniker for Starship's hometown of San Francisco; Starship's predecessors, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, were prominent members of San Francisco's psychedelic rock scene in the late 1960s and into the 1970s. However, the interlude then follows in rapid fashion by referring to the same city as "the city that rocks", a reference to Cleveland, Ohio (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum), and then "the city that never sleeps", a nickname for both New York City and Las Vegas. Capitalizing on the ambiguity, several radio stations added descriptions of their own local areas when they broadcast the song, or even simply added their own ident in its place.
Australian comedian Shaun Micallef criticised "We Built This City" in a Shaun on his High Horse segment of his 2003 show Micallef Tonight. Taking the song's lyrics literally, Micallef criticised the "architectural credentials" of Starship. In an exaggeratedly critical review of the song, Micallef scolded the songwriters for choosing to ignore traditional construction materials such as steel and concrete. Instead, he notes that the band boasts of "flouting construction conventions" and instead "found[ing] their metropolis on something as flimsy as popular music—or in their case, unpopular music". He concluded that their song deserved to be thrown "into the bin".
Blender magazine's "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever"
The defunct magazine Blender's ranking of the song as the worst song ever was in conjunction with a VH1 Special of The 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs...Ever. In order to qualify for the distinction, the songs on the list had to be a popular hit at some point, thus disqualifying many songs that would by consensus be considered much worse. Blender editor Craig Marks said of the song, "It purports to be anti-commercial but reeks of '80s corporate-rock commercialism. It's a real reflection of what practically killed rock music in the '80s."
However, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that "Blender's list—compiled via an arbitrary and anecdotal data collection process and ranked by Marks—included several whimsical criteria. One was to go easy on novelty songs. In a discussion with the band's manager, Bill Thompson, he was surprised at the ranking, but also "thrilled" because of the other high-profile groups on the list, saying, "I wish Blender had called us for a group shot. I'd love to have my picture taken with Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney." Mickey Thomas, one of the singers of Starship, said in 2010 regarding the review from the by-then folded Blender magazine,
From what I heard, they got so much flak about it that they sort of retracted their statements in a way about the song. And not only that, but Blender's folded, and we're still here.
When asked about why the song was listed as #1 on the review, the editor of Blender magazine, Craig Marks, referenced the line of the song "Marconi plays the mamba" by asking,
Who is Marconi? And what is the mamba? The mamba is the deadliest snake in the world, so he must have meant the mambo, but it sounds so much like 'mamba' that every lyric web site writes it that way. It makes sense neither way."
The Richmond Times-Dispatch listed other songs by Starship that would have made more sense for being on the top of the list than "We Built This City," concluding,
No, no. They chose the song that references Marconi, the father of the radio. The song that inserted a cool snippet of DJ chatter from the band's beloved San Francisco. The song that found Grace Slick enunciating the phrase "corporation games" with nutty abandon.
Rolling Stone Top Ten Worst Songs of the 1980s
In 2011 a Rolling Stone magazine online readers poll named "We Built This City" as the worst song of the 1980s. The song's winning margin was so large that the magazine reported it "could be the biggest blow-out victory in the history of the Rolling Stone Readers Poll".
GQ Worst Song of All Time
In August 2016, Gentlemen's Quarterly magazine declared this song as the worst of all time, referring to it as "the most detested song in human history".
The song is featured in 2011's The Muppets, as well as the Broadway musical Rock of Ages and its film adaptation, where it is sung in counterpoint with Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It".
|Australia (Kent Music Report Top Singles)||1|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||21|
|Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)||17|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||10|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||21|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||11|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||8|
|United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)||12|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks||37|
|United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)||25|
- "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database – May 28, 2015". RIAA.com. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- "We Built This City On Rock and Roll". Oddculture.com. Retrieved 2016-08-12.
- "We Built This S**tty : The worst song of all time? Les Garland begs to differ" (PDF). Reelradio.com. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- Richard De Atley (10 January 1985). "Dire Straits, Tina Turner, Sting lead performer nominations". The Times-News. Associated Press. p. 23.
- Micallef, Shaun (9 June 2003). "Micallef Tonight 9 June 2003". Micallef Tonight. Season 1. Nine Network.
- "The 50 Worst Songs Ever! Watch, Listen and Cringe!". Blender.com. Archived from the original on August 6, 2010.
- "10 Really, Really Bad Songs". Cbsnews.com. 2004-04-20. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- "We built this city on detestable lyrics". Sydney Morning Herald. April 27, 2004. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
- Rachael Recker (May 2, 2010). "It's not Jefferson, but it is 'Starship starring Mickey Thomas' at 2010 Tulip Time". Booth Newspapers. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
- E. Franklin (April 29, 2004). "Are you kidding me?; Many tunes are obviously inferior to Blender's50 Worst Songs of All Time". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
- "1. Starship – 'We Built This City' Photo – Readers' Poll: The 10 Worst Songs of the 1980s". Rollingstone.com. 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- Tannenbaum, Rob (August 21, 2016). "An Oral History of "We Built This City," the Worst Song of All Time". GQ. Condé Nast. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
- ""We Built This Business" - ITT Commercial, 1990". YouTube.com. 1993-07-04. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
-  Archived December 16, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- Minow, Nell (2012-06-15). "Rock of Ages". Beliefnet. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
- Dassanayake, Dion. "Sing It Kitty: Three follow-up advert to moonwalking pony set to go viral | Weird | News | Daily Express". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- "Radio 1 – Charts – The Official UK Top 40 Singles Chart". BBC.co.uk. 2015-05-24. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- "Grand Theft Auto V Reveals Expanded Radio Station Tracklists for Game Relaunch | News". Pitchfork.com. 2014-11-17. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- "GTAV Soundtrack: Listen to Original New Songs Added from Flying Lotus, Jamie Lidell, Freddie Gibbs and More". Rockstargames.com. 2014-11-20. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- "Starship – We Built This City (song)". Ö3 Austria Top 40. March 1, 1986. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
- "Radio2 top 30: 23 mei 2015 | Radio2". Top30-2.radio2.be. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- "RPM 100 Singles". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 43 (13): 6. December 7, 1985. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
- "Musicline.de – Starship Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
- Jaclyn Ward – Fireball Media Group. "The Irish Charts – All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 2015-05-28.
- "We Built This City – Starship". Dutch Top 40. RTL Nederland. 1986. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
- "Charts.org.nz – Starship – We Built This City". Top 40 Singles.
- "Swedishcharts.com – Starship – We Built This City". Singles Top 100.
- "Swisscharts.com – Starship – We Built This City". Swiss Singles Chart.
- "Starship". The Official Charts Company. November 16, 1985. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
- "We Built This City – Starship". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
- "Starship". Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
- Tannenbaum, Rob (August 31, 2016). "An Oral History of "We Built This City," the Worst Song of All Time". GQ. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
- "We Built This City" video adaptation, starring "The Girl, The Singing Cat and a whole load of silly stuff."
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