10 of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Most Overrated Lyricists

Last week we ran a post on the people who we thought were rock ‘n’ roll’s most underrated lyricists — artists who don’t get the credit they deserve for their writing, either because they’re better known as guitarists/producers/crazy performers, or just because they’re generally underappreciated. We got some great feedback, and some excellent suggestions in the comments section, and all was very congenial. But last week’s post does raise one obvious question: If those were rock ‘n’ roll’s most underrated lyricists, who are its most overrated? We’ve taken the plunge and put together a list of the latter. Again, to be clear, this isn’t meant to be any sort of definitive list of worst lyrics or lyricists — Des’ree, your throne is secure — just those who we reckon don’t get enough scrutiny for being either a) not that great or b) not quite as great as people seem to think they are. So, what say you, readers? Are there more names you’d like to nominate? Or do we just need to join the witness protection program?

Lou Reed

Now, look, don’t get us wrong here. We are huge Lou Reed fans (even after he lived up to his reputation by being thoroughly unpleasant to us during an interview last year), and no one is denying that he has written some of the best rock ‘n’ roll lyrics ever — any single choice from the likes of “Heroin,” “Street Hassle,” “Candy Says,” or even “Coney Island Baby” would be enough to guarantee a place in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyricists’ Hall of Fame, if such a thing existed. But it does seem like he loses interest at times — whether it’s comically bad clangers like “Just like poison in a vial/ Hey, she was often very vile” (from “Caroline Says II”) or generally lackluster songs like “My Red Joystick,” Reed has been responsible for a surprising number of pretty awful lyrics. When he’s on form, he’s up with the very, very best. But we think he’s dropped enough stinkers over the years to not entirely merit his reputation as a consistently great lyricist.