‘Turning Japanese’ & 11 Other ’80s Songs That Have Aged Really Badly


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Ah, the 1980s, a decade known for its catchy tunes, very large shoulder pads, and poorly-aged lyrics. It’s one thing to put on your legwarmers and play music from that decade while you aerobicize, but have you read the lyrics to some of these songs?

Just like any other decade, the 1980s produced its share of questionable content, and now that it’s 40 years behind us, much of that content has only become more objectionable. Here’s our list of songs from the 1980s that only seem like innocent fun if you ignore the lyrics.

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1. ‘Turning Japanese’ by The Vapors (1980)

When “Turning Japanese” came out in 1980, some people found it offensive because they believed the song was about touching one’s private area. They were wrong – it’s offensive for its depictions of Asian culture, right down to the use of fake Asian musical motifs that date back to 1930s Charlie Chan movies. And Charlie Chan was supposed to be Chinese, not Japanese.

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2. ‘Seventeen’ by Winger (1988)

For some reason, male rock musicians over the last 60-plus years have uniformly decided to write songs about underage girls, specifically those who are seventeen. The glam metal band Winger got into the act with their biggest hit song, 1988’s “Seventeen,” which features the couplet, “She’s only seventeen, Daddy says she’s too young, but she’s old enough for me.” In 2008, Kip Winger said that when he wrote the song, he didn’t know that seventeen was underage. Whatever.

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3. ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’ by Aerosmith (1987)

The Aerosmith song “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” had its genesis when singer Steven Tyler came up from behind an attractive blonde woman at a nightclub to possibly parlay it into a romantic encounter, only to find out that it was actually Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil. Desmond Child, who co-wrote the song with the band, said that the lyrics are accepting of the trans community, thanks to the line, “Never judge a book by its cover, or who you’re going to love by your lover.” However, in this age of greater acceptance and empathy for the trans community, a lot of people will never even get past the song title.

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4. ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ by Billy Joel (1989)

Lyrics don’t have to be inappropriate to be offensive. Sometimes, they can offend due to repetition, self-righteous preachiness, and a stubborn refusal to take responsibility for the failures of one’s own generation. This is the fate that befell the deeply annoying Billy Joel song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which is pretty much a list of grievances filed on behalf of the Baby Boom generation that amounts to “The state of the world is not our fault, and we’re not going to do anything about it either.” OK, Boomer.

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5. ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (1988)

The Fresh Prince – better known today as Will Smith – spends the entirety of this song listing the many travails he must endure as a teenager with authoritarian parents who commit such unforgivable crimes as buying him the wrong sneakers. While that’s annoying enough on its own, he also absconds with his parents’ Porsche and picks up a girl with a ravenous carnal appetite, but she turns out to be twelve years old. He laments that he will likely be grounded for the crime, but maybe he can cheer himself up by slapping a standup comedian since that seems to have some therapeutic value for him.

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6. ‘Girls’ by Beastie Boys (1986)

This song was deeply problematic when it was released, and it’s only aged more and more badly as the decades have ticked by. It’s basically a list of household chores that the band members believe should be performed by members of the titular gender, and it’s as misogynistic as it sounds. How this group ended up being the darlings of woke hipsters is a mystery science has yet to solve.

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7. ‘Illegal Alien’ by Genesis (1983)

Just like “Girls,” this song was already problematic the day it was released, and it’s been aging like expired mayonnaise ever since then. Some of the lyrics describe the trials and tribulations that undocumented workers must endure as they seek a path to citizenship, but Phil Collins sings the entire song in a fake Mexican accent stolen from the Frito Bandito, which makes any of the song’s redeeming values evaporate instantly.

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8. ‘All in the Name of … ‘ by Mötley Crüe (1987)

In the 1980s, no one listened to hair metal for the lyrics, and those who did would have found some nastiness included therein. While Winger would extol the virtues of courting seventeen-year-olds, Mötley Crüe must have found girls that age to be already too old and shriveled for them, which may have led them to write the couplet, “She’s only fifteen… you say illegal, I say legal’s never been my scene.”

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9. ‘I Want Action’ by Poison (1987)

To their fans, the music of Poison is goofy fun. To their detractors, the music is moronic garbage. Having said that, both sides can probably agree that “I Want Action” has significant ick factor, thanks in part to the lyrics, which depict nonconsensual relations as just boys being boys. The most offensive lyric is, “If I can’t have her, I’ll take her and make her,” which is hard to see in any kind of positive light.

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10. ‘Eat Me Alive’ by Judas Priest (1984)

“Eat Me Alive” is not just your everyday offensive 80s metal song. Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center singled the song out as particularly objectionable, with Gore saying the song was about forcing someone at gunpoint to, you know… eat you alive, cough cough. While she was indeed correct that that’s precisely what the song is about, the band insisted that it was all in good fun, and while it might offend some 40 years later, there has been way worse stuff released since then by countless bands.

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11. ‘Let Me Put My Love Into You’ by AC/DC (1980)

From the title of this song alone, it’s clear that the members of AC/DC were not looking to brand themselves as allies of the feminist movement. Most of their songs were kind of similar to this one, as they were big, stupid songs about bawdy topics, but this one went the extra step of saying consent was not necessary, as typified by the lyrics, “Don’t you struggle, don’t you fight, don’t you worry ’cause it’s your turn tonight.” They make it sound like the intended victim in the song has won something on “The Price Is Right.”

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12. ‘Into the Night’ by Benny Mardones (1980)

Offensive lyrics from the 1980s weren’t limited just to heavy metal bands. Even soft rock artists got into the act, including Benny Mardones, whose 1980 song “Into the Night” depicts the love of a man who’s obsessed with a sixteen-year-old girl and wants to show her “a love like you’ve never seen.” The song even mentions well-intended parties telling Mardones to “leave her alone,” so unlike Kip Winger, he can’t feign ignorance about the song’s topic.

This story was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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