While every musician has to be pleased with the amount of money that can be made from having a hit song, sometimes they aren’t exactly thrilled with the song itself. Whether it’s because they’ve simply played — and heard — the song too many times or because it was the product of record-company meddling rather than genuine artistry, sometimes an act’s most popular song is one they’d rather distance themselves from.
There have been plenty of famous musicians who’ve trashed their own hit songs in interviews over the years. We’ve rounded up some of the best examples in what you might call a “greatest misses” collection, according to the artists themselves, at least.
1. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
Song He Hates: “Stairway to Heaven”
Perhaps the most-played song in the history of classic-rock radio, Led Zeppelin’s epic, “Stairway to Heaven,” isn’t exactly a favorite of Robert Plant. The singer has been quoted dismissing the number as “that wedding song,” and he’s been reluctant to perform it live since the 1980s.
The pressure to do “Stairway to Heaven” is undoubtedly one of many reasons Plant has turned down lucrative offers for a Led Zeppelin reunion over the years. Once, when Plant donated $1,000 to a public radio station in Portland after he heard a DJ say that if he got enough donations, he’d never play “Stairway” on air again.
2. Britney Spears
Song She Hates: “Sometimes”
This one hurts for all us ’90s kids. In 2004, pop princess Britney Spears threw some shade on one of her signature ballads, “Sometimes.” While performing as part of her infamous Onyx Hotel Tour, the singer was caught on a hot microphone bashing that 1999 hit. Toward the end of the performance, she was heard saying, “I have to go? I haven’t even sung ‘Sometimes’ yet … I never liked that song anyway!”
Ouch, there goes your warm nostalgia.
Getty Images | Matt Winkelmeyer
Song She Hates: “Like A Virgin”
Here’s one that will sting for any ’80s kids: The Queen of Pop has taken a baseball bat to some of her early music over the years, including her massive signature hit, 1984’s “Like A Virgin.”
In 2008, the singer said, “I’m not sure I can sing ‘Holiday’ or ‘Like a Virgin’ ever again.” She added that she’d only do it if “somebody paid me like $30 million or something.” Despite that claim, she has continued to perform it during her tours since then. And it’s not just that immortal song Madonna has ripped. She’s even dismissed her 1983, self-titled debut album as nothing but aerobics music.
5. Neil Young
Song He Hates: “Heart of Gold”
It might not be fair to say Neil Young hates his 1972 track, “Heart of Gold,” but he at least hates what it did to his career after it became such a massive hit.
The song remains the only No. 1 hit of Young’s legendary career, and he once wrote that it “put me in the middle of the road.” Young continued, “Traveling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch.”
It’s probably safe to say he doesn’t hate the untold riches he’s made from that tune alone, though.
Getty Images | Frazer Harrison
6. Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders)
Song She Hates: “Brass in Pocket”
Similar to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” if you ask most people to name any song by The Pretenders, they’ll probably give you “Brass in Pocket.” But the band’s frontwoman — and co-writer of the song — didn’t think the tune was so “special.”
“I never thought it was that great,” Hynde has been quoted as saying about the hit single. She added that she was “mortified” when she heard it blasting out of people’s radios in 1980. The song was a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and peaked at No. 14 in America.
Getty Images | Eamonn M. McCormack
7. Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)
Song He Hates: “Shiny Happy People”
In 1991, the critically acclaimed rockers in R.E.M. released “Shiny Happy People,” which would be the band’s final top-10 hit in the U.S. But singer and co-writer Michael Stipe doesn’t have much respect for the tune.
In a 2016 interview with the BBC, Stipe called “Shiny Happy People” a “fruity pop song written for children.” The musician went on to say, “If there was one song that was sent into outer space to represent R.E.M. for the rest of time, I would not want it to be ‘Shiny Happy People.’”
Getty Images | Theo Wargo
8. Bob Geldof
Songs He Hates: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World”
Singer and songwriter Bob Geldof is known for being blunt, and he has lived up to that reputation when describing two of the most well-known songs he contributed to. Geldof co-wrote and sang on 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and then sang as part of the A-list group that performed 1985’s “We Are the World.”
Both songs were done for charitable causes, but Geldof has ripped each, calling them “two of the worst songs in history.” Of his famous holiday number, Geldof once complained that he hears it playing at the supermarket “every f—ing Christmas.”
Getty Images | Graham Denholm
9. John Lennon (The Beatles)
Songs He Hated: “Let It Be” & “Hello Goodbye”
John Lennon was one of the most outspoken musicians ever, so it should come as no surprise that there were several Beatles hits that he couldn’t stand. One of those was 1967’s “Hello Goodbye,” which Lennon said he had no involvement with, and that it “wasn’t a great piece,” and was Paul McCartney’s “attempt to write a single.”
Lennon also slammed what is arguably his bandmates’ most beloved Beatles composition, “Let It Be,” saying, “I don’t know what he’s thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be./ Nothing to do with the Beatles; it could’ve been Wings,” referring to McCartney’s post-Beatles band.
10. Mandy Moore
Song She Hated: “Candy” (and a bunch of others)
In 1999, way before she was the star of NBC’s “This Is Us,” Mandy Moore was a teen pop star and, looking back, she has some regrets about her old music. Moore has slammed her breakthrough hit, “Candy,” many times over the years, telling Howard Stern in 2018 that she has no clue what the lyrics mean.
In 2006, she even went so far as to say she regretted her entire first two albums.
“Those were awful,” Moore said of the records. “If I had the money, I would give a refund to everyone who bought my first two albums.”
Getty Images | Matt Winkelmeyer