The Worst Song From Every Kiss Album
Here's a mind-blowing thought: Even after a lifetime of single-minded preparation, one of the world's most elite athletes comes in last place in every Olympic competition. Similarly, even the best Kiss albums must have a worst song. Sometimes the choice is obvious, sometimes it's a matter of "least great" and sometimes it's a race to the bottom. At least their former label boss gave us a good head start...
From: Kiss (1974)
Kiss' self-titled debut did a great job of establishing the band's sound and image, and decades later four of its 10 songs remained staples of the band's live set lists. But when Kiss didn't get off to a great start on the sales charts, Casablanca Records boss Neil Bogart convinced the band to record a gimmicky cover of Bobby Rydell's 1959 hit "Kissin' Time," ostensibly for use only in radio advertisements. "Of course, no sooner had we cut the not particularly great rendition of the song, Neil issued it as a single," Paul Stanley wrote in 2014's Face the Music. He was correct in labeling the song "tacky," but "Kissin' Time" became a minor hit and was added to future pressings of the album, making it of the easiest choices on this list.
From: Hotter Than Hell (1974)
Released just 10 months after its predecessor, Hotter Than Hell finds Kiss diversifying their songwriting and growing more confident with the use of studio overdubs. This sophomore LP delivered a strong batch of songs despite a rushed recording schedule and somewhat questionable production quality, and live versions of these tracks would soon help win over audiences across America. There's no easy worst song choice to be found here, but the Peter Criss showcase "Mainline" is probably the least unique and essential.
"Ladies in Waiting"
From: Dressed to Kill (1975)
After the band's first two releases failed to set the charts on fire, Kiss was quickly summoned back to the studio to record what would become their third album in just 13 months. Dressed to Kill has some strong points and spawned the band's breakthrough song "Rock and Roll All Nite," but its 30-minute run time was a clear indication that they hadn't fully recharged their creative batteries. "Ladies in Waiting" was a leftover from the pre-Kiss band Wicked Lester that Stanley and Gene Simmons dusted off. This quick re-write doesn't achieve the same heights as its album mates.
From: Destroyer (1976)
The breakthrough success of 1975's Alive! made Kiss famous – and also put pressure on the band to take a big leap forward in the recording studio. They accomplished that goal with the help of producer Bob Ezrin on Destroyer. The LP featured their first-ever Top 10 hit "Beth" and became the benchmark by which every future Kiss record was judged. Their ambitious reach exceeded their grasp on "Great Expectations," however, as Simmons borrowed an elegant musical theme from Beethoven and then perversely paired it with some of the most gauche and leaden lyrics ever heard on a Kiss song.
"See You in Your Dreams"
From: Rock and Roll Over (1976)
They weren't scrambling to eek out a living anymore, but Kiss was determined to keep striking while the iron was hot. Accordingly, this fifth studio album arrived just eight months after Destroyer. They'd gotten some blow-back from old-school fans about the highly polished production of Destroyer, so Kiss aimed for a more stripped-down sound on Rock and Roll Over. It's a strong and consistent record so when we say that Simmons' sugary "See You in Your Dreams" is its worst song, we really just mean that it's the least good one.
"Got Love For Sale"
From: Love Gun (1977)
Less than three and a half years after their debut arrived, Kiss' original lineup released what was essentially their final studio album together. (Criss played on just one song each on 1979's Dynasty and 1998's Psycho Circus, and not at all on 1980's Unmasked.) Love Gun is a strong end to the era, with Stanley shining brightly on the title track and "I Stole Your Love." Guitarist Ace Frehley also made his vocal debut on "Shock Me." Simmons' "Christine Sixteen," "Almost Human" and "Plaster Caster" are clear highlights, leaving the somewhat formulaic "Got Love for Sale" as the last kid picked for this particular game of dodge ball.
"Rockin' in the U.S.A."
From: Alive II (1977)
Kiss didn't want to include any songs featured on Alive! on their second live album, since it was released barely two years later. They decided to add half an album of new studio material to Alive II, and those songs offer the first hint at the fractures that had formed in their working relationships. Stanley, Simmons and Frehley all handle bass and rhythm guitar themselves on their showcase songs, and Frehley was secretly replaced on lead guitar by Bob Kulick on every song except his own "Rocket Ride." Despite this lack of unity, there are no real duds to be found here. So we'll hang the "worst song" collar on the lesser of the two patriotically themed songs, the perfectly enjoyable "Rockin' in the U.S.A."
From: Ace Frehley (1978)
Criss and Frehley had become frustrated with their roles and were threatening to quit, so Kiss bought some time by recording separate solo albums which were all released on the same day in September 1978. Frehley's was shockingly great, clearly the strongest of the four, and earned him a bigger role on the band's future albums. There are no bad songs here, it's more a matter of "least great." Let's go with "Wiped-Out."
"Living in Sin"
From: Gene Simmons (1978)
Unlike Frehley and Criss, Gene Simmons was completely happy with his role in Kiss. So he used his solo album to experiment in different genres, collaborate with famous friends such as Cher and Aerosmith's Joe Perry and sometimes just to goof off. It's all fun and harmless, if occasionally corny. Once you learn the legitimately touching reason Simmons included it, his shockingly earnest cover of "When You Wish Upon a Star" is off limits. So the last-place ribbon goes to "Living in Sin," which has the nerve to rhyme "sin" with "Holiday Inn" but also features a cheesy spoken word intro and a mid-song phone call.
From: Paul Stanley (1978)
Paul Stanley was firmly in control alongside Simmons, with no need to prove anything on his solo album. But unlike his experimental bandmate, he took a more straight-ahead approach, delivering a solid and consistent set of songs that was surpassed only by Frehley's effort. If there's a criticism to be made, it's that things can get a bit same-sounding toward the end of the album. So perhaps "Goodbye" is being unfairly penalized due to its positioning on the track list, but as we all know life isn't always fair.
From: Peter Criss (1978)
In an effort to avoid taking any cheap shots at an already widely criticized album, let's just say that the smooth, soulful music Peter Criss had in mind for his solo project was going to be a hard sell for Kiss fans regardless of how well he performed on it.
From: Dynasty (1979)
Kiss returned from a brief solo hiatus as a changed band, and to a changed musical world now ruled by disco. Stanley adopted well to the trends with the Dynasty singles "I Was Made for Lovin' You" and "Sure Know Something," although it was the final nail in the coffin for many longtime but now former fans. Newly empowered, Frehley got a third of the album to himself and makes good use of the time on the autobiographical "Hard Times" and a gritty cover of the Rolling Stones' "2,000 Man." By comparison, Simmons seems a bit lost at sea and cartoonish on tracks like "Charisma" – and especially "X-Ray Eyes."
"You're All That I Want"
From: Unmasked (1980)
Whatever tenuous connection Kiss still had to their stateside fans was completely severed with the glossy Unmasked. It's a shame because this is a pretty damn enjoyable collection of power pop. Stanley drops sharp hooks and catchy melodies on nearly every track, Frehley is in delightfully loopy form on tracks like "Torpedo Girl" and Simmons finally figured out where he fits in this new puzzle. The very reluctant pick here is the album-closing "You're All That I Want" – and the song does not deserve that fate.
"Just a Boy"
From: Music From 'The Elder' (1981)
Time for another heretical truth-bomb: Kiss' much-maligned Music From 'The Elder' could have been saved. About half of the album features perfectly acceptable, sometimes even exciting and innovative hard rock songs. It would have been much better if they'd dropped the first three tracks – particularly "Just a Boy," which sounds like it came from a medieval-themed Broadway show – and replaced them with the new straight-ahead tracks that turned up on 1982's Killers compilation. Of course, some of the remaining lyrics would still be pretty strange – but hey, Led Zeppelin was known to get high and borrow from Lord of the Rings from time to time.
From: Creatures of the Night (1982)
It would be nice to be able to say that Kiss pulled the ripcord at the last possible moment and saved their career with the comeback album Creatures of the Night. The sad truth is that they waited too long. By the time the parachute popped open, they were already face down on the ground with a long climb back to any semblance of their former fame. Nevertheless, this was a fantastic first step and one of the best albums the band ever created. That makes picking the worst song just as difficult as it was with Frehley's solo project. The pick is the slightly hammy "Danger."
"And on the 8th Day"
From: Lick It Up (1983)
Since musical excellence alone wasn't enough to get their fans back on board, Kiss took off their greasepaint and delivered the slicker, slightly less strong but still very consistent Lick It Up one year after Creatures of the Night. New guitarist Vinnie Vincent proved to be a great (if short-tenured) songwriting partner for both Stanley and Simmons, once again leaving no clear choice for "worst song" honors. Since Stanley took the hit on Creatures of the Night, we'll go with Simmons' attempt to add his own chapter to the Bible.
"Lonely is the Hunter"
From: Animalize (1984)
The hit single "Heaven's On Fire" completed a commercial comeback that began with Lick It Up, but two new problems emerged during the recording of Animalize. Kiss fired Vincent over personality conflicts then quickly learned that replacement Mark St. John wasn't a great match musically. On top of that, Simmons began dividing his time between Kiss, a film career and running his own record label, leaving an increasingly pissed-off Stanley to piece together the album by himself. Considering the obstacles involved, he did an admirable job, but Animalize was still a step down from the band's previous two efforts. Simmons' "Lonely is the Hunter" is by no means awful, but it's lacking compared to his other contributions.
"Trial by Fire"
From: Asylum (1985)
After finally finding an excellent lead guitarist fit in Bruce Kulick, Kiss delivered their most underrated '80s album with Asylum. Headlining packed arenas again seemingly re-energized Stanley's anthemic streak, and Simmons' demonic swagger shined on songs like "Any Way You Slice It" and "Love's a Deadly Weapon." "Trial by Fire" has a nicely uplifting message and a cool riff, but doesn't quite reach the same sizzling temperatures as the rest of the album.
From: Crazy Nights (1987)
Eager to improve on their '80s commercial comeback, Kiss broke out the keyboards and openly aimed for Bon Jovi-sized hits on 1987's Crazy Nights. In theory, it could have worked. The album's songs were catchy enough, but it just wasn't a natural fit and everybody seemed to figure that out pretty quickly. Stanley's empowering message is noble but there's barely a guitar to be heard in "My Way," this album's most gloppy and overbearing track.
"The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away"
From: Hot in the Shade (1989)
Singles such as "Crazy Crazy Nights" and especially this album's smash hit "Forever" kept them on steadier commercial footing. Still, Kiss ended the '80s almost as directionless as they entered it with the under-baked and overlong Hot in the Shade. There are a handful of high points, including "Rise to It" and Eric Carr's vocal debut "Little Caesar," but most of the album simply fails to catch fire. The poorly titled "The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away" is the clear nadir, thanks to its clumsy re-interpretation of the most memorable elements from David Bowie's "Suffragette City."
"Every Time I Look at You"
From: Revenge (1992)
Wisely realizing they had lost the plot, Kiss recruited Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin and made another creative comeback with 1992's hard-as-nails Revenge. There's obviously nothing wrong with having one slow song on an album otherwise filled with wall-to-wall bangers. But "Every Time I Look at You" is a slight notch below Stanley's best ballads, and not quite as fresh-sounding as the rest of this excellent album.
"It Never Goes Away"
From: Carnival of Souls (1997)
Almost immediately after rediscovering their mojo with Revenge, Kiss again left it behind in favor of trend chasing, this time adopting the down-tuned riffing and serious subject matter of grunge for Carnival of Souls. Stanley later said he was "dead set" against the idea, but went along at Simmons' insistence. It's not a total loss; sparks fly on the more upbeat numbers, including "Jungle" and "In My Head." But Stanley's fears about the band turning into "a second-rate Soundgarden" come true on joyless dirges such as "It Never Goes Away."
"I Finally Found My Way"
From: Psycho Circus (1998)
After Kiss' hugely successful original lineup reunion tour got done circling the globe in 1997, the next logical step was to record a new album together for the first time in more than 20 years. Right or wrong, Simmons and Stanley didn't think Criss and Frehley were up to the task. So, despite what it says on the credits, the returning duo are granted only occasional guest spot work on 1998's Psycho Circus. The album's actually pretty good, offering a diverse sampling of their various strengths. But Criss' obligatory ballad "I Finally Found My Way" is a treacly misfire characterized by overwrought dramatics and staggeringly generic sonics.
"Hot and Cold"
From: Sonic Boom (2009)
Kiss spent most of the decade after Pyscho Circus focused on touring, while Criss and Frehley were both eventually shown the door again. When they finally returned to the studio with Revenge-era drummer Eric Singer and new guitarist Tommy Thayer, Stanley insisted on a straight-ahead ballad-free rock album without outside songwriters or performers. The result was a pleasant if modest return to the band's classic sound, offering a killer lead single in "Modern Day Delilah" and elsewhere very little for fans to complain about. Still, let's admit that "Hot and Cold" is a bit more on the ordinary and cliched side.
From: Monster (2012)
Kiss followed the simple, in-house formula of Sonic Boom three years later on Monster, and arguably achieved better overall results. Songs such as "Hell or Hallelujah," "Take Me Down Below" and "Wall of Sound" are wilder, weirder and better than their recent predecessors, and "Hell or Hallelujah" was a particularly strong single. Nevertheless, the album-closing "Last Chance" is somewhat overblown.
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