The worst Kiss songs are usually made when they try to sound like someone else.

Apparently not content with simply being one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Kiss has reached for an even wider audience or attempted to resurrect their flagging commercial fortunes by incorporating whatever musical trends were most popular at the time – be it disco, pop, metal or grunge.

That admirable adaptability kept them in business for decades, yielding unexpected hit singles such as “A World Without Heroes,” “Lick It Up” and “Forever,” as well as less celebrated creative high points like “Sure Know Something,” “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” and “In My Head.”

But as they’ll be the first to tell you, Kiss can also take things too far.

Band mainstays Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley refer to past albums such as Unmasked, Music from ‘The Elder’ and Carnival of Souls as “crappy,” “bizarre” and “a big misstep,” respectively, in their 2001 book Kiss: Behind the Mask. But which individual songs were the worst?

Skipping tracks from the band’s four 1978 solo albums, here’s 10 times Kiss really missed the mark.

10. “Kissin’ Time”
From: Kiss (1974)

This one wasn’t really Kiss’ fault. When their debut album failed to make much of an initial dent on the charts, Casablanca Records boss Neil Bogart insisted that the band record a cover of Bobby Rydell’s 1959 hit single “Kissin’ Time.” Bogart then released it as a single, and added it to later pressings of the album against the group’s will. “If he could get you a hit today and ruin your career, that was well worth it ’cause you’d have had a hit,” Stanley said in Kiss: Behind the Mask. They were right to be unhappy about this addition, as the gimmicky song stuck out like a sore thumb alongside future classics such as “Black Diamond” and “Cold Gin.”

 

9. “Nothing Can Keep Me From You”
From: Detroit Rock City soundtrack (1999)

A year after Aerosmith scored a major hit with the Diane Warren-penned ballad “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from the Armageddon soundtrack, Stanley recruited the songwriter for his own attempt at a cinematic, orchestra-backed ballad. Unfortunately, the individual style and charisma he displayed on previous slow-burners like “I Still Love You,” “A Million to One” and “Forever” simply can’t cut through the backing track.

 

8. “(You Make Me) Rock Hard”
From: Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

The two new songs on Kiss’ 1988 hits compilation perfectly illustrate Spinal Tap‘s theory about the fine line between clever and stupid. You certainly wouldn’t call “Let’s Put the X in Sex” a major work of art, but at least the song carries its absurdity with a confident performance and some very catchy guitar work. By comparison, “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” is a limp handshake, with a riff completely unworthy of Stanley’s opening “Turn it up!” exhortation.

 

7. “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”
From: Hot in the Shade (1989)

Realizing they had wandered too far off the path with 1987’s keyboard-heavy Crazy Nights, Kiss attempted to make a return to stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll two years later with Hot in the Shade. They scored a major hit with “Forever,” but the record as a whole is overlong, unfocused and bloated. “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” exemplifies what’s wrong here, as Simmons buries an appealing riff under overly preachy and wordy lyrics and a distracting aping of the “hey man” verse opening from David Bowie‘s “Suffragette City”

 

6. “My Way”
From: Crazy Nights (1987)

It’s not really fair that Paul Stanley has more songs on this list 10 worst Kiss songs than Gene Simmons. It was Stanley who nearly single-handedly brought the band back to platinum-selling status during the mid-’80s, while Simmons split his attention with outside acting and label boss careers. It was also Stanley who proved willing and able to successfully update Kiss’ formula for changing times, embracing disco with 1979’s “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” and hair metal with ’80s hits such as “Heaven’s on Fire” and “Tears are Falling.” His attempts to replicate Bon Jovi-style keyboard pop-rock on 1987’s Crazy Nights, however, were a bit spotty. The title track was a big hit, and the infectious “Turn on the Night” probably deserved to be one. But the overwhelming keyboards and piercingly high vocals of the self-help anthem “My Way” were a bridge too far.

 

5. “It Never Goes Away”
From: Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions (1997)

Kiss emerged from a late ’80s creative losing streak with 1992’s razor-sharp Revenge, only to watch the album go largely ignored by grunge-obsessed mainstream rock fans. So for at least the third time in their career, Kiss decided to chase trends. They hired Alice in Chains producer Toby Wright and began experimenting with heavy riffs, drop D tuning and more serious subject matter for Carnival of Souls. It was a pretty good fit for Simmons, and on songs such as “Master & Slave” and “Jungle,” Stanley was successfully able to merge his natural flash and gift for hooks with this new approach. But he sounds miserable and lost on the turgid six minute-long dirge “It Never Goes Away.”

 

4. “Good Girl Gone Bad”
From: Crazy Nights (1987)

While Simmons mostly avoided the keyboard excess of Crazy Nights on admirably straight-ahead rock songs such as “Thief in the Night” and “No No No,” he succumbs on this overly generic mid-tempo rocker. “We just became what we looked like in the videos,” Simmons said of the song in Kiss: Behind the Mask. “Silly. Not as good as Bon Jovi, not as good as Poison.”

 

3. “Just a Boy”
From: Music from ‘The Elder’ (1981)

It’s after the fourth opening acoustic guitar strum and triangle “ding!” that you realize just how far off the rails Kiss went with their medieval concept album. After alienating their original hard-rock audience with a string of pop and disco-influenced singles, Kiss intended to return to straight-ahead rock but got convinced by Pink Floyd‘s The Wall producer Bob Erzin to aim for something much more ambitious instead. Amazingly, more than half of Music from ‘The Elder’ still works pretty well, as long as you don’t try to figure out what they’re talking about. But there’s no such salvation for the extremely odd blend of falsetto and operatic bombast Stanley is asked to deliver on this track.

 

2. “Odyssey”
From: Music from ‘The Elder’ (1981)

“Odyssey” pushes the Music from ‘The Elder’ album even further into ill-fitting Broadway territory, and it’s twice as long so lands higher on our list of 10 worst Kiss songs. “It was a good song when I heard Tony Powers, the guy who wrote it, sing it because it was unique. And it very much suited him,” Stanley recalled in Kiss: Behind the Mask. “Me singing it was just tragic.”

 

1. “I Finally Found My Way”
From: Psycho Circus (1998)

The temporary camaraderie the original lineup of Kiss generated with their 1996 reunion tour was mostly gone by the time they attempted to record a studio record together. Depending on who you listen to, returning co-founders Peter Criss and Ace Frehley weren’t able or weren’t allowed to play their instruments on most of Psycho Circus. Still, they apparently felt obligated to try to replicate the past success of “Beth” and “Hard Luck Woman,” so the band gave Criss lead vocal duties on this toothless and overly saccharine piano ballad.

 

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