Songs We Wish We Could Forget: Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart"

Talk about a 1-hit blunder...
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 Billy Ray Cyrus could have been a pop culture footnote, and there would have been no shame in that. Were he just “That guy who sang Achy Breaky Heart” people might snicker at remembering that song, or perhaps laughed at the image of his ridiculous mullet. Maybe they would have done both. Still, that’s not exactly a tarnished legacy as a musician or a human being. He could have just folded into the morass of musicians who flickered in our collective conscious and was gone and, honestly, he would have been more successful than most musicians could ever hope to be. Sure, he didn’t write the song, and he didn’t sing it well, Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart - Miley Cyrus - Hannah Montanaand he only got it because the Oak Ridge Boys thought it was stupid, but it would have been his success. However, one thing got in the way of Billy Ray Cyrus being remembered as nothing more than a one hit wonder. The man is a scumbag.

Why is he a scumbag? Because he’s a terrible parent, that’s why. His daughter, Miley, has had approximately 800 times the success her pa had and that’s before she  even began to approach adulthood… and that’s where the problem is. I have absolutely zero tolerance for parents who turn, or attempt to turn, their children into child stars. We’ve seen countless times over the mental and emotion damage it does to a person, and that should come as no surprise to anybody. It’s a messed up life for a kid to have. However, Cyrus was more than happy to turn his child over to the always scrupulous and in no way repulsive producers and agents and what have you who wanted to turn Miley into a star.

Much like the legendary Lou Pearlman, most of these people are assholes. These people always have a course and an agenda and an image they want to cultivate and foist onto the child in question even if it is incongruous to who they actually are. The management will decide who you are now. As with the Britney Spears’ and Mandy Moore’s of the world, they eventually decided to take her down the perviest road possible because they figured that was the best way to make money and, in case I haven’t mentioned it already, these are amoral dicks. They manipulate and they exploit and they rake in the money and Billy Ray Cyrus is more than happy to be a part of it. I don’t know how much he’s benefited financially via the success of his daughter, but I feel fairly confident in saying it is quite a lot. Cyrus couldn’t make any money off his own talent (probably because he didn’t appear to have any) but he’s rolling in money now and all it took was likely destroying his daughter’s psyche and allowing her to be exploited in hideous ways.

Of course, the fact that Billy Ray Cyrus is a total dick has nothing to do with his song “Achy Breaky Heart,” and that’s why we are here. As you can probably tell from the title, it is a song about heartbreak, phrased in the most profoundly idiotic way possible. Cyrus proceeds to tell his former significant other all the people and things she can tell about the end of their relationship (though it should be noted that he never actually mentions what it is she can’t tell his heart, but it seems pretty obvious) but, as the chorus tells us, she cannot, under any circumstances, tell his heart, his achy breaky heart, which is apparently already achy and breaky without hearing the news. For you see, if his heart were to find out it might just blow up and kill him.

The chorus is, thus, stupid in a variety of ways. First, there is the simple medical logistics of the situation. The heart is not a sentient thing, and it doesn’t have anything to do with emotions. If it doesn’t have to do with the circulatory system, the heart just doesn’t care. Of course, I know, as we all do, he’s talking about the heart as the manifestation of a person’s emotions, at least when it comes to love and relationships. Nevertheless, if Cyrus himself knows about the breakup, this version of the heart would still know it, and additionally this version of the heart is intangible and thus is not capable of blowing up and killing anybody.

Interestingly enough, the heart isn’t the only part of the body Cyrus talks about when it comes to receiving the news. He tells his ex that it is perfectly fine for her to tell several other parts of his body, in a series of mediocre to poor rhymes no less. Here’s the strange thing, or one of the strange (and by strange I probably just mean asinine) things about this song. Cyrus mentions explicitly what she can tell the other parts of his body, but not his heart. It is only when it comes to the heart that he suddenly becomes mysterious. For example, she can feel free to tell his arms to go back into the farm. No, I don’t know what that could possibly mean either. If she was telling his arms to go back to the farm, presumably with the rest of his body, that might make some sense. She would, I presume, be saying leave me the hell alone and go back to your farm, only she told it to his arms because she is either very stupid or was desperate for a rhyme. However, telling him to go back into the farm boggles the mind, and I don’t think all the philosopher-kings of this or any era could parse what the meaning of that lyric is.

She can tell his feet to hit the floor, which makes more sense but implies his feet aren’t currently on terra firma. I presume such a scenario would involve him being on the couch or something, but I like to imagine Cyrus levitating just above the floor and this woman just won’t put up with that shit. She can go ahead and tells his lips to inform his fingertips that they won’t be reaching out for her anymore, or rather “no more” in what I can only presume was a desperate plea to the uneducated to like this song. The fingertips part isn’t interesting to me, but it leads me to ponder why she didn’t tell them directly. Why did the lips have to relay the message? Were his fingertips her favorite part of him and it would just bring up too many bad memories? Did the fingertips call her a slut and she hasn’t forgiven them? Are Cyrus’ lips sort of still friendly with the ex? This song leaves so many questions unanswered, beyond the question of “Why was this song so popular?”

If she wants, she may tell his eyes to watch out (I get it!) for his mind, which may be walking out on him soon. To which I say; it’s a little late for that. Hi-O! Other than that, she’s mostly telling people things. Also, Cyrus says she can tell her dog to bite his leg and her brother Cliff to punch Cyrus in the face. So, you know, Cyrus isn’t adverse to physical pain it would appear, as long as it isn’t involving his heart. I would think a dog bite would be a bit worse than heartbreak, but that’s just me.

You know, a song about a break up and heartbreak can make a plenty good song. Hell, country music is full of them. If this had been a song about all the ways she had hurt Cyrus but the worst pain of all was in his heart, his achy breaky heart, it could have been decent, provided the words “achy breaky heart” were never used. Instead, we got some of the dumbest lyrics I’ve ever heard. Oh, and the song sounds awful as well. For starters, Cyrus can’t (or chooses not to) sing, instead sort of just talking. Additionally, the song literally sounds like it is coming out of a boom box or something. It sounds like he’s singing over a recording, and a poor quality one at that. It’s really reductive country that sounds like something somebody would use if they needed public domain generic country music.

So yeah, “Achy Breaky Heart” deserves its status as one of the worst songs of all time. You’ll get no argument from me here. There is a whole generation of people who probably developed an anti-country music stance almost solely from hearing this song and maybe Hank William Junior’s theme song to Monday Night Football. Of course, as atrocious as “Achy Breaky Heart” is, it’s nothing more than a song. Unfortunately, Billy Ray Cyrus also decided to be the human being equivalent of it, and for that he will not be remembered as “Miley Cyrus’ shitbag father” instead of as just another one hit wonder. In fact, recent events cast a sort or irony on this song. Cyrus talked about worrying about his poor, fragile heart exploding back in the day when now in the present it is evident to everybody that he doesn’t even have one.