What is the proper adjective that describes some kind of music or art that is considered very inferior and not appealing to the ear (for music) or to the eye (for art)?

  • 2
    I trust there won't be a list of synonyms for 'third rate', 'substandard' etc or 'offensive' and synonyms. These would be far too hypernymic. Words at least nuancing music / the arts in general are suitable. May 29 at 11:59
  • 3
    You mean like Pop Music? Every new generation eventually finds an "new" expression of art that is part original, mostly derivative, and quite often a complete poke in the eye of the older generation. ...who have ignored the social significance. May 29 at 17:17
  • hurtful has two meanings.
    – Lambie
    May 29 at 18:30
  • 4
    Needs clarification. "Not appealing" is not the same as "hurtful". Music might be uninteresting, edgy, actively discordant and repelling (to some people or to everyone), or offensive on non-musical grounds (e.g. made by immoral people).
    – Stuart F
    May 29 at 18:44
  • 2
    No reason painful couldn't be used metaphorically for anything you dislike, whereas hurtful implies the intent to hurt. May 29 at 20:42

5 Answers 5


cacophonous Cambridge Dictionary
having an unpleasant mixture of sounds:
We woke up to the cacophonous sound of birds.
The restaurant is a cacophonous, high-ceilinged room.

  • 1
    But what about for visual art? May 29 at 20:38

For the appealing in art forms, we have:

aesthetic, n. and adj.
B. adj. 4. Of a thing: in accordance with principles of artistic beauty or taste; giving or designed to give pleasure through beauty; of pleasing appearance.

For the unappealing, we have the opposite:

unaesthetic, adj.
(UN- prefix1 1.)

Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)


I offer (from Cambridge Dictionary)

strange and unpleasant, especially in a silly or slightly frightening way

Wikipedia has

Grotesque has come to be used as a general adjective for the strange, mysterious, magnificent, fantastic, hideous, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or disgusting, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks. In art, performance, and literature, however, grotesque may also refer to something that simultaneously invokes in an audience a feeling of uncomfortable bizarreness as well as sympathetic pity.

  • 1
    In the visual arts (and perhaps also in music) it can also—and this is more common in theoretical writings—refer to mostly (organic) decorative patterns, so this might not be the best adjective for the OP's use.
    – Joachim
    May 29 at 21:12

I don't know about "hurtful" but it sounds like "kitsch" is more or less what you have in mind.



art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way. "the lava lamp is an example of sixties kitsch"


considered to be in poor taste but appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.


Dissonant describes a non-harmonic combination of musical notes.

Discordant should do the same for colors, although not exclusive to this context.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.