You may have noticed that there’s a lot less negativity on this blog than there used to be. That mostly has to do with me as a person, but believe it or not, there are still things I don’t like. Here are just ten of the hit songs from the past year that I thought were just all kinds of bad. In previous years, “hit” has referred to any song that made it onto the Billboard Year-End Hot 100, or any song that made it into the top 10 at any point in that year. This year, I’ve loosened it a bit to include any song that made it into the top 40 on the Hot 100 at any point in 2016. It didn’t change much. Let’s kick it.
10) ALL WE KNOW – The Chainsmokers feat. Phoebe Ryan
This was a big year for the Chainsmokers. They notched four top 20 hits, including their first #1 hit, “Closer” featuring Halsey. So, how did they follow up on their monumental, chart-topping song of the summer? Make it again! It’s foolproof! What better way to capitalize on a hit song than by making your next single jarringly similar? The fans love it! Truth be told, this song is pretty solid on its own, but in the context of having so much of the same structure, instrumentation, tune, lyrics, and fucking sentence structure as their insanely successful previous song, it feels like a lazy cash-in at best.
9) BACK TO SLEEP – Chris Brown
The first version of this song I heard was the remix, with Zayn and Usher. I like Zayn, I like Usher, and I thought that song was catchy and captured a good balance of goofy and smooth. It turns out, when you take out the two likable, talented artists, what you’re left with kinda sucks. It’s far from Chris Brown’s worst, but it doesn’t set itself apart from his other pop slow jams except for its unsettling mantra of “Let me fuck you back to sleep.” I feel like Chris Brown is too slimy to carry any type of sex song on his own.
8) HANDS TO MYSELF – Selena Gomez
On “Hands to Myself,” Selena Gomez combines her “Good for You” wispy sex kitten vocals with her “Same Old Love” simple-yet-bombastic pop production to create a song that just truly, fundamentally, does not work. It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, it’s not catchy, it’s not interesting. There are points where it seems like both Selena and producers Mattman & Robin are really trying, but it’s just a lot of potential energy that never builds to anything.
7) ME, MYSELF & I – G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha / BAD THINGS – Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello (TIE)
Initially, I was ready to include both of these songs on the list, but at the last minute I realized that they’re the same. Two flaccid hip-hop slow jams that feature up-and-coming pop songstresses just not really selling it at all on the chorus. Of course, both songs have their strengths and weaknesses. Bebe Rexha is a better singer than Camila Cabello, but MGK is a marginally better rapper than G-Eazy. “Me, Myself & I” is a bit catchier, “Bad Things” is a bit better-written. Either way, they’re both super derivative and don’t bring anything new to the table, although Camila’s Britney Spears impression is admirable.
6) TREAT YOU BETTER – Shawn Mendes
In another case of pop deja vu, Shawn Mendes followed up his first big hit, “Stitches,” with a song that you would swear was “Stitches” on the first listen. But no, it’s “Treat You Better,” a song about how Shawn’s ex-girl is seeing a new man but Shawn knows, deep down, she’s still into him. Yeah, not so romantic when you put it that way. It’s creepy, and the fact that it’s played so sympathetically, like he’s somehow being burdened, is super weird. Still, the way he shrieks “BETTADENEEKYEN” at the end of the chorus is hilarious.
5) JUJU ON THAT BEAT (TZ ANTHEM) – Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall
This song’s harmless and all in good fun, but oh god is it bad. From the hook alone, you get frantically commanded to do dances you’re never told how to do, then told to “do your dance” as if you’re supposed to have one prepared, and Zay tops it all off by calling your dad ugly. I wasn’t expecting much from the verses, but Zayion’s stubborn refusal to rhyme really got to me. To give you an idea of it, he finishes off the verse with this couplet:
I mean, I like your style
I’m on a whole ‘nother level
If you compared me and you
There wouldn’t be no comparison
And it’s not like he’s doing any vocal contortions to try and make it rhyme. He’s just saying shit. And according to Genius, he wrote this verse down. It’s inexcusable. This song is three minutes and Zayion couldn’t bother to offer the bare minimum.
4) 7 YEARS – Lukas Graham
I’ll bet Lukas Graham thinks he’s really interesting. Interesting enough to have a band with two other people in it and have it just be called “Lukas Graham.” Interesting enough to name two consecutive albums by that band “Lukas Graham.” Interesting enough to make a goddamn terrible stuff chronicling his entire life in the form of people telling him to get a life. To be fair, he had a pretty interesting life. He didn’t have any friends until he was 7, then by the time he was eleven he was drinking bourbon and smoking Herb. Not herb, Herb, with a pronounced H. Poor Herb. Unfortunately, he wasn’t rich when he was eleven, so he had to resort to extreme measures. This is when his father told his eleven-year-old son to find a wife ASAP. He started writing songs, but not for the fame, because being adored by the masses is boooooring. No, he knows that you don’t know his story just by him telling you his story in excruciating detail. However, he doesn’t believe in failure, and he likes putting samples of fans screaming his name into his songs about how he doesn’t like being famous. Now, he’s almost 30 and almost 60, at the same time! What an interesting guy. Band. Album.
3) ME TOO – Meghan Trainor
This song is a little weird, actually. It’s not poorly-constructed. It flows nicely and has moments where things come together really well. It’s just that all the base elements of it suck. The beat is trash. It’s not nearly as catchy or funny as it makes itself out to be. The vocals are half-overzealous and half-phoned-in. It’s about four different songs at once, and they’re all trash. At least Meghan Trainor knows how to handle her bad songs.
2) DON’T WANNA KNOW – Maroon 5 feat. Kendrick Lamar
A lot of elements come together to create this piece of work. We’ve got a shitty Diplo wannabe milquetoast dancehall-lite beat. We’ve got the most asinine, repetitive nonsense lyrics we’ve ever seen from Maroon 5. They’re not even fun nonsense, they’re just tasteless pop buzzwords with no connectivity. We’ve got Adam Levine sounding like he’s asleep in the studio, and the rest of the band presumed dead. We’ve got the worst Kendrick Lamar verse of all time. Truly, it’s a masterpiece of garbage. What could be worse than this? I’ll tell you what.
1) HEATHENS – twenty one pilots
Look, I like twenty one pilots. You guys know I like twenty one pilots. You can find me talking about how I like twenty one pilots on this very blog. But try and remove “Heathens” from context, if you can. Take away the movie. Take away the band. Take away the preconceived notions. Can you find one thing about this song that’s the slightest bit redeemable? Any particularly interesting, clever, or worthwhile lyric? Any moment that leads into the next moment well? Any moment where you can really get lost in the music?
Here’s the thing. I’m kind of in the same boat as you. When I first heard this song, I thought it was okay. When I started to realize it wasn’t all that good, I didn’t think it’d be making my worst list. When I decided to add it to the worst list, I had no idea it would be #1. But what I’ve come to realize is that this song is an unimaginable wasteland of cold, wet garbage. The beat is boring. That high-pitched voice that follows Tyler Joseph around like a scab on his back is irritating. It doesn’t make any sense. The writing is atrocious. “You’ll never know the freak show sitting next to you / You’ll have some weird people sitting next to you?” How the fuck did we fall for this? How did this song get to #2 on the Hot 100? How did this song get nominated for three Grammys? I honestly think it wasn’t finished. The song leaked in early June and I think it wasn’t done yet, but the fans responded well to it so Atlantic just released it as is. There’s no way this is what they had in mind. There’s no way this was their grand vision for this song. There’s no way twenty one pilots thought this song was good enough to be released to the public, to be featured prominently in a blockbuster film, to be submitted for consideration by the Recording Academy.
Anyway, that’s enough negativity for a while. I’ll have the best hit songs of the year list up real quick, and everything else will come in the next couple weeks.