I’ve always been pretty knowledgable of music of all kinds, budding from a pretty young age. I’m not too sure what the kickstarter was, but I’ve always been pretty obsessed with pop music – usually from the past decades – and pop culture in general. Still, even though I went through a brief period in my pre-teens where I listened to solely mainstream radio, I’ve never really followed the Hot 100 charts until very recently. Sometime after I begun my Billboard Hot 100 challenge, though, I realized that if I wanted to look at these songs with the full context that they deserve, I should be at least somewhat familiar with the popular music of today. So, started from late 2015, I followed through every chart, listened to every new single, and tried to maintain at least somewhat of a familiarity with the artists featured, especially the really popular ones. Before I started doing this, I had never even heard a single song from Drake! (And now, I think I’ve listened to a few too many – but more on that later…) (On a side note, it’s already been almost two years since I started the Billboard Hot 100 challenge!! I’ve really gotta pick up my pace…)
2016 was the first year in a long, long time where I gained a pretty good familiarity with pop music of today. I have been looking forward to doing a wrap-up post on some of my favorite hit singles from 2016 for a few months now, but upon preparing for it I also realized that there were so much from this year that I also really disliked. And I’m not even one of those types who believes that today’s pop music has no benefits – there was so much pop music from this past year with which I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed. Just like with any year, there are songs that ride on either side of the entertainment scale – I guess since I was relying on a much broader frame of reference than, say, the year-end chart alone, it really seems this year is particularly bad when it may not necessarily be the case.
Basically, what I’m getting at is that I since I have enough material backed up for a Worst of 2016 Hit Singles list, I may as well make a post for that – and here we are! But first, since a lot of other music critics out there have their own ground rules for their own lists, I’d like to illustrate my definition of “hit single”, for the purposes of this as well as my Best of list:
- The single must have debuted during a Billboard chart issue landing in 2016. This may seem confusing, so I’ll explain a bit. Each mid-week, Billboard compiles and releases a new Hot 100 list to the public. Each new Hot 100 list that is released in marked as the eleventh day after this release, to coincide with the last day of the week of the issue for which it is post-dated. For example, the chart that was compiled on Jan. 3 (to track the top sales/airplay/streaming performances of the previous seven days) is marked as a Jan. 17 chart. What this means is that there are singles here that were technically released around the tail end of 2015, but still count here since they came onto the charts on the first or second chart week of the year. Even though songs like Adele’s “Hello” and Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” were huge hits through the first half of 2016, they won’t qualify for me since they debuted on the charts in 2015. This rule also means that some singles, in theory, wouldn’t count on this list, since they came out around the tail end of 2016 and appear in Jan. 2017 charts. There’s still a possibility that they’ll end up on my Best of/Worst of lists of 2017, though!
- The single must have entered the Top 40 in 2016. For my purposes alone, I want to cover only songs that are among the most-played of the entire year. There are songs that would have easily broken through my Worst list had I loosened this rule to just any song that hit the Hot 100 (I’m looking at you, “PPAP”!), but I think it would be a lot more interesting if I focused solely on music that a large portion of the country loved enough for it to get constant play. Moreover, if I made my Best list to also include any 2016 Hot 100 entry, it would undoubtedly contain a whole bunch of fluke, one-chart-week stuff and no one wants to read about that!
- The song must have had its chart debut in 2016. This seems pretty self-explanatory, but once again, no one wants to read a Best of 2016 list that has a bunch of older hits from David Bowie and Prince, nor a Worst of 2016 list with a bunch of older Christmas songs. That would be preposterous!
Okay, now that I’ve cleared that part up, on with the list!
20) “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker” by Zayn & Taylor Swift (peak position: #6)
This song barely made the cut, having had its debut on the chart week ending on Dec. 31, 2016. Thus, I placed it near the bottom partially because it hadn’t had much of a chance to obliterate my eardrums the way that many of the other entries had. Anyway, I do not like this song. From the way it starts off with the “woah-oh-oh” hook that so many songs seem to be doing these days as a placeholder for real lyrics, I knew it wouldn’t turn out well. Since I love male falsetto, I don’t have as much of an issue with Zayn’s vocal delivery, but Taylor has rarely sounded more bored out of her mind. And not to mention the lyrics. Lines like “Wondering if I dodged a bullet or just lost the love of my life” and “It’s just a cruel existence like it’s no point hopin’ at all” maybe would be a bit more tolerable if they weren’t referring to a literal abusive relationship. All set to the tune of a dismal, depressive production that thinks it’s sexy – a contagion that seems to be spreading like wildfire in pop music these days – make this among the worst songs of the latter part of the year. Seriously, fuck the Fifty Shades franchise and all the terrible music they’ve made popular (like Beyoncé’s dreary reworking of her own “Crazy in Love”, which didn’t need to be tampered with).
19) “No Limit” by Usher ft. Young Thug (peak position: #32)
Maybe I’ve been out of the loop, but when did Usher get so boring? Before “No Limit”, I think the last song I’ve heard from him had been “OMG” or “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love”; perhaps they weren’t very well-written nor well-produced, but at least they got us in the mood to party. Yet instead of the soaring, anthemic choruses from these songs, “Yeah!”, or even earlier hits like “U Don’t Have to Call” and “U Remind Me”, what do we have here? Oh, just some flat non-singing with one of the most boring choruses Mr. Raymond has ever put out, set to the tune of some awful production choices that manage to sound both generic and annoying both at once. I think Young Thug is okay in general, but I’ve listened to this song so many times and I cannot remember a single line from his verse that stands out even slightly – it’s just so dull! At the very least, I know that I never want to hear Usher tell me he’s gonna give me that “ghetto D” ever again.
18) “Party Monster” by The Weeknd (peak position: #16)
I went back and forth on this single so many times, until I finally decided that my opinion on it lies more in the negative than the positive. Starboy, as an album, wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, I think – I just had the tendency to turn my brain off again and again through the album, since so many songs sounded exactly the same. I think the monotony of most of his music is my main issue with The Weeknd, though Starboy had the particular disadvantage of being 18 songs in length. But let’s talk about the song now. The production, like most songs from the album, is a definite high point, which may be the reason why this song is so deceptive. It sounds so dark and dreary and depressive, but the lyrics are just so bad. “Woke up by a girl; I don’t even know her name” is pretty much the best encapsulation of The Weeknd’s discography, and the rest of the song rarely ascends from this level of ankle-deep shallowness. The “lips like Angelina… ass shaped like Selena” line would be nearly enough for me to dislike this one, but the “dick game be the meanest” drives it in even further. And I would merely dismiss at just another party song if it simply sounded like a party song – but it doesn’t. The electronic backing just sludges along, with Abel following along with his bored hedonism. I’m starting to feel that there really isn’t much else that this guy has to offer.
17) “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors (peak position: #20)
In case you haven’t figured out by now, one of my least favorite qualities of this year in the Hot 100 is the utter over-saturation of so many songs that are so, so depressing and not fun in the slightest. Seriously, I can’t think of a single other chart year of the past that was just so dismal-sounding overall. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the American state of mind as a whole, what with corruption, death, and disease seeming to be surrounding us on all sides. Sure that’s always been the case, but media and especially social media make this seem much more prominent and it all bleeds back into the popular music we consume. In any case, it doesn’t make for very enjoyable chart-scouring, especially when you’ve got songs like “Unsteady” being on such high circulation. You know the rock scene is suffering when one of the most successful rock songs of 2016 is led by a single piano pushing out a few dreary chords, some apocalyptic drums, a weird crackling backdrop, and a vocalist that sounds like every line gives him physical pain (not that there are many lyrics in this song anyway). I appreciate this song tackling such a difficult topic like divorce or loss in general – I just don’t think it was done very well. It sounds like an unfinished demo for a much better song that doesn’t exist. I guess the best thing I can say about this single is that the rock scene of the late-2010s can only go up from here.
16) “M.I.L.F. $” by Fergie (peak position: #34)
For the record, I really enjoy this single’s music video. It’s grandiose, colorful, and ambitious, and it’s always a delight to see well-produced videos being made despite the golden age of music videos being left far behind. And hey – I even like certain elements of this song! 2016 was the year that I discovered the merits of trap music, and the beat behind this one is absolutely killer. So, why did this song make the list then? The short answer is that it’s unnecessary and annoying. I don’t think anyone asked for “M.I.L.F.” to make a comeback in 2016, and this attempt to do so through a silly pun is ill-informed and runs its course really, really quickly. Moreover, Fergie’s sassy charisma found in older singles like “Clumsy”, “Fergalicious”, and even “London Bridge” is nowhere to be found here. Instead, this charm is replaced by overbearing loudness and tuneless vocalizations. She does some rapping here and there, which honestly isn’t that bad but essentially comes off as Fergie doing her best Nicki Minaj impersonation. Yet it’s the structure alone that turned me off from the first listen – in the sense that there really is none. It’s just a bunch of flimsy hooks thrown together into a formless composition that runs for two-and-a-half minutes with little to no payoff. It saddens me to say that this adds Fergie to the ever-growing list of tried-and-failed comebacks.
15) “Foldin’ Clothes” by J. Cole (peak position: #30)
Okay, so before I get flak for including this song on the list, let it be known that I know that this isn’t an official single release from J. Cole. It did, however, peak in the Top 40 and nowhere in my rules did I state that I’d only count official releases (also, I just really want to write about this song). Anyway, I thought J. Cole’s latest release 4 Your Eyez Only was… not too bad. I mean, it’s a mixed bag, since we got some songs like “Immortal”, “Deja Vu”, and the title track that really demonstrate some genuine talent and wordsmanship, alongside… well, this. “Foldin’ Clothes”. If the title alone doesn’t ring any alarms, here’s how the chorus goes: “I wanna fold clothes for you / I wanna make you feel good / Baby, I wanna do the right thing / Feels so much better than the wrong thing”. Yeah, this is a corny one. I have no objections to rappers making love songs, because there’s a lot of good ones out there, but I also have my standards! I appreciate the sentiments that probably went behind crafting this song, but it also has a line that rhymes “Netflix” with “breakfast”, followed with “I never thought I’d see the day I’m drinking almond milk”. I don’t hold nearly as much contempt for this song as I do with many others on this list, but the fact that I feel embarrassed for everyone who worked on the track isn’t a good sign. It’s definitely a low point of Eyez, an album with honestly not too many high points.
14) “Just Like Fire” by Pink (peak position: #10)
Soundtrack songs from films with mixed reviews tended to be pretty popular this past year in chart singles. Sadly, from the first time I listened to it, I knew that “Just Like Fire” would be one of the worst. I wish I liked Pink more than I do, but I haven’t legitimately enjoyed a song of hers since high school, maybe earlier. I do appreciate her persistence and consistent sales success, despite the constant demand to change her sound with the times. And I think that’s why I can’t enjoy Pink – especially with her newer songs, there’s a sense of awkwardness in that she’s performing with styles and production choices that aren’t of her choosing. The verses, though bland, are actually kind of nice, but it’s when these clumsily transition to a generic trap beat in the bridge, along with the “We came here to run it, run it” chants, that the song truly starts to fall apart. The chorus is unnecessarily loud and cluttered, and the song as a whole is filled with a bunch of lines that sound alright on their own, but offer no sense of cohesion when meshed together. Oh, and did I mention that Pink raps in this one? Yes, she raps, and it feels awfully forced and totally awkward. It’s what the folks over at Beyond Yacht Rock would call a Try-N-Rap. This is just a bad song, through and through, and I wish that so many of its choices in writing and production were better thought-out, because I think Pink deserves much better.
13) “Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar (peak position: #7)
I’ve turned off on Maroon 5 for years now, especially when it became obvious that the band’s become nothing more than a way for Adam Levine to flex his own ego. They’ve released a lot of bad songs through the years, yet still manage to somehow be pretty successful. It might be because of their flair for working with producers that help them evolve their sound with the times. In this case, producer Benny Blanco gives this single the tropical house sound that so many artists have dipped their toes in this past year. Honestly, though, this may be the worst of the lot. The chorus is dangerously identical to the chorus of Major Lazer and Justin Bieber’s “Let Me Love You” (which isn’t only slightly better, but definitely sharper than this mess). The lyrics, which deal with the pain of breakup, are as simple and dull as it could get. It’s a song that basically leaves no lasting impression after the first listen, and only negative emotions with each subsequent play. And if you thought it couldn’t get worse, they add Kendrick Lamar on the track with what is possibly the single worst verse I’ve ever heard him spit. In it, he rhymes “birthday” with “birthday” and essentially just comes across as the biggest, most juvenile sore loser imaginable. At least we can take refuge in the fact that this song will be completely forgotten about in the next year or two.
12) “Forever Country” by Artists of Then, Now, & Forever (peak position: #21)
I almost didn’t add this one to the list, since it was only released to advertise the 50th anniversary of the CMA Awards and was such a flash in the pan it’s so easy to forget that it even happened. But I didn’t forget. This track really got under my skin and it’s hard to accurately pinpoint why – but I can try. It’s essentially a collaboration between thirty country music artists to perform a medley of three classics in the genre, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “I Will Always Love You”, and “On the Road Again”. The first two have been especially susceptible to terrible covers throughout the years, so there’s no reason why such a sterilized, manufactured rendition of the songs as a medley would work even better. I can’t really complain about the performers – most are at the top of their game, others have been in the biz for years, and they’re all really good at what they do in general. But it’s also tough to criticize because no one gets to sing for very long! Trying to stuff thirty performers in a four minute song means that hardly anyone gets anything more than a single line to sing, and that’s just awkward! And before you say it, yes I’m also not a fan of “We Are the World” nor “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, but at least those were written with the intention of being sung line by line. I guess the one great thing about this single is Dolly Parton closing out the medley with the lovely chorus of her own song, but it’s just too bad you have to listen to a pile of generic, soulless content before you get to that.
11) “Bad Things” by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello (peak position: #9)
Stumbling upon this song on the radio was the strangest experience ever. I have no idea of the percentage of listeners who, like me, immediately recognized the chorus as a reworking of the chorus from Fastball’s “Out of My Head”. I mean – it’s Fastball! How does anyone come up with the idea to make Fastball sexy?? To be fair, though, that isn’t really why I dislike this song. It took me a while to warm up to Camila Cabello’s voice, but she isn’t half-bad at her attempt at these revamped lyrics. No, it’s Machine Gun Kelly’s utter lack of charisma, accompanied by bad lyrics and even worse production, that make this among the worst top ten singles of the year. There isn’t a single line that MCG spits that makes him sound the least bit interesting – or interested, on that matter. This song is supposed to be an homage to a purely sexual relationship, which is something I can usually get behind, but his drab delivery makes it more aggressive than it needs to be. The lyrics are even less convincing, and the dark, minimalist production falls in line with all the dreary, depressing sounds that I hated so much in 2016. Seriously, a song about how much you love fucking someone should never be backed by something akin to horror movie soundtracks. This is a weird clusterfuck of a song, one that I don’t think I need to listen to ever again.
10) “i hate u, i love you” by gnash ft. Olivia O’Brien (peak position: #10)
It’s safe to say that, while the bottom ten of this list could be more or less interchanged amongst each other, these top ten are definitely the shit of the crop. Now, I feel like most people I’ve seen make these Worst of lists have ranked this single a bit higher, but to be honest, it took me a while to even decide that this is a bad song. I mean, I can totally relate to a lot of these lines about lost love and inability to get over someone who is long gone. After about the hundredth listen, though, I finally acknowledged that there’s so much more to hate about this song than immediately apparent. gnash is a painfully boring performer, and Olivia O’Brien, while not quite as bad a singer, doesn’t give off any sense of a personality and sounds just as listless. And those lyrics – those lyrics!! Maybe there’s some disgruntled young person out there who finds some connection to lines like “I hate you, I love you / I hate that I love you”, but I can’t see it personally. And gnash himself emits the single worst flow-killer of the year with these lines:
“Always missing people that I shouldn’t be missing
Sometimes you gotta burn some bridges just to create some distance
I know that I control my thoughts and I should stop reminiscing
But I learned from my dad that it’s good to have feelings”
That last line is just the worst, and it throws me off guard with every single listen. And the cherry on top of the cake is that this is yet another song with only a piano backing to its name to create this overbearingly dismal atmosphere. Inherently, it’s not a bad choice for songs like these – it’s when these songs crack the top ten that make it so deplorable. Please let this song die.
9) “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor (peak position: #13)
I’d never thought I’d ever be defending Meghan Trainor, but you guys – “No” isn’t that bad of a song. I’ve seen it on plenty of people’s Worst of list of the year, and while I’m generally not a fan of Trainor’s brand of feminist pop (which notoriously appropriates Black culture and manipulates it so it’s consumable for White women), “No” is just almost saved by its production which calls back to some of my favorite qualities of 90s teen pop. “Me Too”, however, doesn’t have this – it hardly has a single redeeming factor, actually. I had to double-check that this wasn’t produced by Will.i.am, since that looping electronic hook has that same insufferable quality of many of his worst productions. And then, there’s Trainor herself. I’ve never been a fan of hers in the slightest, but at least her previous singles “All About That Bass” and “Dear Future Husband” gave her some room to demonstrate her vocal range. Here, she barely gets any breathing room, with the chorus itself being the dimly spoken repetition of “If I was you, I’d wanna be me too”. The line was never very clever to begin with, but the whole song carries this rancid air of self-satisfaction in the façade of self-empowerment. There’s nothing in the song that indicates that Meghan Trainor loves anyone else except Meghan Trainor, and it fails on this count alone. The fact that it also just never sounds good at any point ever – that just makes it even worse.
8) “Pop Style” by Drake ft. The Throne (peak position: #16)
I can’t tell if every new Drake song is getting worse and worse, or if I’ve just become so fatigued with his appearances on the charts and the influence he’s spread to so many other artists. I think it’s some combination of the two, honestly. All of his single releases leading up to Views have been mostly drab and boring – thus making it no surprise that the long-anticipated itself was pretty damn pointless! Out of these singles, however, “Pop Style” is the absolute worse. The production is yet another sludgy, sad mess in an attempt to disguise itself as something dark and edgy. While Drake has a lot of songs that are less than impressive, most of them have at least a line or two that stand out as legitimately clever or catchy. This one has nothing. It sounds absolutely phoned in, thrown together lazily in hopes that it would catch on (unsurprisingly, it did). The line, “Girl let me rock, rock, rock, rock, rock your body / Justin Timberlake and then I hit the highway” has the type of lazy hashtag hip-hop quality that makes no sense and dates itself immediately. But it’s not just Drake that fails here – Kanye’s verse is also disappointing, with his Emmett Till being yet another example of his frustrating tendencies to belittle Civil Rights postmarks. And I don’t even know what Jay-Z is doing on this track, given that he only has a couple generic lines to his name. I liked a lot of hip-hop this year, but there’s no denying that the worst of it was pretty terrible, and I’m sure 2017 will have even more terrible Drake rhymes to offer us all.
7) “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw (peak position: #30)
I should probably make clear that I don’t exactly disagree with the message of this song at all. I think it’s important and vital to count your blessings, remember where you came from, and perform random acts of kindness any time you can – it keeps us all grounded and helps us realize what’s really important. I just feel like the place where this is coming from is a bit… icky? Like, there’s a line in the chorus that goes, “Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie” – which are all pretty much derived from the Ten Commandments. It’s certainly not common for country music to incorporate ideals of Christianity in their music and I don’t necessarily dislike this at face value, even if the line “Go to church ’cause your mama says to” is eye-rollingly corny. It’s when the true nature of the message is revealed in lines like “Know the difference between sleeping with someone / And sleeping with someone you love / ‘I love you’ ain’t no pick up line”. I’m pretty sure that people who choose not to settle down with a single partner also have the ability to spread kindness to others; this should not be two mutually exclusive qualities of a person. These lines alone would be enough for me to dismiss it entirely, if not for the pure condescending nature of the whole piece. I just don’t like songs that tell me what to do or elevate a single ideal as being the purest and most good, despite their good intentions. It’s annoying, cloying pop country drivel like this that make me want to dismiss the genre entirely.
6) “H.O.L.Y.” by Florida Georgia Line (peak position: #14)
Speaking of which. Let it be known that I will never dismiss the country genre entirely; there’s just far too much great country music out there for me to ever see eye-to-eye with those who claim to listen to “everything but country”. Yet it’s modern country – and especially bro-country, which has been rising to dispiriting levels of popularity in recent years – that really has me jaded and struggling for any hope of a resurgence. “H.O.L.Y.” may very well be rock bottom, in this regard. It is awful. If you had thought that my complaints about the Christianity references in “Humble and Kind” were due to any form of bias or if even if you thought I was making a huge leap to conclusions, let it be known that this song literally uses a word commonly attributed to gods and deities as an acronym for “High On Loving You”. Not to mention the verses, which are sprinkled with so many painful religious metaphors. And here’s the thing: if this song were to ride with this concept as a genuine profession of love for the speaker’s partner as well as his God, I think I’d be okay with that. But that’s not the case here – Florida Georgia Line knows that their listeners will eat up any song of this nature. They also know that their listeners love to party and be hedonistic, so they make it as superficially pandering as possible. These lines are particularly bad: “Let me lay you down, give me to you / Get you singing babe, hallelujah / We’ll be touching, we’ll be touching heaven”. Something about making “Hallelujah” into something you scream during sex just sounds so wrong to me. The stomping hip-hop backbeat that permeates throughout the whole song just ties the bow atop of this shitshow. Florida Georgia Line are honestly just the worst.
5) “Close” by Nick Jonas ft. Tove Lo (peak position: #14)
Okay, that steel drum-sounding instrument at the beginning is pretty cool… but it goes all downhill from there. Zayn’s attempt at a solo career has been getting a lot of negative attention, but honestly Nick Jonas is the worst of the grown-up former boy band members to try their hand at a sexy solo career in the past couple years. This whole song rides on the laziest of melodies, performed dismally by the equally as bored-sounding Nick Jonas. Tove Lo’s contribution to the song is just a non-factor, as she adds pretty much nothing to the track that Jonas doesn’t already accomplish himself. And yes, this is yet another dark-that-thinks-it’s-sensual songs that I’ve already described a bazillion times on this post. But really, it’s the bridge leading to the chorus that really kill it all completely for me: “Cause if I want you, then I want you, babe / Ain’t going backwards, won’t ask for space / ‘Cause space was just a word made up by someone who’s afraid to get too… Close”. This is an absolutely terrible bridge and it immediately solidifies this song as one of those one-sided love songs that I despise so much. No, Nick Jonas, space is not for people who are afraid of getting too close. Space is for people who want to take things slowly, or who are maybe not ready for such a commitment right now, or, yeah, I’ll say it – people who don’t and never will want to sleep with your ass. Having a woman sing a response verse doesn’t make it better either; maybe the feelings are mutual, but the sentiment of disrespect for others’ comfort zones is still there, clear as crystal. This song is a big, overblown fart.
4) “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya (peak position: #3)
Now, unlike a lot of the songs I tend to put on lists like these, this song isn’t on here because of problematic messages it gets across with its lyrics. Rather, I’ve ranked it highly because it’s just a vapid collection of some of the worst production decisions I’ve seen all year ’round. I, like everyone else, am still perplexed that 2016 happened to be the year of The Chainsmokers’ comeback. While “Closer” has attained a bit of backlash (as most insanely popular songs tend to get), I actually like that song quite alright. It’s their second-biggest hit that I have so many objections to. The guitar loop at the start follows along with the standard syncopation trend of 2016 (listen to it alongside the intros of Maroon 5’s “Don’t Wanna Know”, Tory Lanez’ “LUV”, Shawn Mendes’ “Treat You Better”, and FRENSHIP’s “Capsize” and bathe in the similarities). Once Daya steps in, things get bad. Besides her bland vocals that add little to no genuine feeling to what she’s singing about, the lyrics themselves are the laziest. The rhyme schemes are non-existent: “Right now, I need a miracle / Hurry up now, I need a miracle”; “I really thought you were by my side / But now there’s nobody by my side”. The trap beats at the bridge arrive clumsier than that in “Just Like Fire”; they’re just so ill-planned, painful to listen to, and ruin a potentially good moment with Daya’s “It’s in my head” line. And then there’s that drop – easily the worst that I’ve heard all year long. It’s trashy, noisy, cluttered, and takes whatever hope I had for this to be a decent song and obliterates it to tiny little pieces. After that, the song just kind of folds upon itself a couple times, with the third drop incorporating a saxophone of all things! I have no idea who this song is tended for, but the fact that it made it all the way to #3 makes me feel that I’m utterly alone in my contempt for it. This is honestly on “#SELFIE” levels of awfulness.
3) “Back to Sleep” by Chris Brown (peak position: #20)
Hmm… yeah, Chris Brown is still a bad person and still makes terrible music. I mean, seriously, the hook of this song is “fuck you back to sleep”, which is such an ill-advised line it’s almost astonishing. The story in this song is that Chris Brown just flew into town late at night and he’s horny, so he makes a case for coming into his girl’s house so he can wake her up to have sex. It’s established that she works a night job. I work a night job myself, and lemme tell you that there’s nothing I want more after work than to get home and crawl into bed for a few hours of myself. But Chris Brown says, “Nah, fuck that”. Clearly his sexual satisfaction is the one and only thing that matters in this relationship. His kind of girl is one that remains submissive to his demands, willing to wake up for the sole purpose of sexytimes and then go back to sleep after the duty is done. Chris Brown doesn’t care about her own biological concerns either. He says it himself: “Ain’t sorry that I woke you, I ain’t sorry ’bout your job / Call sick in the morning, so I can get a little bit more of your love”. Maybe there’s a fair-sized group of people who feel okay with having this dynamic in their relationship, but I’m not one of them. I don’t even have too much of an issue with production or even the vocal performance as I tend to do with others on the list. I just hate this song because it’s disgusting, and the fact that the person singing it is just as disgusting only illuminates my contempt.
2) “Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes (peak position: #6)
Remember how I mentioned that syncopated riff trend in my “Don’t Let Me Down” review? Well, it’s prominent here too, so points off for that immediately (I’ve gotta give credit to the Switched on Pop guys for that revelation, though). Nevertheless, I knew from the very first listen to this song that it would either top or be very close to topping my Worst of list. Mendes himself seems to be the modern spokesperson for whiny, insufferable declarations of how the girl at the center of the narrative is making his life so torturous. In this song, he plays a Nice Guy™ who can’t understand why his love interest won’t just leave her unsatisfying relationship and instead go for good ol’ Shawn Mendes who will for sure be everything she could want and need. Y’know, instead of actually being a good friend, listening to the concerns and dilemmas that she may hold, and maybe even giving some helpful advice on how to take the next step in the situation. I think the most damning lines are, “Why are we wasting time on all your wasted crying / When you should be with me instead?”. Not only does he belittle her understandably complicated emotional state, but he centers himself completely and suggests that all her sadness is just another factor that’s bringing him down. And did I mention that Mendes is so, so whiny – not just in the words he sings, but in the way he sings them. I almost didn’t come out alive after hearing him repeatedly belt out, “Better than he can!!!” with a screech that could crack windows. I shouldn’t be shocked that this song exists, but I’m all the more bitter for having listened to it.
1) “7 Years” by Lukas Graham (peak position: #2)
As much discontent I have for all of the other songs I’ve included on this list, “7 Years” is probably the only one at which I’ve given an audible groan every time I heard it appear on radio or playlists all year long. There’s a lot to dislike about it, but I think the first thing that came to mind upon the first listen is that this was essentially doing what Five For Fighting’s “100 Years” did over a decade ago – and I’d argue that it did it even better than Lukas Graham’s single. At least that one was positive and life-affirming, while “7 Years” is just… lacking any point whatsoever, to be honest. It’s just a blatant, cloying, forced nostalgia trip that no one wants to go on. And the trip itself is absolutely ridiculous! According to this speaker, at eleven he was told to find a wife, started smoking pot at that same age, and found success at twenty. In other words, this song loses any sense of nuance it ever had very, very quickly, and never regains it at any point. And if this didn’t lose the listener for being too specific to possibly be relatable to anyone, there is a muffled voice halfway through that shouts “LUKAS GRAHAAAAM!” for no discernible reason. It’s honestly just so random and adds absolutely nothing.
Additionally, I didn’t think it couldn’t get any worse, but then this line came up: “My woman brought children for me / So I can sing them all my songs / And I can tell them stories”. Because, yeah, that’s why she bore children with you – so you can tell them your stories about getting stoned as a prepubescent. I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned the awfulness of Lukas Forchhammer’s vocal delivery, but it really is the absolute worst kind of nasally delivery that could plague a song of this nature. From the music box opening, to the awkward, overblown climax, this is just an insufferable listen through and through. Maybe it’s not as openly offensive as many other these other songs, but if we’re to define bad as the absence of good, there is no other hit single that is more fitting of the title.