This will be the second year in a row that I will be counting down my personal best and worst hit singles of the year, and I couldn’t be more excited. Even though I had tried really hard on my Worst Hit Singles of 2016 and Best Hit Singles of 2016 lists and, for the most part, still agree with my choices for both, I think I did a lot of growing this year. Much of that is thanks to the various projects with which I kept myself busy throughout the year, namely the One Random Single a Day project from the first half of the year and the every Hot 100 Number-One Single project from the final parts. Even though the former project was a little bit of a failure (as most of my undertakings are, it seems), I still have hope for it to return sometime in the future. Moreover, I have high hopes for the latter challenge – and my Billboard Year-End challenge is still riding strong!
What this all boils down to is I’ve had some practice, not just with writing about pop music but with writing about music in general. Thus, for this year, I want to try to push out a variety of lists: along with my Worst & Best Hit Singles lists, I wanna try to accomplish lists of the Worst & Best Non-Hit Singles, as well as Best Albums. Of course, there’s still the chance that I might be able to fit in a Best Films of 2017 list in there, but seeing that I’ve been pretty rusty with writing about film lately, this seems less likely (but I’ll still try!). Actually, none of these lists are definite at all, since I’ve been relatively flakey with committing to things and I still have my mental and neurological health to look after… nonetheless, it’s something I want to look forward to, if only for my own sake.
Anyway, welcome to my list of the Worst Hit Singles of 2017! Since I like to end things on a positive note, I would like to get the Worst lists out of the way before I move on to the best of the best. Before I move on with this one, though, I’d like to reiterate a few of my own personal ground rules that I set in the previous year and will continue for these lists.
- The single must have debuted during a Billboard chart issue landing in 2017. This means that relevant singles could have actually debuted sometime in the latter part of 2016, but it’s the chart date that matters here. For example, “Party” by Chris Brown, Usher, & Gucci Mane made its chart debut on December 27th… but, going by Billboard’s rules of publication, the chart itself was dated January 7th, so it works here. Furthermore, this means that songs are disqualified if their chart debut was during the latter end of the 2017, granted that the chart it debuted in is dated as the first or second week of 2018.
- The single must have entered the Top 40 in 2017. Just like last year, I want to restrict these to this hits only. I have found that permitting only songs that have peaked at #40 or higher is a good way to restrict to only the most popular songs of the year while still keeping things interesting with room for creativity (as opposed to if I were to only allow songs that made the top ten or twenty).
- The song must have had its chart debut in 2017. Once again, this is a little too obvious to even mention, but songs that had already made its debut on the Hot 100 in previous years and made a resurgence in 2017 are automatically disqualified. The the most prominent examples from earlier this year are Linkin Park’s “Numb” and “In the End”, which leapt back onto the charts in the wake of Chester Bennington’s death. As close to my heart these songs are to me (mostly for nostalgia’s sake), these songs unfortunately do not qualify for my lists. Nor do all the predicted classic Christmas songs that crept back onto the Hot 100 during the final month of the year.
Additionally, I want to emphasize the songs that had extensive runs throughout 2017, as opposed to just a blip somewhere in the beginning, middle, or end of the year. Songs in the latter category will definitely end up on the final list, but the ones that have annoyed me the most and over a longer period of time – ones that simply feel like a “2017 song” – will more than likely be ranked higher here. Finally, unlike the previous year’s lists, I will limit this list to include only one song per artist, mainly to shake things up a bit more.
So, without further ado, here is my list of the WORST HIT SONGS FROM 2017
20) “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato
Kind of funny that my #1 hit single from last year was Beyoncé’s “Sorry”, while Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry” is among my worst for this year, right? Anyway, my enjoyment of this song (or lack thereof) is almost entirely dependent on whatever mood I happen to be in whenever it comes on. If this isn’t the most over-produced song on this list, it comes damn near close and that’s a major point of annoyance for me. The warbly backing vocals in the intro immediately set up this dissenting tone, but the synthetic finger snaps, piano riffage, and other club sounds in the verses all seem to layer atop each other with little sense of rhyme or reason. And that’s before mentioning the overblown bass that kicks in with the chorus and sets the whole thing into total chaos. Sure, this song is supposed to be over-the-top and placing Demi at lead certainly achieves this. And as I mentioned before, it all depends on what mood I’m in – I’ve yet to have a wild, drunken sing-a-long to this one, but it’s entirely possible! And this is why I can’t rank it any higher than #20. Nonetheless, it just isn’t all that pleasant to the ears, for the most part.
19) “Attention” by Charlie Puth
To many, 2017 is noted as the year that, after the atrocities of “Marvin Gaye” and “One Call Away”, Charlie Puth finally got good. Frankly, I’m still waiting. Okay, this bassline is as groovy after the hundredth listen as it was the first time, and it’s really the only thing that’s keeping this from falling flat on its face. In that regard, I can see why a number of people praise this single; I just think that Puth is a much better producer than songwriter and (especially) singer. Out of the mouth of someone with more personality and charisma (maybe like Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars), these lyrics would work, but coming from Puth, this just sounds sleazy and sexist. I am so over the trope of men playing the victim in a messy affair within which they were just as willing a participant as their female counterparts. When he sings ,“I know that dress is karma; perfume regret / You got me thinkin’ ’bout when you were mine”, you can almost hear him thinking about ways he could make himself seem like the innocent lamb in this situation – and his croons of, “What are you doing to me?” in the outro further nail this point to the ground. It sure it catchy, though.
18) “Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur
Okay… even though I laid out three pretty specific rules above, there will be one exception, in this post and also in my Best list. Here, James Arthur is the exception – even though “Say You Won’t Let Go” debuted on the Hot 100 on the week dated November 12, 2016, the song remained on the charts for almost a full year, making it all the way to #11 on both the weekly charts and the year-end chart. And boy, does that baffle me. Upon the very first listen, I realized that the melody of this song is so distractingly similar to Adele’s “Someone Like You” I couldn’t unhear it. And then I realized that there’s another melody snuggled in the song, during the pre-chorus, which is far more drab and unimpressive. And then I actually paid attention to the lyrics, and geez are some of these lines cringe-worthy: “I’ll bring you coffee with a kiss on your head”, “I wanna live with you, even when we’re ghosts”, “I promise ’til death we part, like in our vows”. And this is all sung in Arthur’s wispy rasp of a voice, which… yeah, isn’t a favorite. The song isn’t “bad” enough to be deserving of a higher place on this list (those ones will definitely come later), but it’s grown so tiresome over the course of the year that I couldn’t not include it here.
17) “In Case You Didn’t Know” by Brett Young
In preparation for this post, I’ve been looking over a variety of others’ videos and blog posts on what they consider the best & worst hit songs of the year. What I tend to notice in these lists is a considerable lack of country music, both the good and the bad. I included a few country songs in my Worst list from last year, and given the pitiful state of country music on the pop charts these days, expect a few more. Honestly, though, the biggest crime that I could nab onto Brett Young and his unimpressive hit single that, nevertheless, made it up to #19 is that it’s boring as sin. There have been a million and a half songs just like this one at this point, and this song does absolutely nothing to distinguish itself from the rest. The production is dull and cheap-sounding, and Young himself has as much personality as a rock. Though it may seem silly, I have to note that the lyrics pretty bluntly contradict the title and, thus, the whole message of the song. A few lines of the song indicate that Young and his love interest are already pretty acquainted with one another (“There was something ’bout that kiss” and “You’ve got all of me; I belong to you” especially), so I feel like she’s pretty well aware that Young is “crazy ’bout her”. Just a thought.
16) “Friends” by Justin Bieber and BloodPop
2016 was the year of Justin Bieber. Okay, it was also the year of The Chainsmokers, Drake, Rihanna, and others… but it was the first year in which people finally started to take Bieber seriously as a pop musician. While I have generally mixed opinions on the singles that came from his album Purpose, there’s no denying how huge they were. I even managed to eventually warm up to “Sorry” and glad dance along to it from time to time! After a few guest parts here and there, fans and casual listeners alike began to grow impatient for his follow-up… until August 2017, when he finally dropped “Friends” a collaboration between himself and producer/songwriter BloodPop. Verdict? It’s basically just “Sorry” with all the life drained out of it, with the tropical house production of its predecessor replaced with some faceless electropop glitches and drops. The question at the core of this song is also much whinier (“Doesn’t have to end / And if it ends, can we still be friends?”) and Bieber’s performance is much less convincing. This whole thing is just boring as hell, making me convinced that the minor surge of quality Bieber achieved last year might have just been a fluke.
15) “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift
I’m just gonna get this one out of the way so we can move onto more important things. For the record, my dislike for this song doesn’t quite reach the same level of seething, burning rage that it has awoken in listeners in the last months of this year. I do appreciate how each one of the melodies contained within are pretty catchy in their own rights, making the song overall quite the earworm. Also, the entire spectacle is so unbelievable catty, it’s just so fun to watch! Nevertheless, let’s get real: this song is pretty corrosive in every possible way. The lyrics here are some of the laziest of anything I’ve heard from Swift (especially during the verses), and the production overall is just so cluttered and ugly. It’s such a shame, too, considering how much of a creative step forward 1989 felt like for Swift. Oh, well. This song has already been talked about to death, so there’s nothing new I could really add to the narrative at this point. It’s pretty bad, though.
I would just like to say how hilariously hypocritical it is when critics flat-out refuse to let the political and social context of a certain artist’s music influence their opinions on the song in question, yet these same critics (usually men, may I add) let the entire seven-year Taylor/Kanye beef influence their take on this song. “Yes, let’s willingly ignore the abusive tendencies of all these other men ’cause it’s all about the music, dude! But man, Taylor sure is a bitch, isn’t she?” Just sayin’.
14) “Let You Down” by NF
I never thought we would be in a position where a Christian rapper has a top twenty hit in the country, but here we are. NF wrote this song as a reflection upon his tumultuous relationship with his father, and on that note I can respect it. Writing anything that touches upon such personal themes – be it lyrics or prose or mere contemplation – is a pretty emotionally trying experience, and I’m sure this song means a whole lot to, not only this artist, but a multitude of other listeners who can relate to its lyrics. But my dislike for this song mainly rides similar to my discontent for the similar “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors from last year: it simply doesn’t sound good. While the hook is alright (even if those pitch-shifted vocals are a tad annoying), NF’s rapping just seems pretty unmoving and dull, simply flowing from one line to the next without much complexity or lyrical drive. The whole thing reads more like a long-winded diary entry than a good song, certainly not helped by the similarities in sound and texture this song shares with 2010’s “Love the Way You Lie”. NF even sounds a bit like Eminem… but trust me, from me, that isn’t a compliment.
13) “Strip That Down” by Liam Payne ft. Quavo
So, originally, this slot was to be reserved for Jason Derulo’s “Swalla”, a club anthem that is basically just as sleazy and awkward as all of Derulo’s other club anthems. There’s a catch though – “Swalla” is actually kind of, sort of good! Though it only took me about a hundred listens to finally come to my senses. It’s clear, though, that the real enemy here is “Strip That Down”, which is as embarrassing with each subsequent listen as it was with the first. I’m not familiar enough with One Direction to know whether or not Payne’s solo career had any potential in the first place, but he has easily had the worst career of any of the members. The bass in this one is sexy enough to have some potential for greatness, but this is all killed by the obnoxious DJ Mustard-esque club chants in the backdrop and lackluster production overall. I also just hate that pitched-down chant after each chorus: “Strip that down, girl / Love when you hit the ground, girl”. Not to mention the uninspired lyrics from Payne himself, with lines like, “Since the day I met you, yeah, you swept me off my feet” competing with others like “Put your hands on my body and swing that ’round for me”. Simply put, it’s a song with a bit of a personality crisis – it wants to be both a sentimental love song and a club anthem both at once, and does so pretty clumsily. I would complain about Quavo’s presence… but it’s here and gone so quickly, there’s barely any time to even acknowledge his existence. Yeah, this is bad.
12) “When It Rains, It Pours” by Luke Combs
Alright, time for another awful hit country song. I’m not at all familiar with Luke Combs… or maybe I am? Beats me – so many of these bro-country guys just all sound the same. Anyway, this song begins with a scenario where the speaker’s girlfriend is just “bitching and moaning on and on about the time he had”, which eventually led to their breaking up. The remainder of the song consists of a series of coincidental strikes of luck that befell the protagonist upon becoming single – because monogamy’s for chumps, amiright? The whole mood of the song is pretty cheery, yet there’s this obnoxious smugness that surrounds the whole thing, as if this dude is suddenly and completely absolved of any shame he felt for having cheated on his girlfriend and caused their breakup. Any problems he may have are instantly replaced by his winning the lottery, vacationing in Panama, and getting a phone number from the waitress at Hooters (of course it’s Hooters). The real kicker, though, is in the line, “I ain’t gotta see my ex-future-mother-in-law anymore” – because we’re still doing mother-in-law jokes in 2017, apparently. And even if I didn’t take much offense to the veil of self-satisfied sexism, it’s just all so corny and doesn’t even sound like appealing country music in any way, shape, or form. I’m surprised that this one didn’t get more hate, frankly.
11) “Party” by Chris Brown ft. Usher & Gucci Mane
While I would hesitate before declaring 2017’s pop music to being worse than last year’s, the fact that there are a full ten songs I hated more than Chris Brown’s contribution probably means something. Okay, so this song dropped out of charts pretty early on in the year, and even then it only made it up to #40 on the Hot 100, so this is barely a hit. Relatively speaking, though, this is the biggest hit single from Heartbreak on a Full Moon, a dumb album title with even more dismal releases. I’m just glad that “Privacy” never became a hit, otherwise we’d be here all day. But anyway, “Party” was one early indication that this would be a rough year in pop music. We’ve already indicated that Chris Brown doesn’t have a shred of talent, and this only continues here. The very first line of the song – “Pull up on your bitch, tell your man I’m sorry” – really tells you all you need to know here. The melody in the chorus is limp and repetitive in all the worst ways, and Brown’s and Usher’s verses don’t make it any better, Brown’s line “Fuck the judge and the sentence; I got a good lawyer” being especially egregious. Gucci Mane almost saves the song at the last minute with a verse that really isn’t all too bad, if along the same lines of braggadocio that we’ve been hearing for the entire rest of the song. Anyway, while this song really just goes in one ear and out the other, it leaves quite the hangover on the way out.
10) “Look At Me!” by XXXTentacion
(Okay. So, there’s no better time than now to issue a content/trigger warning for this particular write-up, for violent misogyny. Just to be safe, I’d also like to note that a good portion of the rest of this post will be along these same lines, so the warning goes for the remainder of the list. Stay safe, friends.)
I have to be perfectly honest for a second: the first few times I gave a listen to “Look At Me!”, the first mainstream hit from SoundCloud rapper XXXTentacion, I weirdly admired it. The mixing on this track is intentionally terrible to create a distorting, aggressive effect against the rapper’s raw and violent flow – and to be frank, it really works. At surface value, this really sounds like nothing else blowing up on the scene at the time, and I kind of appreciated it for that. Nonetheless, XXXTentacion is a terrible person. During the rise in popularity of “Look At Me!”, he was incarcerated for assaulting a pregnant woman – that alone should tell you all you need to know. Lines like, “You put a gun in my mans / I put a hole in your parents”, “I took a white bitch to Starbucks / That lil bitch got her throat fucked”, and the ominous repetition of, “Look at me, fuck on me” are now apparent to be closer to reality than I am comfortable approaching. Whenever an artist represents fictional narratives of violence and abuse that feel exceptionally real, too much of the time, it’s because the artist themselves are violent and abusive at their core. It became immediately apparent with XXX – yet people still ate this up and his career only grew from there. I have to confess that it still kind of stirs something in me, as much as I hate that it does. But I intend on cutting him off completely – a good beat just isn’t worth it. I do not separate the art from the artist, and this person is a good example of why no one should.
9) “do re mi” by blackbear
On the contrary, I knew I hated this song from the very first time I listened to it. I have no idea where blackbear came from or why he blew up this year, though if this single is any indication of his style, I’m glad he has stayed relatively underground thus far. The centerpiece of this cringe-worthy tune is the chorus, which revolves around a single line so dumbfounding, it’s hard to believe actual humans wrote it: “I’m do re mi fa so(l) fucking done with you, girl”. Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear what’s wrong here. It’s an edgy kiss-off anthem in the style of a cutesy Hallmark greeting card, two tones that just don’t mesh at all. The fact that upward melody of the “do re mi fa sol” in the chorus does not match with their corresponding chords at all bothers me so, so much – and I highly doubt I’m the only one. The annoyingly ironic juvenility is continued throughout the rest of the chorus: “So fucking done with all the games you play / I ain’t no tic-tac-toe / Send the Xs and Os on another note”. All of this is further hampered by the bitter, sexist lyrics in the verses, strung with a minimalist R&B production that couples music box twinkles with jarring vocal glitches. Overall, though, the last nail in the coffin is the personality of blackbear himself, fuckboy extraordinaire. This song, along with “When It Rains, It Pours”, helped me realize how much I hate these sorts of smug breakup anthems, the kind that more often than not pathologizes the ex (usually a woman) and paints the speaker (usually a man) as a victim in the scenario. Maybe it’s just my personal taste, but songs of this type just make my stomach turn.
8) “No Favors” by Big Sean ft. Eminem
(To play it safe, another content/trigger warning will be issued for this review, for mentions of violence and sexual assualt. It’s about as unsurprising as an Eminem verse could get, but not any less disheartening.)
It may be a bit questionable to call this a hit – like J. Cole’s “Foldin’ Clothes” from last year’s Worst list, this song debuted in the top 40 without ever being released as an official single. Moreover, it dropped out a couple weeks later and was from an album that released early enough in the year that many people forgot about it soon thereafter. But I haven’t forgotten. As a rule, I tend to strongly dislike Big Sean’s output – he is just so boring. The best parts of his better songs have little to do with him as an artist and can be more credited toward the beat and production. This is generally the case with his latest album, I Decided., but “No Favors” seems to be the exception, with a Lovin’ Spoonful sample that is distorted beyond recognition and repeated ad nauseam until it becomes just so annoying. But of course, everyone remembers this song for the lengthy guest verse by Eminem, which takes up the bulk of the track. It was the first sign of a comeback for the aging rapper (a comeback that would eventually crash and burn in late 2017), but it mainly just served as a huge reminder of how much I hate him. There’s a lot here that angers me (including sexist jabs at Fergie and Jamie Lee Curtis), but especially abhorrent is the section where describes a brutal rape of Ann Coulter, which he claims he’d perform in the name of Philando Castile and Sandra Bland. Because I’m sure that the friends and family of these victims of racist police brutality would be comforted to hear their deceased love ones name-dropped alongside a dehumanizing conservative commentator and strung together with a thread of rapid-fire violent imagery. None of these words will bring back Sandra or Philando, nor do they have any purpose at all besides implying that rape is something that bad people deserve – which it isn’t and never should be.
I would go into more detail about specifics with this one, but I’ve already made this long enough. I hope the critical panning of Eminem’s recent album finally kills off his career for good.
7) “My Girl” by Dylan Scott
And now for something a little less anger-inducing… although Dylan Scott does mention that he loves to watch his significant other “rap to an Eminem song”. Oh boy. But of course, this song is barely much of a 2017 hit – barely made the top 40 and although it stuck around the charts through the whole summer, it didn’t make the year-end list at all. I’m just glad that this song will be long forgotten with just a bit more time. It’s not quite so offensive; in fact, it’s inoffensiveness might be to a fault. The instrumentation here is so basic, even for a country song from the 2010s – I wouldn’t be surprised if it was revealed to be completely copy-pasted from any number of tunes of its type out there. Scott’s vocals are also pretty dull and devoid of personality – if his companion is as wonderful as he claims she is, there’s no indication of mutual chemistry or even that he deserves her at all. As for the titular “girl” (ugh), she’s got all the same attributes as every other perfect woman in every other love song: she’s beautiful even with no makeup, she turns the radio up while riding in his truck, “I can honestly say that she saved me”, blah blah blah. And of course, let’s throw in the stereotypical imagery of maternal instinct (“You should see her smile when she holds a baby”) and religious faith (“Every night when she goes to bed… Thanks the Lord for another day”) to draw in the conservative-leaning country listeners. Maybe I have an unfair bias against modern country-pop, but with songs like these popping up in the airwaves, it’s hard to believe that it isn’t at least a little deserving.
6) “Gummo” by 6ix9ine
(I am so, so, so sorry. Trigger/content warning for violence and CSA. I won’t go into the specific details, but if you are willing to investigate further, I urge you to do so with caution.)
I can see myself in the future regretting not ranking this any higher… but frankly, I just want to get through with this as quickly as possible. Among a bunch of other truly horrific things that happened this year, 2017 will also be known as the year that we allowed a confessed, proven child molester to reach the top 20 on the pop charts. Yep, that happened – and as of my writing this, his career is only getting bigger. And of course this list is about the singles themselves, but as I noted in my XXXTentacion review above: violent people often make violent music, and the worst possible reaction to such music by abusive individuals is audiences lowering their standards and accepting such abrasive art as mere fiction. Throughout “Gummo”, 6ix9ine emits his bars with a rough ragged flow, basically yelling at the top of his lungs throughout its entirety. Like “Look At Me!”, it goes completely against the sleek and sophisticated route that trap music has taken these days, even though the track itself was produced by Pi’erre Bourne, known for his work on Playboi Carti’s cool-ass mixtape from this year. So maybe this track would have worked if it didn’t come from someone who literally pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a minor… but nonetheless, here we are now. Even though it is a rap song, it’s not worth going over the lyrics – it’s a bunch of basic, unimpressive brag-rap replete with over-saturation of the n-word despite 6ix9ine himself not being Black. Along with everything else, speaking as a person from a Mexican-American family (I consider myself Latinx), the fact that this man is among the very few mainstream representations of Mexican-American hip-hop just saddens and angers me. Fuck him for being a piece of shit, fuck this song for obliterating my eardrums, and fuck everyone else for completely falling for this.
Top five, finally! After the long and treacherous journey that was #20-6, now we can finally move onto the singles that truly represented what was reprehensible about 2017 (not that we haven’t already). At this point, I’ll shake things up a bit by presenting my DISHONORABLE MENTIONS, songs that just barely squirmed their way out of the final list.
- “Cold” by Maroon 5 ft. Future: Honestly, not quite as bad as “Don’t Wanna Know”… but probably just as useless, meaningless, and forgettable.
- “Drowning” by A Boogie Wit da Hoodie ft. Kodak Black: The song consists entirely of a single melody line repeated again and again for no good reason at all. Also, Kodak sings this line: “I’m the shit, I’m fartin’; I don’t know how to potty”. Enough said.
- “End Game” by Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran & Future: I never listened to Reputation but if it’s at all defined by its first two tracks (“…Ready For It” and this song), I’m pretty convinced of its messiness already.
- “How Long” by Charlie Puth: I found this to actually be a tad stronger than “Attention”, but it’s still devoid of much defined personality and… yeah, it’s still bro-y and cringe-worthy.
- “I’m the One” by DJ Khaled ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, & Lil Wayne: A track where the performers seem to be having the best party of their lives, while the listener is the awkward, sober third-wheel. Chance the Rapper is so much better than this, even though Bieber and Quavo aren’t.
- “Rake It Up” by Yo Gotti ft. Nicki Minaj: Yeah, this is quite the boring “strip club anthem”, but Gotti & Nicki’s ridiculous lines make this way too absurd to hate too much.
- “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran: This year, this song broke the Hot 100 record for the most weeks ever spent in the top ten. With those cookie-cutter tropical house beats and Sheeran’s dismal delivery, I’d say it was 33 weeks too many.
- “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons: The verses are definitely catchier than their other hit single from this year, but those repetitive, pitched-up vocals in the chorus just kill it for me.
- “Walk on Water” by Eminem ft. Beyoncé: Did you know I hate Eminem?? This sounds so sloppy and unfinished, I can’t believe people actually decided it was ready to be released as a single. Whatever.
Okay, now back to the list – BOTTOM FIVE OF THE YEAR!
5) “Body Like a Back Road” by Sam Hunt
The more I think about it, the more I feel like my bias toward modern country music could be derived from one simple yet vital fact: I was raised in the city. Granted the city I grew up in was relatively small (at least compared to the one in which I live now), I think a lot of the small-town sensibilities and themes presented in a lot of country music just inherently tend to go over my head, for the most part. Then again, it could just be that Sam Hunt is a total meathead for suggesting that the body of his beloved is at all comparable to a back road, which is literally what the title suggests. And it’s also further clarified in the lyrics themselves: “Could drive it with my eyes closed / I know every curve like the back of my hand”. Yes, this is a love song, inspired by Hunt’s recent engagement to his fianceé, though it’s basically just a bunch of uncreative sex and love metaphors loosely tied together by that abysmal titular reference. Here’s one: “Me and her go way back like Cadillac seats”. And here’s another: “Got hips like honey, so thick and so sweet”. And a third: “On the highway to heaven, headed south of her smile / Get there when we get there; every inch is a mile”. Yep, this is the kind of song we’re dealing with here, folks.
It’s clear that, in the trend of modern bro-country, this was intended as something a bit more playful than the traditional country love song. But for the most part, it just feels like it’s embarrassed to even be in the country music category in the first place. This is apparent with its backing guitar, which sounds distractingly overproduced, not at even an arm’s length with the acoustic roots of country. Additionally, through the entire recording, there is the mild backdrop of voices hootin’ and hollerin’, obviously meant to bring a sort of party atmosphere to the track. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that (I don’t even have a huge qualm with the “hey, hey, hey” chants in the chorus that every critic seems to hate), but I think it would feel a lot more genuine if Hunt gave any sense of interacting with the audience. He doesn’t at all- it’s little more than background noise, which only further shines a light on the shameless artificiality of it all. Overall, this whole song is pretty much devoid of any good qualities whatsoever, making its two-minute-and-45-second length a chore to sit through with each and every listen. It’s lowest common denominator pop-country – and the biggest crossover country hit in years. Figures.
4) “Believer” by Imagine Dragons
I’ll begin this review by stating that, out of the many wonderful media things I discovered in 2017, one of my most unexpected obsessions came with the CW show Riverdale. Yeah, just trust me; it’s great, trashy fun. Anyway, flashback to me watching the season finale of the first season, which is around the time when I became the most hooked on the show. During one of the climaxes of this episode (yes, there are numerous… it’s a weird show), my eyes were stuck to the screen and I was fully engrossed by the narrative – and then I began to hear in the background a sharp, syncopated drum beat, accompanied by a loud, ugly buzzing sound. I immediately and audibly said, “Oh, no. No, no…”. My partner, who was watching the show with me, was noticeably confused by me slowly, quietly shaking my head through the duration of this relatively agreeable scene. His confusion ended at the single utterance (or, rather, shriek) of a single word during the background song’s chorus: “Pain!!!” At that point, he understood.
Yeah, even if you’ve only given “Believer” a single listen in your life, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve always found Imagine Dragons to be pretty dull in general (even though I’ve probably given “Radioactive” a spin or two back in the day), but the quality of their sound just went totally south this year. The verses of this track are actually tight and catchy… even if they’re all just total nonsense (“First thing’s first, I’ma say all the words inside my head / I’m fired up and tired of the way that things have been”). Where it begins to spiral is the prechorus, where the lead singer attempts a spit-firing rap style of vocal delivery that comes out of nowhere and just doesn’t fit at all. But what’s even more abrupt is the sudden, screeching chorus, which seems to be from a whole other song entirely. Wash, rinse, and repeat ’til fade-out. None of these parts mesh together well at all and it’s so, so bad. I also just strongly dislike the general air of arrogance I get from the track in general. Todd in the Shadows did a pretty great video this year on the slow disappearance of real alternative rock into the abyss of commercialism, and even though he used “Thunder” as the example, the point stands just as well with “Believer”. This is just a collection of sounds that seem cool and edgy to audiences, but overall have no sense of cohesion nor any profound, meaningful lyrics. It’s music for people who have the most basic, flavorless taste in music possible, and it’s churned out specifically to appeal to such a crowd. At least “Thunder” is relatively light-hearted – this is just an ugly, sloppy mess of a song.
3) “Tunnel Vision” by Kodak Black
(Yet another trigger/content warning, for misogyny and sexual assault. Yeah, 2017 really wasn’t too great of a year at all.)
Yeah, “Tunnel Vision” is right. This is a song with a chorus that automatically sticks – but really only because it is aggravating as hell. The decision was made for some reason to not only have Kodak Black sing through his chorus, but also to make it way longer than it has any business being. As a result, the song is about 70% chorus and sung in an absolutely tone-deaf demeanor that really conflicts against its flute-laden production. While the sampled flute parts can actually be pretty nice, everything else about the production is dismal, tuneless, and not worth giving a damn about. And then there’s the occasional snippet of a baby’s laughter that pops up here and there… for what reason, I’m still not completely sure. From an aesthetic standpoint, this is a huge, huge mess.
But of course, it’s the lyrics themselves that really make this one worthy of the shit list for me. And shit list is right – as if Kodak’s grossly childish line in “Drowning” (which I pasted up in my Dishonorable Mentions) wasn’t enough, the first verse in “Tunnel Vision” also includes the line, “I’m the shit, I need some toilet paper”. Nice… But no. what makes this song absolutely deplorable are all the references made to how the world is against him and aim to place him in prison because they “don’t like to see him winnin'”. To a degree, this view is understandable – the justice system is tightly tied to the prison industrial system, which works to systematically incarcerate and profit off of individuals (especially poor, Black men) and rob them of their freedom. But this message becomes instantly soured once one realizes that this chorus is in reference to the rape charges put against him after he sexually assaulted a young woman back in 2016. A more explicit reference was made in the original line “I get any girl I want; I don’t gotta rape”, until it was changed to avoid eliciting further controversy. But the jig is up. With other lines like, “I need me a lil’ baby who gon’ listen”, “On the real, I need a bih’ who gon’ cooperate”, and “I told that baby to come over ’cause I’m fuckin’ horny”, it’s clear as crystal that Kodak doesn’t see women as anything more than pleasure machines who should remain submissive to his demands. Other than that, the rest of the lines are nothing more than the typical brag-rap fare we’ve all heard a hundred times before. More telling, though, is his misuse of the term “tunnel vision”, which he uses in the line, “My mama told me, ‘Boy, make a decision'” / Right now, I gotta keep a tunnel vision”. He misinterprets the terms as being something positive, like having a clear view of what he wants to accomplish with no distractions, when it really is more like a term to describe someone with a one-track mind, set on moving forward with their ill-fated plans and unwilling to change or seek other alternatives. Kodak probably fits more in line with this second definition, I think.
2) “1-800-273-8255” by Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid
So, I’ll admit, I was pretty conflicted on how to feel about this song with the first couple of listens. Since then, however, I seem to find more and more to hate about it with each subsequent listen. In case you’re unfamiliar, the titular phone number is for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, a toll-free 24/7 service for those suffering from emotional distress or suicidal thoughts. The most positive thing I can say about this song is that it has brought tremendous awareness of the hotline to others, which is so needed in trying times like these. However, I have never been convinced that Logic is genuine about his seemingly unbridled support for the organization and not just exploiting the monolithic experiences of others for streams and purchases. That’s not to say he doesn’t care – he has been quoted as being inspired by fans who have told him that his music has saved their life, hence the creation of this track. But the narrative of “1-800” is awfully simplistic: a man feels like his life is not worth living, calls the hotline for support, and comes out of the darkness singing, “I finally want to be alive / I don’t want to die today”. While I do suffer from depression, I have never gotten to the point where I’d seriously consider taking my own life, so I really have very little say as to whether or not the song puts forth its message effectively, at least for myself. However, I have heard testimonials from those who have perused the hotline themselves and have found the straight, unfettered line of the speaker’s story in the song to be unrealistic at best and harmful at worst. Depression in its real-life context is often way too complex to be placed in such simplified terms and doing so puts forth some serious misconceptions about individuals can be “cured” if someone just tells them what they need to hear. Often, this is not the case at all.
And of course, one of the worst music moments of 2017 has to be during each chorus when Logic peppers within his lines of hopelessness, sadness, and confusion a singular line that trashes it all completely: “Who can relate? Whooo!” It’s a line that I can see being chanted by himself and his fans during sold-out shows packed in arenas, setting off a totally off-putting party vibe that is definitely not what this song needs. I like Alessia Cara for the most part, but she has never sounded so distressingly dull. I’ll give some points to Khalid for a not-awful outro (even while singing such ankle-deep sentiments as “I don’t even wanna die anymore”) and also the background vocalists for being actually pretty good. Hell, even the production is kind of effective and would totally work with a completely different song, hence why I didn’t rank this any higher. Nonetheless, Logic just ruins this one for me.
1) “Perfect” / “Perfect Duet” / “Perfect Symphony” by Ed Sheeran (ft. Beyoncé/Andrea Bocelli
Yeah, okay, maybe this is a tad new… but this annoyed me immediately when it first debuted on the Hot 100 in March, and I’ve only despised it more as it grew in popularity throughout the year. Anyway, 2017 was a year about milking singles for all their worth through the power of remixes. Arguably, “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee started this trend, when a remix featuring Justin Bieber topped the chart for a record-tying 16 weeks. While a handful of these remixes proved to be a slight improvement (the Beyoncé remix of J Balvin & Willy William’s “Mi Gente” is so much more fun than the original, trust me), most of them simply feel pandering and obviously hungry for the extra commercial boost. And I do think that no other single from this year perfectly exemplifies those in the latter category than “Perfect”, Ed Sheeran’s second number-one single from the year after “Shape of You”, the biggest song of 2o17 overall. It’s hard to say whether any other musician had a bigger year than Ed Sheeran – I personally am not a fan. Though I guess I came into my first listen of “Perfect” with expectations. While everyone else was going wild over “Thinking Out Loud” back in 2014, I thought it was the blandest kind of romantic trifle imaginable. “Perfect”, unfortunately, is more “Thinking Out Loud 2.0” than anything else. The cloying instrumental swell, the sway-along tempo, the cringey love lyrics – they’re all here in spades. In general, I just can’t handle the way that Sheeran sings about women. It’s all pretty standard young love stuff, but somehow it comes off as more voyeuristic and male gazey than may be intended. Lines like, “When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath… ‘you look perfect tonight'” are just so corny and follow the tired trope of women needing men to validate their beauty. But the most eye-roll worthy moment has to be when Sheeran remarks on how much he’d love for his beloved to “carry children of our own”. Because them’s the rules of heterosexual matrimony!
But of course, just when I thought that one version of “Perfect” was bad enough, Ed Sheeran released a version of the song that was revised as a duet with Beyoncé. And the thing is… there’s barely much of a difference at all. It’s still an acoustic ballad with some strings and backing vocals, only some of Sheeran’s vocals are sung by Beyoncé through the perspective of the woman about whom Sheeran sings. It doesn’t add anything new or interesting to the tune – in fact, it almost makes it worse when, with the gender-swap, it is now the man in the relationship who is “stronger than anyone [she] knows”, further emphasizing the passivity of the woman in this relationship. The most recent inclusion to this collection is “Perfect Symphony”, yet another duet version of “Perfect”, but with Beyoncé’s parts sung by Andrea Bocelli in Italian. While “Perfect Duet” was very obviously just following the trend of the day, this final part of the unholy trinity just feels insulting. When the sumptuous vocals of Bocelli fails to improve upon the utter emptiness of the song in question, you know there’s a problem. While “Perfect” at face value is not nearly as reprehensible at some of the other entries on this list, I do believe it is the one song of the year that is the most devoid of goodness. This is just the blandest, bleakest kind of wedding first dance material imaginable, even more so than “Thinking Out Loud” – and boy, is that saying something.