Monday, December 17, 2012

the top ten worst hit songs of 2012

About a year ago, I wrote my list of the Top 10 Worst Singles of 2011. My criteria was simple: the songs had to debut on Billboard's Year-End Hot 100 list that year. Now, I easily could have gone digging for far worse songs, but I wanted to make the point that these songs weren't just bad, but they were also disgustingly popular, far more popular that all of those independent smaller acts that you might like.

And to be honest, while I can never understand why these awful songs get popular (well, I can, and that gives me plenty of ammunition to keep doing this for years to come), the more I think about it, the more I think the big problem with the pop charts isn't that they tend to be bad, but that they tend to be bland. Now granted, there are some years that are far better than others (2011 was a lot better than 2010, and 2012 was better than both of them), but there's a whole load of mediocre music that isn't good enough to like, but isn't bad enough to be worth hating. There isn't a lot of excellence or awfulness, just a lot of 'meh', at least in the majority of years.

But yeah, there was a significant amount of awful, and just for perspective, here's my original list of the Top Ten Worst Hit Songs of 2011:

10. 'What The Hell' by Avril Lavigne
9. 'Dirt Road Anthem' by Jason Aldean ft. Ludacris
8. 'Backseat' by New Boyz ft. The Cataracs & Dev
7. 'The Time (Dirty Bit)' by The Black Eyed Peas
6. 'She Ain't You' by Chris Brown
5. 'Lighters' by Bad Meets Evil ft. Bruno Mars
4. 'The Lazy Song' by Bruno Mars
3. 'Pumped Up Kicks' by Foster The People
2. 'Sexy And I Know It' by LMFAO
1. 'Don't Wanna Go Home' by Jason Derulo

Now upon reflection today and after relistening to all of these songs, I'd make a few minor changes to this list, make it look like this:

10. 'What The Hell' by Avril Lavigne 'Tonight, Tonight' by Hot Chelle Rae
9. 'Dirt Road Anthem' by Jason Aldean ft. Ludacris
8. 'Backseat' by New Boyz ft. The Cataracs & Dev 'Country Girl (Shake It For Me)' by Luke Bryan
7. 'The Time (Dirty Bit)' by The Black Eyed Peas 'She Ain't You' by Chris Brown
6. 'She Ain't You' by Chris Brown 'Lighters' by Bad Meets Evil ft. Bruno Mars
5. 'Lighters' by Bad Meets Evil ft. Bruno Mars 'Backseat' by New Boyz ft. The Cataracs & Dev
4. 'The Lazy Song' by Bruno Mars
3. 'Pumped Up Kicks' by Foster The People 'The Time (Dirty Bit)' by The Black Eyed Peas
2. 'Sexy And I Know It' by LMFAO
1. 'Don't Wanna Go Home' by Jason Derulo

Yeah, there's a bit of reshuffling of things around here, and a few swaps. The big surprise for me was taking 'Pumped Up Kicks' off the list, considering how much I hated Foster The People's début album and all of its pretensions to indie rock that it didn't earn or have in the slightest. And that's to say nothing of the issues I still have today with the rancid lyrical content of the song and the atrocious tonal choices. However, a year later, after observing the explosion of indie rock across the modern pop charts, I can't help but admit that Foster The People's success might have been the cue required to get other, better indie acts the air time they needed for groundswell. And with that in mind, I really can't hate 'Pumped Up Kicks' the same way.

Oh, make no mistake, it still is a bad song, but it's by no means the worst thing I've ever heard, and while the subject matter still gets under my skin, the song is so weightless and ephemeral (like the majority of faux-hipster trash pretending to have depth) that it really leaves no impression a year later. And while I was angered at the corporatization of indie rock, after a year of seeing great indie acts succeed with a vestige of artistic integrity intact, I realized that sometimes the machine can work (and besides, there are far more insulting corporate sell-outs this year).

In fact, when perusing the Year-End Top 100 list Billboard stamps out every year, I was surprised how many previously established 'good' acts delivered career worst performances this year. 2011 was a bit of a weird transitional year for the pop charts (coming out of the club explosion of 2009-2010), and 2012 was even stranger, with the eruption of indie rock, the return of lightweight immature pop music, and whatever the fuck hip-hop/R&B mutated into this year. I mean, this was the year 'Gangnam Style', a k-pop parody track satirizing the Gangnam lifestyle in South Korea, a track entirely in Korean, became one of the biggest tracks of the year (for the record, I actually think 'Gangnam Style' is pretty good, but not great, as PSY has a lot of energy and personality, which elevates the song above LMFAO's 'Party Rock Anthem').

But that said, there was still plenty of garbage that charted this year, and a whole lot of material I'd only describe as mediocre. Before I get to my actual list, let me run down a few Dishonourable Mentions that need to be brought up here:





Kelly Clarkson's 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)' isn't hateable by any stretch of the mind, but I have no idea why it exists. The lyrics are sloppy and inconsequential, the entire song is a gigantic bucket of old, annoying cliches, and the song lacks any reality that allows me to connect with it, even after having a break-up this year. What makes this song bad instead of just mediocre is the fact that Kelly Clarkson can do so much better.





Both 'Turn Me On' and 'Titanium' are evidence that mediocrity and blandness apparently sells and is what people want to hear. David Guetta isn't a bad producer per se (speaking from my relatively limited reference point when it comes to electronic music - I prefer either The Chemical Brothers or a bunch of trance acts that nobody's ever heard of), but he is incredibly boring and both of these tracks show how he can convert otherwise interesting artists into bland photocopies of themselves, which is really fucking frustrating when coming from two artists who I actually thought had some potential at the beginning of this year. Sadly, thanks to David Guetta and other assorted missteps ('Wild Ones' in particular for Sia, her collaboration with Flo Rida), that potential in my mind has been brutally squelched.



Look, I don't hate Carly Rae Jepsen or 'Call Me Maybe'. But given as I'm not a 'Belieber' and I don't subscribe to having my music tastes dictated by Justin fucking Bieber, I'm not obliged to like this bit of preciousness either. Speaking as someone who likes boy bands and Avril Lavigne and S Club 7 and Panic! At The Disco and who apparently can still get in touch with his inner teenage girl, I get the appeal of this track, but 'Call Me Maybe' just feels so very, very small, and Carly Rae Jepsen (at the tender age of 26) really ought to know better. I mean, for fuck's sake, Ke$ha is younger than this girl (and is making better music, for that matter) and she comes across as having more personality, better delivery, and more interesting and mature subject matter than Miss Pigtails over here. Pass.



Justin Bieber, you are not Justin Timberlake. And until you develop lyrics that don't use words like 'shorty' or 'swaggie' or drop Buzz Lightyear references, please stop trying to be Justin Timberlake. 



This song very nearly made the top 10 worst list, mostly because it's one of the most brain-emptyingly stupid tracks ever written. But if we're talking about a song that defines 'So Bad It's Good', 'Dance (A$$)', Big Sean's magnum opus here somehow manages to become perversely enjoyable. There is a certain self-awareness here that I think Big Sean delivers on the track without being all that smug (take notes, LMFAO), almost as if he made a bet that he could make the worst song ever. But - and I have to be honest, because this is humiliating - I think the elements here kind of make this song not nearly as awful. The goofy sample, the way Big Sean sounds most enthused on the track when he's just repeating the word 'ass' over and over again, plus Nicki Minaj's demented verse, all factor in to make this song just kind of work in the end. That said, it is still incredibly stupid and pretty goddamn bad, and in a year with some incredibly stupid hip-hop, this nearly topped the list (we'll get to the stuff that beat it later).



At this point, Train is fucking with us. As much as I'd like to say lead singer Pat Monahan just went insane, by the end of 2012 it stopped being an excuse. I'm not even sure I could properly review '50 Ways To Say Goodbye' if I tried - I mean, the vaguely, borderline-offensive cultural appropriation with the Latin backbeat (to say nothing of the video, which just is offensive), the asinine lyrics that make Pat Monahan look like a complete jackass as he tries to lie about the fact he got dumped, the fact that I'm fairly certain Monahan stole the melody from goddamn Phantom of the Opera for this song! At this point, I'm almost ready to write Train off as a post-modern alt-rock performance art piece that isn't even trying to make the slightest degree of sense, and just completely give up on trying to explain the band altogether. Almost.



Oh, just go fuck yourself. 

And with that, we come to my Top Ten Worst Hit Songs of 2012. My criteria, as stated above, remains the same: I only put songs on the list if they debuted on the list this year (so no LMFAO, thank God). And as much as I'd like to spew hatred for some justly deserving songs that narrowly missed the Year-End Top 100, there's still a fair amount to work with here. 

So let's get this party started!

10. This year was the year big fans of Maroon 5 turned on the band - and I completely understand why. I reviewed Overexposed (check it out here) and I thought it was a completely lousy piece of garbage that reveals just how much of a sellout Adam Levine has become. Where all of the anger and catty bitterness that kind of made Maroon 5 work in the past was tempered with some decent melodies and some occasional swagger, Overexposed completely lacked the personality to make that behaviour excusable. 

However, a lot of the anger was directed at 'One More Night', the second single from the album. And sure, while the song isn't all that good (thanks to some bad choices in the songwriting department), I thought it was catchy enough and at least had enough flavour to be remotely recognizable as a Maroon 5 song.

I couldn't exactly say the same about its predecessor:


#10 - 'Payphone' by Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa (Billboard Chart Position: #4)

Stepping away from the incredibly stupid video for a second, 'Payphone' is not only explicit evidence of Maroon 5 selling out, but also evidence that selling out was the worst possible choice for the band. The autotune added to Adam Levine's voice makes an already inhuman voice sound worse, and the backing melody shows none of the tight musicianship and style that made Maroon 5 distinctive in the pop scene.

It really doesn't help matters the lyrics are just bad across the board. Between the petulance of Adam Levine's delivery, the unnecessary cursing that doesn't really add anything to the song other than make it more douchey, and the generally confused nature of the lyrics (completely mishandling a potentially good symbol of the 'payphone'), I can't get into a spirit where I can remotely like this song. And, of course, we have the guest verse from Wiz Khalifa, where his complete lack of rhyme and only peripheral connection to the rest of the song makes his verse a superfluous waste of time. I honestly think that the general dismissiveness of Wiz Khalifa's delivery could have worked, but not with the verse he delivered here. And I actually don't mind Wiz Khalifa as a rapper (he has issues with rhyming and flow that really get on my nerves, but his energy and occasional creativity can sometimes overtake that), but outside of very specific subjects, he doesn't tend to deliver well. I've heard the version of this song without Wiz Khalifa on it, and it's actually a little better, but that's not the one that got popular, was it?

And speaking of stuff that never should have gotten popular...

9. Now, unlike some people, I don't think there's anything wrong with an act that might be considered a 'throwback' performer. Bruno Mars often gets branded with this, due to his affections for late-70s, early-80s pop and his delivery that recalls that era. However, Bruno Mars has the advantage of great production courtesy of the Smeezingtons, some occasionally good songwriting (there are exceptions), and the fact that he has a personality.

This guy, on the other hand...

#9 - 'Work Out' by J.Cole (Billboard Chart Position: #63)

I have no idea how this song got popular today, or who the hell this guy is. I never heard this song on the radio, or at the club, or well, anywhere. And I can understand if DJs wouldn't play this song, because it sucks, but I have no idea how it got enough airplay to land on this list.

Actually, that's not fair - I do understand how this guy got popular, because his style is very reminiscent of acts like Drake and Big Sean and Tyga, and while I will admit this guy has a bit more energy than all of those acts, he suffers the crippling problem of not having anything interesting to say. His voice is painfully nasal as he delivers line after line about how this girl is hoping they're going to have a relationship, but how he's only in it for the sex and to keep getting that, he's going to lead the girl on on the vague hopes it's going to  'work out'. So you know what that means, ladies and gentlemen: we have a class A DOUCHEBAG in the house tonight! If you're up for being strung along by a guy who can't afford more than five sound effects for his anemic beat or autotune that doesn't sound cheap as fuck, we have a man for you!

Yeah, this guy J.Cole is a real piece of work, and while his flow and rhyming isn't terrible, his subject matter is roughly on the level of Chris Brown's in 'Deuces', one of the worst songs of 2010. And you know, this song feels like it belongs in 2009 or 2010 - with the shitty autotune and the minimalistic beat and the general air of a Chris Brown wannabe that reeks around this jackass, it doesn't fit well with the modern hip-hop aesthetic, which got a lot glossier and slicker and didn't really leave room for the wannabes at the bottom. You might not have noticed that acts like Iyaz and Jason Derulo and even Jay Sean vanished when Chris Brown came back and monopolized all of the rampant 'Usher-wannabe-ness' around, but apparently he missed one. It's a small comfort, though, that this guy's hit was very early in the year, and he didn't stick around. Thank god for small pleasures.

8. You know, I said above that Train is just fucking with us at this point. And while some people might have more tolerance for it than I do, this was where my patience finally ran out.

#8 - 'Drive By' by Train (Billboard Chart Position: #19)

I can tolerate the occasional off-colour or bad joke, which is why I can't really muster up hatred for LMFAO's 'Party Rock Anthem' or Big Sean's 'Dance (A$$)' (I feel stupider every time I type that). I can, however, muster up significant hatred for this piece of shit, because it's aggressively bad and strange in the worst possible way. You know, the sort of joke that might start kind of funny but then gets tasteless and humourless and really kind of offensive in a way the comedian couldn't have possibly intended because it reeks of laziness or just plain stupidity. You know, what we discovered when we unmasked Jeff Dunham's formula for comedy.

Now, to be fair, 'Drive By' by Train is pretty low on this list because it isn't nearly as bad as Jeff Dunham or the stuff above it, but as somebody who actually used to like Train, this song infuriates me along the lines of the way 'Hey Soul Sister' pissed me off in 2010. It's less of the lyrical content (which is pretty incomprehensibly bad, let's make no mistake about it) than the fact that there are so many ways this song could have worked if the slightest bit of time and effort and editing had been put into it. It's slapdash and sloppy and oh my fucking god, why in the Nine Hells did Pat Monahan think comparing his love to garbage by using a line like 'two ply / Hefty bag to hold my love' was anywhere near on the same plane of existence as a good idea? 

Between that and lines like 'On the upside of a downwards spiral / my love for you went viral', a line which is incompetent, incoherent, and incredibly gross all at the same time, this song is a fucking disaster, and that's before we get into the actual meaning of this song. Basically, it's about Pat Monahan wanting to hook up with a girl he had a one night stand with, and her extreme reluctance to acquiesce to that request - to the point where she skipped town specifically to get away from him. And this is mentioned in the song itself! You'd think at some point the guy would attempt to make his love or affection seem significantly less creepy than it seems here, but no, Pat Monahan apparently writes lyrics for the self-deprecating stalkers amongst us! Just lovely.

And you want to know the worst part? I'm honestly not sure that Monahan intended his song to read like this or at least not come off as aggressively crazy, but I have the sinking feeling that he did. And if so, why did you attempt to glorify such obviously uncomfortable behaviour with a hook that's way too fucking catchy for it's own damn good? The tone, Monahan, THE TONE! The catchiness saved it from being higher on this list, as it saved its successor on this list - although not by much.

7. About a month ago, I wrote Taylor Swift an extensive letter disguised as a review of her album Red. You can read it here, but along with accusing her of selling out (which she totally did), I also made the indictment she wasn't exactly promoting good messages for her fanbase that idolizes her. I also said that it isn't always in her best interest to be a corporate tool, particularly considering she built a reputation of wholesomeness and being down to earth and the romantic underdog, which allows the listener to sympathize and project. Sure, some of the reputation was disingenuous and slapdash and didn't always hold water, but it was an identity of sorts that gave her presence on pop radio.

And here is my first article of evidence supporting my thesis.

7. 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' by Taylor Swift (Billboard Chart Position: #33)

With this song, any listener can be completely forgiven for forgetting that Taylor Swift was once a country singer, or at least a girl who was trying to have some degree of authenticity. And while Taylor Swift's vapid, occasionally bland and banal material could be stupid or difficult to tolerate at points (this is a girl, I should remind you, who has compared her relationships to classic literature and fairy tales multiple times), there was a vestige of heart in her material that's difficult to deny. I can believe songs like 'Teardrops on My Guitar' and 'White Horse' and especially 'Back To December' came from places of reality. To reprise the comparison to Avril Lavigne I made in my review, if 'Back To December' is her 'I'm With You', this fucking piece of twinkle-eyed bullshit is her 'Girlfriend' - her blatant, obvious sell-out move that screams of plastic falsehood (guess that makes her 'I Knew You Were Trouble' the equivalent of Avril Lavigne's 'Hot' and 'Begin Again' the equivalent of 'Keep Holding On' - I know a lot of Avril Lavigne, people, I can do this all day).

So yeah, while the scope might be smaller and the metaphors might feel a bit more grounded, this song is a mockery of Taylor Swift's good music - hell, with the title, it's damn near a parody. As much as Taylor snidely comments about her ex-boyfriend's indie record being 'much cooler than mine', the comment rings completely hollow because by joining the party of polished pop princesses, she can't exactly say her music isn't for the cool kids any more now, can she? No, despite the enforced cuteness that bleeds through every pore of this song, it's the kind of enforced cuteness you'd expect from the stereotypical cheerleading captain who masks cruelty behind a smile. While the details might seem more 'real', I don't buy this came anywhere near emotion that Taylor feels - it's clear she didn't feel anything beyond vague attachment towards this guy (who is apparently Jake Gyllenhall, according to the gossip websites I researched - and on a side note, if you want a soul-destroying exercise, researching gossip websites is a prime way to start).

And yeah, sure, you can state that it's better than the heap of devils the average female pop star dates ('Jar of Hearts', 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)', 'Part of Me', every guy Beyonce has ever sung about) because the male character seems more real, but if I can't empathize with Taylor or feel that the song comes from a real emotional place, how the flying fuck can I like the song or see it for anything other than the obnoxious, grating, overly processed lie that it is? I compare it to 'Back To December', a song reportedly intended for Taylor Lautner where Miss Swift begs him to take her back in surprisingly raw detail and with genuine emotion - and here, I'm just left disappointed and a little disgusted, to say nothing of annoyed. Taylor, you may have made a fortune out of exploiting your dirty laundry for everyone to see, but at this point, I'm just fucking sick of it.

And speaking of people who really don't have much of substance to say...

6. You know, it took me a while to admit it, but I honestly can't hate Pitbull much any more.

That's not saying he's not bad, because he often is, but speaking as somebody who knows, Pitbull isn't nearly as terrible as some other acts, and unlike other rappers ( *cough* Drake *cough*), he actually seems to step on tracks with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. And as much as I've ripped on his terrible, terrible rhymes at points, he actually is getting better, with fewer stolen punchlines and completely worthless non sequiteurs and pop culture references. I don't think I'll ever become a fan of his, but like with Flo Rida, I actually do see a bit of potential there, and honestly, I can't hate him in the same way I hate acts like Chris Brown or will.I.am.

That said...


#6 - 'Back In Time' by Pitbull (Billboard Chart Position: #62)

If I'm being fair here, this song is one of the few on this list that doesn't personally offend me on any level, as there are a few elements I think work pretty damn well here. For instance, despite the choice of completely the wrong decade for the sample, I think it's a pretty sweet guitar lick (some have made the argument that Dirty Dancing already definitively claimed that song, but I never liked Dirty Dancing much anyway, so I'll call that a wash). And how often do we get soundtrack pop hits anymore? Speaking as someone who follows the charts pretty closely, the last really big soundtrack hit I can remember was 'My Heart Will Go On' by Celine Dion from Titanic, and really, that song was a sluggish lump of curdled cheese. We used to get them all the time from the 80s, around the end of songs from Broadway musicals (the last, if I remember correctly, was 'One Night In Bangkok' in 1985 from Chess, my favourite musical of all time), and I've always thought that these tracks can occasionally gain some additional weight from the movie behind it. They're an interesting novelty, as long as they're done well.

And the reason 'Back In Time' landed here on this list is because it is not done well - at all. It's a stunningly incompetent disaster of a song, with terrible choices that make it both a pretty bad Men In Black III theme and an even worse song. The sample they chose was from 'Love Is Strange', an excellent song from 1956 - which doesn't even remotely match the year when the movie was set inside (1969). But I guess it is 1969 - I mean, what good music came out in that year? I mean, between The Stones and Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Tom Jones and Marvin Gaye and Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash and Bob Seger and Jimmy fucking Hendrix, there really just weren't enough good musicians that would have material worth sampling.

But setting stupidity in sampling aside, the rapping is even worse. Nothing gets on me nerves more than double rhymes, and Pitbull dumps a particularly egregious one here. It also doesn't help matters he decides to only use the most peripheral of information surrounding Men In Black - I mean, goddamn it Pitbull, I know the music video can be an art form in and of itself, but that doesn't mean you can just spend the entire goddamn song bragging about yourself and not talking about Men In Black. You know, the reason why your bloody song is getting airplay!

And then there was the dubstep bridge.

Ugh, I've been trying to avoid this particular topic like the plague, but I need to get this straight: I don't care for dubstep. It's not my kind of electronic music, I think the sound is grating and not particularly sonically interesting, and it seldom makes any music more interesting for me. I completely understand why dubstep is being embraced by worthless acts like Korn, namely because it's dissonant and infuriatingly annoying to hear, so of course it's going to be adored by Korn's perpetually teenage boy fanbase. 

Now, let me save myself some grief and say that yes, the dubstep sound can be used well. 'Madness' by Muse is a great example of how you could blend dubstep-esque electronica with 70s-esque arena rock, but in songs like this, it's superfluous and adds nothing besides incredible dissonance between the stiff electronic beat and the rollicking mid-50s hook. Talk about a song that doesn't know what time period it's from, and you get 'Back In Time', a mess of a song that ends up on this list not because it's hateful, but because somewhere you need to recognize a disaster like this.

5. I'm going to be as polite as I possibly can, because while it might be 'hip' to hate this particular artist, I want to make sure my loathing stands out as something distinctive and genuinely impacting. I want to make sure people understand my genuine hatred.

Now, then: Chris Brown is, to me, the equivalent of a teenager's wank sock. He is the sticky, yellowed, jizz-reeking crusty fabric of the modern pop landscape, and everything that oozes off of him is a result of misogyny, no standards, immaturity, a distinct lack of shame, and the tears brought by shattered dreams. Everything he produces is a result of a masturbatory fantasy, and you badly feel the need to wash your hands after touching it.

If you want a more intellectual breakdown of why I despise this little shit, you can check out my review of his album, which stank of every reason why this blithering asshole will become a footnote in the annals of music. But at this point, I'm rapidly reaching the point where I can't keep track of every reason why I hate the fucktard. I mean, between his Twitter feed and his public antics and his choice to go for Halloween dressed up as a terrorist and every fucking thing Team Breezy has ever said or done, I'm not sure I need another iota of evidence to prove that this man is walking trash.

What, you want some more? 

#5 - 'Turn Up The Music' by Chris Brown (Billboard Chart Position #84)

A lot of critics really didn't have much to say about this piece of shit, and even less about the actual song. That mostly because 'Turn Up The Music' is soulless, homogeneous, and completely uninteresting even for club music, and yet still manages to find ways to infuriate me. I consider this song one of the last wheezing breaths of the club movement, and if there was ever enough evidence that party needed to die, it comes from this fucking song. The beat is droning and annoying, the singing is processed precisely on a frequency to grate on my nerves, and the lyrics are beyond bad. The nursery rhyme flow that would come to plague Fortune is all over this track, and unlike Ke$ha's 'Take It Off', it's not a goddamn parody and thus it becomes exceptionally creepy! And what makes it worse is that he openly pulling lines for that melody from 'Sexy And I Know It' by LMFAO - you know, one of the absolute fucking worst songs from last year! 

And on the musical side, this song isn't much better. As I've said before, I only have a problem with Autotune when it is used lazily, to cover up for laziness in delivery instead of being used to accentuate personality (T-Pain, Ke$ha) or to aid in elements of the production (Kanye West). But given as the only personality Chris Brown displays on 'Turn Up The Music' is sheer grating obnoxiousness, the Autotune only seeks to amplify this to blaring degrees of insufferable. Coupled with the shrieking at the back of the track on the final verse (which serves to prove that when - not if - Chris Brown flames out in the hip-hop world, he has absolutely no future in punk), the song just devolves into a screeching galumphing track that makes me want to recoil in horror rather than dance! This is not how you make good party music!

And, once again, the worst element of this song that I can't ignore is how much Brown wants to appropriate the legacy of Michael Jackson - one look at the video provides plenty of evidence of that. And while I've screamed bloody murder about this before, Chris Brown does not have the charisma and appealing energetic personality to seize that vision, partially because his dance tracks are just so joyless and bleak and aggressively worthless. Michael Jackson's music was tightly written and makes me want to dance when I hear it - Chris Brown's music is obnoxious, incredibly grating and insufferable, and makes me want to run over him with a lawnmower.

But 'Turn Up The Music' wasn't the most obnoxious song I heard this year.

4. You know, upon closer examination, the number of diverse international acts on the charts this year really surprised me. Gotye is Belgian-Australian, Kimbra is from New Zealand, Psy is from South Korea and delivered his entire song in Korean, but the greatest influx of new acts came from the UK.

Got to be honest, of the 'British Invasions', I think this one has been my least favourite so far. Not to say it's entirely bad, per se - Ellie Goulding isn't great, but she certainly isn't bad, and the new boy band acts are harmless enough, even despite how annoyed I was with them.

However, if there was an act that soured me against this scene this year, it was this one.


#4 - 'Want U Back' by Cher Lloyd (Billboard Chart Position: #55)

I will give Cher Lloyd some credit here: she has distinctly more personality on her track than most people her age, and considering she's a product of a Simon Cowell reality program, that's saying something.

However, it doesn't help her personality is completely insufferable. Once again, we have a pop star taking cues from Ke$ha's personality while completely missing the underlying message, and boy oh boy, does it paint Cher Lloyd in a terrible light here. Look, I know she's nineteen and that the painful high school persona is kind of expected, but when there are acts that can deliver this sort of material with so much better emotional substance and heft, this song comes across as immature tween bitching, and that's not a song.

So what's the story of this song? Basically Cher Lloyd was dating some jackass analogous to one of Beyonce's hookups, and they broke up, and now Cher Lloyd wants him back - or at least that's what the song seems to say. In reality, I think it's more like Cher Lloyd really doesn't want him back, and just wants to humiliate and embarrass her ex (she doesn't really come across as emotionally sympathetic) - you know, make him completely miserable so he can't be happy with his new girlfriend. In either case, Cher Lloyd really comes across a catty high school bitch, and completely lacking in social skills. I mean, why on earth would this guy have any incentive to get back together with this awful, awful human being, who spends all of her verses blatantly insulting him, saying she thought he'd all be torn up once she dumped him. But it turns out he moved on, and for damn good riddance too - because, really, why the hell would this guy have the stomach to tolerate all of this pointless mean girl bullshit that she's piling on?

And this is a minor note, but the music sucks too - a stiff, glitchy hook that sounds like a Ke$ha ripoff done without the benefits of deft hands or good songwriting. Part of the problem is that Cher Lloyd, once again, doesn't sound remotely authentic or all that human - there's no angst about this breakup, and I don't get the feeling she felt anything towards this guy other than contempt - so why on earth does she want him back for any reason other than jealousy? She includes lines like 'I had you first', but really, does that matter? It's the person that's the last that really matters.

No, I get the feeling I'm supposed to find this 'cute' in some variety, with the retro video and the lyrics lifted straight from a High School Musical villain song, but it's so painfully lightweight and obnoxious that it comes across as idiotic rather than cute. I mean, Carly Rae Jepsen is cute. Owl City is cute. Brad Paisley, with his cornball charm and love for bad jokes, is cute. This is insufferable.

Unfortunately, between this and 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' and the next track, they weren't the only tracks that earned that label.

3. Let me make this absolutely clear: if you want a way to leap pretty damn high up on this list, the worst thing you could do is be an act I like and then disappoint me. It's how Eminem managed to snag top of my worst lists for 2004 and 2009 (for 'Just Lose It' and 'Crack A Bottle' respectively). And it's also the reason this song is so damn high on this list.

Pink, you are capable of so much better.

#3 - 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss)' by Pink (Billboard Chart Position: #37)

When I read this song actually got praise from critics, I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing - because make no mistake, I'm in the minority opinion about this one, and about Pink's most recent album, The Truth About Love (which I reviewed here). I've relistened to that album since, and to my disappointment, the endemic problems remain. The instrumentation is processed without having heft, the lyrics are amateurish and beyond clumsy, and the themes of the music are at best recycled and at worst utterly infuriating. 

The fact of the matter is that while I think Pink is a revealing and engaging songwriter who is actually willing to take risks with her material, her technical songwriting has never been all that strong. Occasionally she gets it right in the best possible ways, often through some help courtesy of Max Martin and Linda Perry. But here, without those collaborators, her lyrical meter is sloppy and inelegant, filled with repetition and bad word choices that could have been easily fixed with a few rewrites.

It also doesn't help matters that Pink - who I still hold has a great voice and can occasionally lend real emotion to her pop-rock aesthetic - is pushing her range to the very limit on this track, and man, does it completely backfire on her. Pink's brand of shout-singing/belting can work wonders when she's in the right range ('So What', 'U & Ur Hand', 'Don't Let Me Get Me'), but here she's a few notes too high and I can't help but wince every time her voice runs ragged on those high notes she can't quite hit. It doesn't help matters that this song lacks the vulnerable edge in its delivery that 'So What' had, because that song felt multi-dimensional in both lyrics and delivery. The song is a blaring kiss-off song that revealingly tells that Pink really isn't as okay as she seems to be, but what makes 'So What' work so goddamn well is because Pink sounds like she's on the verge of tears the entire time singing it. 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss)' doesn't even come close to that sort of depth or emotional reality. 

But really, I'd be willing to overlook a lot of this - I've done it before with Pink ('Fuckin' Perfect'), I'd probably do it again - if the lyrics and message weren't just absolute crap. I get the feeling this is a break-up / kiss-off song of some variety, but it's muddled and confusing and it lacks the solid emotional punch that made songs like 'So What' work. But here, it feels like everything is spiraling out of control - which I can imagine is an apt feeling for a breakup, but not one that makes a coherent breakup song. But the lines that piss me off are 'I think I maybe think too much' and 'I want back my ignorance and bliss' , because they are lines that really reflect a failing in the way Pink sees love and relationships. Sure, ignorance is bliss, but it's the kind of bliss that can never last. And there's nothing wrong with thinking about a relationship 'too much', because it often exposes the cracks and problems that you can work to fix. It's better to be honest and thoughtful and alone rather than living a lie, Pink - and frankly, you're mature enough to know that by now. I mean, for fuck's sake, you're one of the oldest pop starlets still working now, you've been married with kids, and you've built your reputation on being blatantly, often uncomfortably honest with your own insecurities - so why the hell are you advocating that comfortable solution as a better alternative?

Now, granted, I could be overthinking all of this - I do that, ironically - but it doesn't mean that this song isn't terrible and a huge disappointment. Pink, I know you're capable of better - hell, you've recycled this theme at least four times at last count, which is another problem I could raise - so get back with Linda Perry and at least try.

2. Oh, I know I'm going to lose fans with this one.

#2 - 'I Won't Give Up' by Jason Mraz (Billboard Chart Position #25)

I wrote in my review of Regina Spektor's What We Saw From The Cheap Seats that I have never liked three acts I call the Three J's: Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and Jason Mraz. All three of these acts are some of the most successful acts in the 'white guy with acoustic guitar' genre, a genre I can't fucking stand because of its attraction to the lazily complacent and emotionally bankrupt. And I've got a multitude of reasons why I'm generally not a fan of this genre, between a lack of musical ideas (the acoustic guitar is the basic, the standard), a lack of energy (which is why I can tolerate Train a hell a lot more than I can tolerate this shit, because at least they're engaged), and a serious lack of sincerity. 

For instance, songs like 'Hey There Delilah' by Plain White Ts and 'I Will Follow You Into The Dark' by Deathcab For Cutie are often critically derided for their clumsy, amateurish lyrics and delivery, but I actually like both of these songs because they sound lovestruck and genuine and sincere. In comparison, songs like 'Your Body Is A Wonderland' doesn't sound like a song that was ever sung with genuine passion, but because John Mayer wanted to pick up chicks. But say what you will about John Mayer and his personification of all things douchebag, he at least has been responsible for a few good songs ('Waiting On The World To Change'). And Jack Johnson, as awful and bland as he is, really doesn't get enough mainstream airplay to become aggressively infuriating in the same vein as, say, 'The Lazy Song' by Bruno Mars.

The same cannot be said about Jason Mraz, who with between 'I'm Yours' and this new insufferable bit of trash, has dominated the charts with his bland, asinine material that doesn't even try to rise above mediocre. And with 'I Won't Give Up', he set off precisely the worst possible buttons in me, both intellectually and emotionally.

Let's start with the intellectual, shall we? Basically, this song is about a failed relationship that Jason Mraz clearly isn't over, which he describes with lines courtesy of The Complete Hack's Guide To Songwriting in the first verse. I mean, seriously, 'how old is your soul'? Really? And when we jump to the second verse, we discover that this couple seems to have separated, with the girl (or guy in this case, I don't know, but I think we can assume it's a girl) looking for some space, but as Jason Mraz helpfully points out, 'Even the stars they burn / Sometimes they fall to earth' (someone failed astronomy 101). Now, reading this line metaphorically and given how in the first verse Jason Mraz compared he and his girlfriend to 'stars', does this mean that by implying she needs to fall to earth, become grounded - or just fall beneath him? Seems awfully rude to put down your girlfriend like that, I can see why she wanted some space now!

But it's the next two lines that really push this song towards insufferable for me: 'we've got a lot to learn / God knows we're worth it'. Besides being lines so fucking embarrassing that Christian rock acts wouldn't print them, it's the conceit that God somehow has an investment in their relationship that really comes across as emotionally exploitative. And the bridge only cements this further, where Jason Mraz goes to great pains to suggest that he's learned and that he's figured out who he is, and that he's willing to be patient and wait until she 'figures herself out' and comes back to him.

The arrogance and condescension is incredible, and it really sets the tone for this song - Jason Mraz has apparently suffered all of his indignities and figured out all of his shit, he's just waiting for the girl to do the same. There's no acknowledgment of the fact that the girl probably was looking to get some space for a reason, and yet the song still comes across as incredibly emotionally manipulative. It's right there in the chorus: 'I won't give up on us', 'God knows I'm tough', and for the final chorus, the goddamn backing gospel chorus comes in for maximum guilt tripping. God only knows we all should just take Jason Mraz back, he's apparently so good for us - just as soon as, of course, we make sure that we're humble enough and that we've got everything together. Never once an affirmation of support, that he'll actually be willing to help - he'll just be 'patiently waiting' for her to pull herself together and get over herself and accept Jason Mraz as her lord and saviour.

Yeah, fuck this song with a rusty nine iron. Every inch of this track doesn't scream 'affection' or anything remotely genuine - it's a nasty piece of condescension-riddled guilt-tripping arrogance designed to knock the other partner down and disguised as a treacly, sensitive bit of pablum. And with the minimalist, bare-bones accompaniment, you have to focus on the lyrics which scream of hackery and mean-spirited ego. Having just gone through a break-up this year, I cannot believe the temerity of Jason Mraz considering that this sort of offensive schlock would be enough to salvage this relationship. Certainly not a relationship of equals, where both sides treat each other's personal problems with respect and dignity. But even if you consider it as a plaintive plea for the girl to return and look past the monstrous ego, there's nothing in the delivery that remotely suggests Jason Mraz is invested in this relationship. No tremor in his voice, no desperation, nothing that suggests this blatant hackery is excusable. And even if I can detect a hint of some emotional sentiment, I can't buy it because it's far too weak and bland to tug at my heartstrings. Hell, I get the feeling Mraz knew that, because that's the only reason he decided to include the bloody gospel choir backing him - to attempt to wring some emotion from me.

Well, Jason Mraz, let me say this definitively: in the words of a marginally better song writer, we are never ever getting back together. Go fellate a weed-whacker and take your insufferable asswhistle of a song with you.

And yet, somehow, despite my rage, this song wasn't the worst of the year. Want to know what was?

1. I said in my review of Rihanna's Unapologetic that there were elements of the exploitation of her abuse at the hands of Shitbag #5 (see the rant a few spots above for further details) that made her renewed relationship with him very uncomfortable for me to talk about. There's no good way to talk about it without thinking that:
  1. by continuing to draw emphasis to Rihanna's former altercation with Chris Brown, the writers/producers are pushing Rihanna into a role of 'domestic abuse spokeswoman' from which she has actively tried to distance herself;
  2. by continuing to release songs that imply the resumption of the relationship, the writers/producers are actively working to profit off of our own revulsion at the relationship, certain that the exploitation on its own will move records;
  3. and by continuing to release songs that imply consent in the resumption of the relationship at the same time, a terrible message regarding the tolerance of domestic abuse is sent to Rihanna's fanbase, one you must judge as intention because of the active acknowledgment of point #2.
So yeah, while I do think it's extremely uncomfortable and a bit inappropriate for me to judge the choices and actions of an abuse victim without knowing her psychological or emotional state (and even then, it's incredibly shaky), I can pass judgments on the music produced to capitalize on that reunion, put together by exploitative music executives to wring as many pennies out of our shock and horror as possible.

And with that...

#1 - 'Birthday Cake (Remix)' by Rihanna ft. Chris Brown (Billboard Chart Position #79)

You know, it's rare when artists don't shoot a video for a song that's going to chart - but frankly, I am incredibly relieved they didn't shoot an official video for this acrid piece of dogshit, because really, how the fuck could you play it? What sort of dynamic would you show on the track between the two? If they had any interplay in the video, how the fuck would that look, video evidence that one of the most famous cases in domestic abuse has been reconciled in the worst possible way?

But as bad as the video would have been, this song is offensively bad on far too many levels, mostly because the entire fucking song is a graphic sexual entendre. Now, granted, before I spoil this oh-so-innocent song for you all, I think I need to describe the immediate leap of logic I made when I first heard this song. To discuss this, I want you all to take a look at this Zero Punctuation video made by Yahtzee Croshaw. Go on, I'll wait.

Back yet? Okay, now listen to this track again. It's painful, I know, but to fully grasp how fucking nauseating this song is, you need to fully grasp the clumsy metaphor in all of its sticky, sweat-and-jizz-stained debauchery.

Finished? Good. If your stomach isn't churning with absolute loathing, then I'm not sure we occupy the same planet. For those of you who chose not to dive into the murky hellhole I tried to drag you through, let me clarify matters: this song is an explicit track describing Rihanna getting fucked by Chris Brown. All those little details in this song, from Rihanna describing cunnilingus as 'licking the icing off' and Chris Brown having lines like 'Give it to her in the worst way'  and 'Doggy want the kitty' and all the other assorted references, they make it explicitly clear Brown and Rihanna are fucking in graphic detail. At least when Enrique Iglesias put out 'Tonight I'm Fucking You', he didn't go into explicit, pornographic detail of exactly what the hell he was going to do to you! Like with every other sex song off of Chris Brown's Fortune, it is made entirely too literal and graphic that you can't help but picture it in your mind and then you desperately want to bleach that image away FOREVER

And as I've said before, I don't have a problem with songs about sex - but there is an art to it, an art that acts like Inxs and Prince and Justin Timberlake and Usher have perfected because they all have a vestige of maturity and suave confidence and the skill to write smart songs that don't explicitly describing their humping endeavours. What Chris Brown and Rihanna and the Pussycat Dolls and so many other hip-hop artists get wrong is by making things entirely too pornographic and literal. There's no class or dignity or subtlety, and I can't groove to that - and in this case, I wouldn't even want to.

At this point, I need to ask what this song is for. The beat is clattering and sloppy and barely functional, so you sure as hell can't dance well to it. It's not a sweet love song, I'm definitely not going to be singing along with this or perform it at karaoke, and I sure as hell am not turned on by the sticky details of Rihanna and Chris Brown exchanging bodily fluids. it's not even a song you can project onto, because while there might be a particularly sick set of Team Breezy that want to be fucked by Chris Brown, no guy is going to want to step into the role of Chris Brown to fuck Rihanna! 

No, I'm fairly certain at this point I don't have to tell you why this song is absolutely fucking wretched and nauseating, and deserving of the top spot on this list - unlike Chris Brown, I'm fairly certain my audience has a vestige of intelligence. And at this point, the only place I want to see Chris Brown is getting publicly flagellated on stage by Ke$ha, Pink, Avril Lavigne, and Taylor Swift with horsewhips. Jay-Z and Drake's entourage can run security and prevent Chris Brown's posse from interfering - lord knows they've got a score to settle with the little fucktard. And maybe, just maybe, Rihanna will realize that she's currently with a pissant who thinks telling female comedians that he'll shit in their eye sockets is a good comeback. But either way, I'm not sure I'm ready to forgive any of the involved parties for making this graphic anthem to atrocity. Fuck this song, and fuck Chris Brown.


...ahh, that was cathartic. Tune in soon when I talk about songs that are actually pretty damn great.

4 comments:

  1. As far as Jason Mraz not having any good songs goes, what about The Remedy (I Won't Worry)?

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  2. I am a major R&B fan, who recently moved to South Florida. I thought I had left all the R&B radio stations back in New York, but boy was I wrong. X102.3 is my new favorite station for the hottest and latest R&B tracks. It’s easy to get hooked on this www.thex1023.com

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  3. I liked Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" when I first heard it at someone's wedding. But later on it bugged me when I started paying closer attention to what the lyrics say. "Well open up your mind and see like me" is kind of condescending. Like people have to have the same point of view as him to be considered "open minded". Dude, how about you open up your mind and see that people see things in different ways?

    That thing about how it's our "right to be loved"? Not really. It's nice to be loved, but it's not a "right", come on. It's not a human rights violation if you're not loved. Go ahead and love the world, love yourself, but you don't have a right to expect love from anyone ever.

    These lyrics just kind of reminds me of that hippie guy who is too touchy feely and all about the "free love". That guy who would totally judge you as "too uptight" if you just want him to stay out of your personal space. That guy. I'm sure everyone know at least one of "that guy".

    It's such a cheery little ditty, though. I do wonder if I'm taking it the wrong way.

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  4. Two big questions: Are going, in the near future, to make this list a video?
    Are you going to go back in the past with this lists and make a series out of that?

    My opinion on your list really quick:
    *Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) - pretty bad, cheesy and forgettable.
    *Turn Me On & Titanium - MEDIOCRE, but not worthy of the worst list, Guetta did worse (and better).
    *Call Me Maybe - guilty unpleasure, not wowed the first time but the over play got on my nerves.
    *Boyfriend - not a big Justin Bieber fan, but As Long as You Love Me is worse IMO.
    *Dance (A$$) - maybe the worst song ever, still 'So Bad It's Good' for me.
    *50 Ways To Say Goodbye - fuck Train and fuck this song too.
    10.Payphone - not as bad as One More Night but that's not saying much.
    9.Work Out - eh, nothing to really say here, I never heard this song before.
    8.Drive By - even worse, hope they'll never return to chart success.
    7.We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together - NO, NO, NO, I'm not a big T Swizzle fan but this ain't that bad and Jar of Hearts, Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) and Part of Me are way worse. I see that you put Taylor Swift yearly on your list, though this isn't that bad I hate with passion I Knew You Were Trouble, 22 and Shake It Off and I REALLY HOPE I SEE Bad Blood on your year end worst list.
    6.Back In Time - don't hate Pitbull, his music turns my parties on everytime, but this is really bad.
    5.Turn Up The Music - forgettable enough to not care about it.
    4.Want U Back - guilty pleasure for me, so so sorry.
    3.Blow Me (One Last Kiss) - really bad, and this is coming from someone who like a lot of P!nk's work.
    2.I Won't Give Up - so boring, I fall asleep, let's read your analysis. Oh, yeah, it's shit.
    1.Birthday Cake - I retract my statement, this is the worst song ever, that isn't a 'So Bad It's Good' song.

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